Road Test: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS
By Mike Monticello of Road & Track
Like Ford's Mustang and Dodge's Challenger, the Chevrolet Camaro defines Americana. But when it comes to the "modern interpretation of a classic pony car," the new Camaro is the one that really got it right. Unlike Dodge, which designed a near carbon-copy of the 1970 Challenger, and Ford, which offers a "new" 2010 Mustang that only true 'Stang enthusiasts can distinguish from the 2009 model, designer Sang Yup Lee and his staff did a stunning job of using the 1969 Camaro as an "anchor point" to create a thoroughly modern car with a style all its own. The hood's large power dome, slightly shrouded headlights, menacing grille and foglights-as-DRLs form one of the most aggressive faces on the road today. We're even willing to excuse the SS model's fake hood scoop.
OK, so Chevy got the shape right. But what about the mechanical side? In a tribute to the big, burly V-8s of the '60s and '70s, the Camaro SS comes with a 6.2-liter pushrod V-8. Two of them, actually. Order the 6-speed automatic (with shift buttons on the back of the steering wheel, downshifts accompanied by perfect throttle blips) and you get the L99, with 400 bhp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque. The L99 also features Active Fuel Management, which switches the engine from 8 to 4 cylinders when driven at light throttle loads to save fuel.
For those of you who prefer a 3-pedal setup, the LS3 V-8 comes hooked to a Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual. This configuration nets 426 bhp at 5900 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 4600 rpm — and it's definitely the way to go. The LS3 is a terrifically flexible engine, basically the same small-block found in the Corvette. Surprisingly, the exhaust is on the quiet side at low revs, but it comes alive with fantastic, throbbing V-8 sounds the closer the tachometer needle gets to its 6500-rpm redline.
Although the 2010 Camaro was designed/built to a certain price point, Chevy engineers made sure performance necessities weren't skipped, demonstrated by the fact that all SS models, as well as V-6 models with manual transmissions, come with limited-slip differentials — a must for good burnouts, power slides and back-road charging. Proving this refusal-to-skimp theory even further, the SS comes standard with 4-piston Brembo brakes at all four corners, 14.0-in. rotors up front and 14.4s at the rear.
Armed with the aforementioned powertrain (the 6-speed manual providing positive, if not particularly quick throws; a Hurst short-throw shifter will soon be available), and despite a curb weight of 3860 lb., the Camaro SS hits 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, 100 mph in 10.5 sec. and thunders through the quarter mile in 13 flat at 111.1 mph. That compares spot-on with the 5-speed automatic-equipped 425-bhp Dodge Challenger SRT8, which hit 60 mph in 4.7 sec. and ran the quarter in 13.0. But the Camaro SS is considerably quicker than the standard of the class, the 2010 Ford Mustang GT, which makes do with a smaller, 315-bhp 4.6-liter V-8 and a 5-speed manual. The Mustang was 0.7 sec. off the Camaro's pace to 60 and 0.8 sec. slower in the quarter mile.
Those with previous-generation Camaros might be interested to know the last Camaro we tested — a Z28 model in our November 2001 issue — hit 60 mph in 5.5 sec. and ran the quarter mile in 13.9, powered by a 5.7-liter V-8 with 310 bhp and 340 lb.-ft. of torque. It also had a curb weight of 3420 lb., which we no doubt thought was way heavy at the time.
Manual transmission SS models come with Performance Launch Control, which works in conjunction with the stability system's Competitive Driving mode. With the clutch pushed in and the throttle pressed to the floor, revs are held at about 4000 rpm until you let the clutch out. The system then controls the car's wheelspin as you keep the throttle pinned. It works well, but we achieved better acceleration times managing wheelspin ourselves.
It's no secret the new Camaro is a joint Australian/U.S. project. It's also no secret the Camaro rides on a shortened platform of Pontiac's G8 sedan. But unlike the G8, which is built in Australia, the Camaro is assembled at GM's Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, plant. Most important, this means the Camaro has independent rear suspension for the first time in its history, a multilink design working in concert with a MacPherson-strut front setup. Camaro SS models come with slightly stiffer spring rates, marginally thicker anti-roll bars and a 0.5-in.-lower ride height than V-6 versions. Nevertheless, in driving V-6 and V-8 models back to back, it seems the barely stiffer setup of the SS is more to compensate for the extra weight of the V-8 than to achieve significantly improved handling. As such, the Camaro SS exhibits quite a comfortable ride.
Shod with Pirelli P Zero summer performance tires, size 245/45ZR-20 up front and 275/40ZR-20 at the rear, the Camaro SS circled our skidpad at 0.87g and threaded through the slalom at 66.8 mph. Those numbers slightly eclipse the Challenger SRT8 (0.85g and 65.0 slalom), but are well off the Track Pack-equipped Mustang GT (0.93g and 69.3 mph). Of note, Chevy says it doesn't currently have plans for a factory "track package" for the Camaro.
Out on the road, the Camaro SS is a fun car to drive, and not just when you're laying down twin black stripes (which it performs with ease). Although the steering is on the slow side (it has the same ratio as the V-6 model's), it's fairly precise and gives good feedback. The Camaro's independent rear suspension means that a bumpy back road doesn't make the SS "hopping" mad. Sure, push the Camaro SS hard and you'll encounter a fair amount of understeer and plenty of body roll, leaving you acutely aware there's a lot of mass to keep in check. But the Camaro never displays any evil handling habits, and is easy to drive even when pushed hard. Plus, in lower speed corners, you can use the massive amounts of V-8 power to steer the Camaro SS with the throttle. And that's just plain old good fun!
Thick A-pillars, the raked windshield and the rearview mirror diminish the outward view up front, while large C-pillars hamper the rear three-quarter view — the price of style. The interior of the Camaro continues the car's retro-modern theme, with a vast dashboard area, recessed instruments, an overly large steering wheel and a stylish center stack shared by no other GM cars. Everything works well and materials are better than expected. The front seats were clearly designed with wide Americans in mind, but still offer good lateral support and comfort aplenty. Limited rear head room defines the Camaro as a 2+2.
As good as the new Camaro SS is, you're not going to hop out and say, "Man, that's the greatest car I've ever driven," as you might after a spin in the Corvette ZR1 — the Camaro simply isn't that type of car. But at the same time, there's nary a hitch anywhere in its giddyup — it's very well executed.
And here's what the Camaro does great: It provides those who long for days gone by with a modern version of a classic that never should have been canceled in the first place. At a starting price of $30,245, which includes a 426-bhp V-8, a 6-speed manual, limited-slip differential and big Brembo brakes, it's also a bargain. Add in some truly ballsy American styling, and the Camaro announces loud and clear that it's back. And it's better than ever.