Despite the hullabaloo over the new Camaro SS, a lot of people have been asking about the base V-6 model. In the old days, six-cylinder F-bodies were derided as "chick cars" or "secretary specials"--that's back when it was hip to call a young girl a chick and you could call a female office worker a secretary. These derogatory terms no longer apply to the base F-body. Gone are its days as an automotive punchline. Besides the fact that it's near impossible to tell a V-6 model from an SS at a quick glance, its performance demands it be taken seriously as a sports coupe.
We recently had a 1LT model for a week-long test and came away impressed. Yes, it was an automatic--girl-amatic for your chauvinists out there--but man, did it get with the program. It should come as no surprise that one of the first places we took it was south of the office to Bradenton Motorsports Park, where we had a chance to ring it out at the weeknight test and tune.
On the way to the track, we were coddled in a supportive cloth seat. Gone are the flaccid, non-supportive seats from Camaros past. In athletic maneuvers, you were held in place--but without sacrificing comfort.
Once we arrived in Bradenton, we were happy to see there wasn't much of a crowd and we were tech'd in as car number one. Thanks to the electronic nannies, there's not much to drag racing one of these cars. You stage, mat the throttle and lift after the finish line. Yes, you can try to manually shift it, but with the stock computer this is usually a lesson in futility. And with the conservative tune's torque management, there's no real danger of spinning the tires, even with the traction control turned completely off.
For our first pass, we smoked the tires to clean any water and debris from them, and staged shallow. The car had been cooling for a while and we were off with a 2.22 60-ft time. The eighth-mile was gone in 9.480 at 75.36, while the quarter-mile went by in 14.685 at 95.22. We thought there was more in it and when we got back to the line 20 minutes later we were proven correct. Our next run improved to a 14.582 at 95.51 (2.155 60-ft).
I couldn't help but think of all the big-haired girls in the '80s tooling around the Jersey shore in their Berlinettas with the T-tops off (with two cans of Aqua Net holding their hair in place, there was no fear of wind buffeting). The new V-6 Camaro is not what cliches are made of. It's a myth buster.
Our third run was our best, a 14.565 at 96.05, with a 2.162 short-time. For a little perspective, we looked up some old road tests. Hot Rod got a 14.7 at 95.65 out of a '67 SS350 Camaro. Motor Trend wrung a 14.8 at 96 out of a '67 Z/28 and Popular Hot Rodding went 14.09 at 99 in a '68 SS396/375. The '10 1LT is in pretty good company. We think there are a few more tenths left in the computer. With a high-performance program in there and a set of drag radials, this could be a low 14-/high-13-second ponycar. A set of headers and free-breathing exhaust and you'll be giving automatic-equipped Mustang GTs fits.
We tried manually shifting, but with the stock computer gear changes are too unpredictable. They take too long and you can easily bounce it off the rev limiter and kill your e.t.
Our 1LT tester was pretty well-equipped with the RS package and a bunch of other goodies. The automatic and sunroof combined will set you back $1,895 and the grand total came to $29,400. Still, this car combines terrific handling, 14-second time slips, and decent mileage in handsome package. And now you won't be embarrassed when you open the hood.