2010 Camaro DriveFinally, the wait is over. After teasing the faithful with the Camaro Concept at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Chevrolet is cranking out new F-bodies from its plant in Canada. As you read this, 2010 Camaros are awaiting customers at dealerships across the country.
First the bad news: For all of you who asked, T-tops will not be an option. The convertible has supposedly been put off until 2011, as has the supercharged, 550hp Z28. It's also about 300 pounds too heavy.
The good news? Just about everything else. Camaro for '10 comes in three flavors: Hot (the base model with a 304 hp, direct injection 3.6-liter V-6), Hotter (the SS with the 6.2-liter L99 V-8, producing 400 ponies with the six-speed automatic) and Hottest (the SS with the 6.2-liter LS3 V-8 delivering 426 hp teamed to the Tremec six-speed manual gearbox). With 426 hp, the shift-it-yourself SS is the most powerful Camaro ever.
You can tell GM was serious about the new F-car because it is world-class in almost every sense of the word. On the road, the body feels like it was carved from billet. It rides like you'd expect from a vehicle costing two or three times more, but not at the expense of razor-sharp handling. The interior materials are many cuts above those ever used in a Camaro before (and they get even better if you order the RS package). Four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS are standard on all models, with the SS getting giant 14-inch, four-piston Brembos at each corner. Twenty-inch wheels are standard on the SS, measuring eight inches wide on the front and nine on the rear. Meaty Pirelli PZeros (P245/45ZR20 front, P275/40ZR20) keep the alloy five-spokes from scraping the ground.
Inside the cockpit, you're greeted with superior ergonomics and an open, airy cabin reminiscent of first-gen Camaros. The openness of the interior is especially surprising given the high beltline and seemingly low roofline. Some we spoke to were put off by the large expanses of plastic on the passenger's side of the dash (a Camaro emblem or script would have broken it up nicely), but at least the area fits in thematically with the rest of the interior.
The stylists have given the car the appearance of a show car, but with the practicality you need in a daily driver. We watched someone 6-foot-7 try out the car and he fit nicely. (Tall people beware: you do lose about 1.5-inches in headroom if you order the sunroof--bear that in mind if your nickname is "Stretch."
The sightlines out of the car are, again, surprisingly good. The side-view mirrors are large enough to limit blind spots (though not eliminate them). As a plus, they also give you lovely views of the bulging rear fenders. The view in the rearview mirror is fair, and will be familiar to anyone who has owned a first-gen.
Length-wise, the latest sampling fits between the first-gen and fourth gen. At 190.4 inches, it's a little over three inches shorter than the last Camaro, but 4.4 inches longer than the '69, the model that inspired its design. The '10 is 1.5 inches wider than the '69 and three inches taller. This latter dimension gives the new car the appearance of being substantially larger than it actually is. The 112-inch wheelbase helps push the wheels out to the ends of the body, giving it a taut appearance. What surprised us is just how tough it looks on the street. It is a supremely modern design that pays homage to the past, but is not a slave to it. More impressive was how it looks going down the road. We were stopped at a light and saw two '10s coming up behind us in the rearview mirror. They were unbelievably aggressive appearing. Like any good design, it makes a bold statement and commands the attention of others.
On the down side, it's virtually impossible from some angles to tell the SS apart from the V-6 model. If the base car is wearing the optional wheels and rear spoiler, you'll be even more easily confused. Except for the SS badge in the grille and on the rear fascia, they look nearly identical. Two differences are the SS has three horizontal slats running the width of the opening in the lower front fasica, while the V-6 only has one, and the SS has an air duct fore of the hood. Were we running Chevrolet, we'd have affixed SS badges on the sides of the front fenders a'la '70.
We were able to sample both the V-6/six-speed automatic and V-8/six-speed manual versions on our test drive. Both exceeded our expectations. First, the SS (yes, all V-8 Camaros are called SS). Despite its two-ton curb weight with driver, the thing is a missile. The new Tremec 6060 gearbox shifts like butter and the 3.45 gears get you off the line in a hurry. We think it's an easy 12-second hot rod with the stick and probably can go high 12s with the auto.
Anyone who has followed the development of the car knows it is the first F-car to be equipped with an independent rear suspension. It is what Chevy calls a 4.5 link setup and uses coilover shocks with progressive rate springs and a unique, L-shaped upper control arm that attaches to the knuckle at one end and incorporates a ride bushing in the rear. We can say we experienced no axle windup (hop) during our burnouts and it did put the power down nicely. When we asked what would happen if you mounted a set of drag tires back there and did a 6,000-rpm clutch drop, things got a little quiet in the room. Ah, yes, another potential aftermarket opportunity.
The seats are the best ever offered in an F-body, both for comfort and control (this goes for the base car's seats as well. Even after a day of driving, we were ready to go another eight hours. The bolstering is in all the right places and in athletic maneuvers they do an excellent job of keeping you planted. The variable-rate rack-and-pinion steering is a little light for our tastes, but amazingly accurate. It communicates every nuance to the driver. Bend the SS into a corner and it just takes a set and goes. We were not able to get the SS on a road course and, thus, are not equipped to comment on its behavior at the limit, but on the winding roads of rural Michigan, it was rock solid and confidence inspiring--not to mention surprisingly neutral.
Two interior complaints: The pedal placement is not conducive to heel-and-toe downshifting and the steering wheel would have been better left in a concept car. It's too big and fat in all the wrong places--like at the proper 9-and-3 hand positions. You have to move your hands to 10-and-2 just to hold it without getting hand cramps. These are two errors for a "21st century sports car," as GM calls it. Of course, so is having a ponycar that weighs over 3,800 pounds.
Because these were pre-production cars, none had the complete RS upgrade treatment, specifically its body-colored dash and door appliques. We've showed you pictures of this in the past at www.superchevy.com and it looks interesting. We will say the console lid covering is much nicer in the RS model (the base version feels a little rubbery).
The gauges vary slightly from V-6 to V-8, with the numerals and letters getting different fonts, and the V-8 cluster using a 180 mph speedometer instead of 160. The console mounted gauges are a love it or hate it affair.
As for the V-6, no more will owners of non-V-8 Camaros be stigmatized. This is a world-class engine, a silky smooth, state-of-the-art mill that offers the power of a small V-8 with the fuel economy of a frugal six (29 mpg EPA highway). Chevy is predicting 0-60 sprints in 6.1 seconds and we'd be surprised if we couldn't better that. When you put the spurs to it, the six-speed automatic delivers crisp downshifts and holds the gear right to redline. Mid-14s in the quarter should be achievable.
If you are so inclined, you can order either the 3.6 or the 6.2 V-8 with tap shifts. Just pull the gear selector all the way down and hit the buttons located on the back of the steering wheel--right side for upshifting, left side for down. Oddly, there are faux paddles behind the wheel that you'd think were for shifting. They are just to let you know where the tap shift buttons are and which is up and which is down.
Like the SS, the base car has a solid foundation. If you were blindfolded and didn't know any better, the ride would suggest you were in a much more expensive automobile. It swallows up bumps, potholes and uneven pavement like no F-car before ever had the right. At just under $23,000 (base price), Chevy is going to steal a ton of V-6 Mustang sales from Ford.
We should have one for instrumented testing by next issue. Let the games begin.