First Drive Review: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro V-6
By Michael Austin of Car and Driver
Attention, IROC-Z enthusiasts: the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro will not be available with your beloved T-top. If this is hugely disappointing, well, it may finally be time to put on a shirt with a collar, sell your Skynyrd CDs, and scissor the mullet.
In reviving the Camaro, Chevy is doing all it can to make the born-again car remind everyone of the sharp, cleanly styled 1967 original, rather than the more awkward later versions that seemed like accessories to tank-top wear and excesses in facial hair. This writer, the semi-proud owner of a 1995 Z28, knows intimately all the social assumptions that go with late-model Camaro ownership.
GM is of course milking the revival for as many stories as it can get from us, hence we got a first drive in a V-6-powered Camaro prototype, which we promptly piloted to the the Car and Driver 10Best loop in the Michigan woods. The V-8 experience will follow soon. Manipulative intentions aside, the point of our early exposure was also to prove that even the base Camaro is deserving of more enlightened consideration, while still being powerful and capable enough to rock your face.
As we noted in our September issue, the V-6 features direct injection and dual over-head cams, the rear suspension is an independent multilink, and both transmissions (an Aisin manual and a GM automatic) are six-speeds. Lest you think this setup is the sort of wine-and-cheese import-sedan formula that will make the Camaro a card-carrying metrosexual, Chevy promises the V-6 will make no fewer than 300 horsepower and that blasting from 0 to 60 mph should take 6.1 seconds, with the quarter-mile breezing by in 14.5 seconds at 97 mph.
Even if those numbers are conservative, the 3800-pound V-6 Camaro should easily out-drag the V-6 versions of the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger, but it will eat the dust of a lighter Ford Mustang Bullitt, a V-8, and the more powerful Dodge Challenger SRT8, both of which cover the quarter-mile about a second quicker.
Though the Camaro lacks the cojones to run with the big boys, it does make a compelling case as a decent sports car. Around the 10Best loop, the Camaro showed remarkable poise, with the suspension handling the pockmarked roads with hardly any disturbance to the cabin. The chassis is less jumpy than that of the Mustang but far more communicative than in the Challenger, and although the Camaro is nearly as wide as the Dodge it doesn't feel as big.
We drove two different wheel-and-tire combinations: 18-inch wheels with BF Goodrich Traction T/As on an automatic-transmission car and 19-inch Pirelli PZero Neros with the manual; either choice has a section width of 245. When the Camaro goes on sale — the target is first day of March 2009 — 20-inch wheels and tires will be available with the RS package. At this point in the Camaro's development (about 99 percent complete, according to Chevy), the 18-inch tires are preferable, offering more steering feel and more predictable handling. On either set of tires, though, the Camaro turns in easily before setting into minor understeer that is easily cured with a stomp on the throttle. The engine responds willingly, although the high-pitched tone of the exhaust note feels out of place - our inner car lover appreciates the racy smoothness but our inner Camaro owner longs for the deep rumble of a V-8.
Outclassing the Competitors
Based on our early impressions, though, the Camaro outclasses its competitors on a few fronts. (Did you think it would one day be possible to see "Camaro" and "outclass" in the same sentence?) The ride quality of the Camaro doesn't even rate a comparison with the lesser Mustang, and it makes the Challenger's handling feel plodding.
Chevy is casting its new Camaro as a modernist sports coupe rather than a revisionist pony car, and their case holds water. That argument is backed up with an expected EPA highway fuel-economy rating of 26 mpg, which is 3 higher than the similarly powerful Mustang GT, and equal to the ratings for the Infiniti G37 and BMW 335i.
Where the entry-level Camaro has been placed below the V-8s but above lesser-powered V-6smight seem like a confusing market position, but its true to the Camaro's social heritage. Like the mullet that is often associated with it, it looks like the V-6 Camaro will walk a fine line between classiness and savagery.