With the '10 Camaro finally hitting the streets (very slowly, mind you. It seems GM is having trouble keeping up with demand-that's a good thing), there's a good chance you've read about the car's driving characteristics from just about every automotive magazine journalist and online "critic" in the industry. But what about everyday people who don't get a chance to testdrive new cars on a regular basis? A good percentage of these folks will (at least GM hopes so) be shelling out the dough for one of these late-model hot rods (sorry, GM. I know you don't like it when we refer to the '10 Camaro as a hot rod).
So we got our hands on a stock 2SS (our latest project car) and turned the keys over to a few Camaro Performers magazine publishers and salespeople and let each one have the car for one day to do with what they will. The idea was to get a driving impression from people who know cars, but haven't been spoiled by having access to press vehicles as their daily driver.
We're happy to report that our "testdrivers" supplied us with tons of valuable feedback (likes and dislikes) on the car. So, if you are in the market to purchase a new Camaro, we think you'll find some useful information here on GM's latest thrill ride.
Angela Schoof Associate Publisher •I found the ride quality of the new Camaro to be stiff and secure. A firm suspension should be expected in a sports car, and this was. With that said, it wasn't jarring or uncomfortable. It felt very connected to the road and stable through corners.
The car was easy to shift. Finding the gears and working the clutch was smooth and swift. The gears are very long and do require a downshift from Sixth to Fifth gear for passing on the highway. The taller gears are probably great for fuel economy, but not for quick response.
The space and seating in the front was great. I am 5 feet 7 inches tall and my boyfriend is 6 feet 3 inches tall, and both of us had plenty of head and footroom, and didn't feel closed-in, plus the seats were comfortable and supportive. I could definitely spend hours in this car. The back seat is another story, and is definitely an obstacle for someone with kids or frequent backseat passengers. It's hard to climb in and out, the legroom is minimal, and headroom is not great.
I've heard the visibility of this car described as a cockpit or gun-turret view, and I definitely agree. The windows are short, and there are some blind spots that will take time to get used to. The rear and sideview mirrors are placed and sized well, so you can still maneuver through traffic and keep an eye out for the highway patrol.
I love the looks of the car. The exterior styling is very aggressive - it looks mean and gets a lot of attention while going down the road.
I also like the interior. The seats are sporty and I like how the gauges, radio, and other controls are clustered together.
I'm currently in the market for a new car and I want something fast, and would prefer something American-made this time around (just doing what I can for the economy and the U.S. auto industry). Also, considering my budget limitations and personal taste, I have basically three choices: Camaro, Mustang, or Challenger. Thanks in part to some of the guys I went to high school with, I've never been a fan of Mustangs or Mustang drivers, so that is never going to be my first choice. As for the Challenger, other than a long-standing crush on Bo Duke, I've never been a Mopar person either. However, I have always loved the Camaro, and not just the first-gens. I like them all. I had a white '89 with T-tops that my dad gave me when I was 19 years old. I loved it, and I still miss that car. So I was really looking forward to driving the new Camaro, and was so excited my friends at Camaro Performers magazine gave me a day with this car.
Overall, I really like the styling of the '10 Camaro. The stance and look are great. I even liked the first concepts that I saw. I've been looking forward to getting my hands on this car to see if the driving experience lives up to the general bad-assness of the exterior. I'm glad to report that this car is a blast to drive! It's fast, corners well, and sounds great. It's easy to shift, which is nice while driving in heavy traffic, and makes hitting the open road a ton of fun. There are also features that add to the experience and comfort, like good-size cupholders, auxiliary power outlets, a USB audio input for your iPod or Smartphone, and a very big trunk.
There were a couple things I didn't like about the Camaro: The trunk, while very spacious, has a very high lid. You have to lift items to waist-level in order to put them inside. For very heavy or bulky items, it's a workout on your back and there's the danger of scratching up the bumper while you maneuver things in and out. I'd also love to have memory settings for the driver seat and mirrors. My boyfriend and I swap cars, and it's a pain to re-adjust the seat. Also, why aren't there any handles inside for the passenger? They need an "oh sh*t" handle for when you're pulling g's around corners!
I don't think the car is perfect, and there is some room for improvement. To me, a car is kind of like a man, I can put up with a couple flaws if the rest of the package is good enough. The Camaro is more than good enough-it's fantastic. All in all, I'd say I'm in love.
David Stoker Account Executive •As an ex-owner of a fourth-gen Camaro SS, I found the ride quality of the fifth-gen to be substantially better than the fourth-gen. For those who know the comparison of a C4 Corvette to a C6, it's that type of difference. I would rank it among comparing European sports cars.
The trans shifted nicely-much better than the T-56. The T-56 made some noise and shifts weren't as smooth and effortless as this new trans.
The seats are nice, comfortable, and give ample support when cornering. Overall room for rear passengers is poor, but there's lots of room up front. Compared to a fourth-gen, there is much more front-passenger room and overall comfort.
Visibility out front was fine, but seeing out back was a bit challenging at first. The small widows took a little getting used to, but after some time in the car, I got comfortable making lane changes.
I'm personally trying to let the exterior looks grow on me. I wish that GM would have went with a more retro design like Dodge did with the Challenger. At first I didn't like it, but after driving one, I nearly forgot about the outside appearance. Inside the car is nice. Some might say a little too much plastic, but I don't mind it. Controls are nice, and the gauges are bitchin.
The fun factor is definitely there, and it's a blast to drive. If you didn't know how much the car weighed, you would never guess it comes in at 3,900 pounds It's got plenty of horsepower, handles great, and feels well-balanced. The gauge cluster in the dash is killer, and the console-mounted gauges are perfect-makes you think of the '69 Camaro.
Driving the car around town is an attention-getter. I think I got more looks in this new Camaro than I do in my '67 Nova SS. Thumbs-up to GM for this new and improved '10 Camaro.
Joe Rode Associate Publisher •I loved the ride quality, but I would think that it's not for everybody. It was just stiff enough to feel the car and the road at the wheel, but the IRS calmed things nicely when you ran through the bad stuff.
The shift quality was great. I couldn't miss a shift if I tried. And that's coming from a guy who's owned nothing but automatics for the last 25 years. And WOW! I forgot how fun a six-speed could be. Having the car always at its torque peak was an exciting luxury. I wonder how long I would be able to drive it before the local law enforcement caught me in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At 6-feet 2-inches tall, I was very leery of the interior comfort for a guy my size, especially in lieu of the shoehorn I use to squeeze into my third-gen. While I found it most favorable to run with the steering column tilted to the full "up" position, I actually had to slide the seat forward a couple of clicks. My 6-foot 5-inch brother was just as delighted when he plopped in for a ride. The seats, while good, were just not quite there for me. A four-point harness to force the issue and add security may have done it for me. The headrests were, hands down, my least favorite thing about the car. Maybe it was due to my height, but their angle made things uncomfortable.
When I first crawled in I felt like I was in a submarine, surrounded by instruments and slanted port holes. Expecting the worst, I figured I'd play hell leaving out of the small driveway at our office and into oncoming traffic. But it wasn't like that at all. The visibility was very deceptive. After about two minutes of adjusting mirrors and checking blind spots, it was all good. I immediately drove the car about 35 miles in nasty L.A. stop-and-go rush-hour traffic and never felt the least bit at a disadvantage with visibility. After really getting some time behind the wheel, I fell in love with the stealthiness. It was kind of like a limo with the darkest of tints, when you can see out but no one can see in.
Never being a big fan of the initial prototypes and renderings, I was mildly surprised once I spent some time with the real thing. And after driving it for a day, I fell in love with the ride and performance. The fact that it was a few inches too big and a couple of pounds overweight was lost.
What I loved most about the car was that it felt like a muscle car, albeit a modern one. It's the car that every guy with a '69 Camaro is now trying to build. It's got classic lines and cushy comforts with bad-ass performance and stiff suspension. It can get you around the twisties as fast as one can humanly handle while saving your cavities and complaints from your better half who wanted the Beemer instead. The needle on the tach even bounced a bit at idle with the ever-so-slight lope of the cam. I also loved the steering. It was the quickest and most responsive I had ever experienced. I felt that it really enhanced the enjoyment of driving the Camaro. I would have loved to get it out to an open-day track event. I would add lower rearend gears or do some tuning to give the car some more bottom end. I would also like a bit more noise from the exhaust. Other than that, it was just a flat-out fun car to drive.
Ed Zinke Magazine Publisher •The long wait was finally over as the editors stopped by to let me know that I would get a chance to drive a new '10 Camaro. Better still, it was a six-speed SS model and I get two full days with it-fantastic!
This car was everything that I had been hoping for during the long Camaro sabbatical. I also found it to be a vast improvement to the fourth-generation I had almost purchased just as they were being phased out.
With wide door openings, entry into the Camaro was easy. As you take stock of the surroundings you immediately notice the care that went into the layout. I loved the console-mounted gauge pack, and the sound system was quite good, although I didn't use it much as I wanted to hear the LS concert coming from elsewhere in the car. While I'm not crazy about the optional panel and seat inserts in the interior, others may appreciate it. Window visibility in itself is not great, but with the use of mirrors I experienced no blind spots.
Driving in traffic, the Camaro displays precise control and response to commands. Better still, it was like driving a "car show" as person after person gave a thumbs-up or wave of approval. Shift gates were precise and easy to find, although Sixth gear was not used much! The clutch was easy on the foot, requiring minimal effort.
With not enough time behind the wheel, I set out for one of the windiest roads in Riverside County I could find. What a ride! As I began taking lefts and rights, some off camber, the car was able to broadcast everything through the steering wheel. The ride was so good, I spent a well over an hour just having fun!
My time with the Camaro was too short, but before giving it up to a colleague for their turn to drive, I gave it a good detailing. This allowed me to really check out the finish and fit. The body seams are straight and equal with a high-quality finish (having spent $8,000 and hundreds of hours in this area on my own projects, I feel a pseudo-expert to comment).
You can count me in on a '10 Camaro! I'm a huge fan and ready to part with the cash to own one. I'll take either orange or blue but outfitted exactly the same! Great job GM! Thanks for bringing it back.
Nancy Zinke Restaurant Manager •"The '10 Camaro is better than all the hype my husband leaves lying around the house. I have friends who've owned earlier versions of the car (late second-gens) and while nice, I was never totally impressed. But boy was I surprised with the newest version.
I drove the car on city streets and long stretches of highway-what a treat. I drive stick shift cars on a fairly regular basis and I found this car to be a very nice surprise. The clutch felt very comfortable and gear changing was very smooth and easy. The car has plenty of power to make moves on and off highways as well as pass all other cars with ease.
Interior-wise, everything is easy to find and operate. All the controls are close at hand, but I didn't try them all. (I could have used more time to get familiar with them).
Our drive was about an hour away, and after a short fuel stop on the way back home, I refused to give the Camaro back to my husband for his turn to drive (sorry honey, maybe next time).
The car is a definite attention-getter. When we parked the car, many people asked questions, made comments, or took photos next to it. All agreed on its good looks-me too.
I not only like the new Camaro, I want one!
Surprise, Surprise! •City driving impressions are nice and that's what most of the new Camaro owners can relate to, but that's where the pedestrian aspect of this story ends.
We recently had the opportunity to really beat on our fully-loaded 2SS at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan. The 1.8-mile road course enabled us to open the car up and see what it's really made of. We're more than happy to tell you that the car took all the abuse we could dish out. For a bone-stock Camaro, it handled corners very well and braking was fairly sufficient at quickly coming down from speed on the straightaways. Now, realizing the car weighs in at a little over 3,900 pounds, summoning every bit of the 426 hp to get the car up to speed on the straights was a bit challenging. There was just no way to keep up with the lighter first-generation Camaros armed with engines of comparable horsepower that we were up against.
After a day of road racing fun, we then took the '10 on an autocross course where we were once again surprised as it was able to keep up with many of the purpose-built cars on hand. Don't get me wrong, it didn't light the world on fire, but again, this is a heavy car in comparison to the other cars making laps on the 31-second-ish course. While a few cars got down into the low 30-second zone (one or two got down to the 29's), our stock '10 Camaro armed with Pirelli 240 treadwear tires clicked the timers with a quickest time of 31.1 seconds. The independent rear suspension really shined here and made the car feel quite agile, even while diving into and accelerating out of the sharpest corners.
Since driving a short autocross is more about finesse and precision than gobs of horsepower, the quickness of the steering made it competitive and a blast to drive.
So now that we've had a chance to see how the car performs in a controlled racing environment in stock trim, let the upgrades begin!
We have a laundry list of aftermarket parts ready to go on this car, including intake, exhaust, heads and cam upgrade, wheels and tires, suspension and brakes, and more. The long-range plan is to take the car out to the same track next year, and see how many seconds we can knock off our baseline road course and autocross times.
Until then, we'll be testing the car on the dyno and on our regular testing ground as we manage some of these upgrades throughout the next few months.
We Need Your Help! Writer's block swept the room as we tried to think of a name for our '10 Camaro project. We only have this ride for four months, so we've gotta hurry. This is where you come in.
Help us think of a name for this project, and if we use your idea, we'll send you some swag from the Camaro Performers junk drawer.