It probably isn’t the best time to introduce the Camaro on the market as the current economic situation isn’t exactly putting people in the mood to celebrate. But isn’t it nice to focus on a product and not on the economic climate?
After hearing all the buzz about this new Camaro and seeing several concept versions over the last few years, it seems like it was introduced later than was originally planned. And yet, on the contrary, the new Camaro was introduced more quickly than most products at GM. To a large extent, General Motors is responsible for this idea that the Camaro is late because the first concept cars were presented almost two years earlier than the norm. Furthermore, almost 15,000 Camaros were pre-sold, which just goes to show how excited some people are.
Star of the big screen
The manufacturer’s other stroke of marketing genius has turned out to be managing to introduce the Camaro to a much younger clientele. Sure, this icon was widely known when it was available many years ago, but thanks to its starring role in the film Transformers, younger people have become interested in the car too. When these younger folks see the Camaro on the road, they think of Bumblebee. Now that’s what I call an ingenious way to broaden the horizons of a niche car.
As a member of the sport coupe market niche, the Camaro is going head-to-head with some other greats from the past, most notably the Dodge Challenger and, its nearest rival, the Ford Mustang. However, the good folks at GM didn’t want to simply bring its old Muscle Car back to life. Instead, they wanted to create a new sport coupe that comes in several variations.
Of course, there was never a doubt that the Camaro would be anything other than a rear-wheel drive. Since GM didn’t have a platform well-suited for this type of rear-wheel drive car, and they didn’t want to look to Cadillac for the solution, there were two choices. The first was to develop a new platform for the Camaro. The second was to make use of GM’s subsidiaries. With cost-cutting in mind, GM went for the second option and thus, the Chevrolet Camaro is using a platform borrowed from Holden, GM’s Australian division. However, the chassis was carefully and extensively modified. It was lengthened and widened, and the wheels were positioned as far apart as possible in order to optimize performance. Basically, it is practically a brand new platform.
As is the case with the Mustang and the Challenger, the Camaro offers a choice of a V6 or a V8 engine. Both can be paired with either a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual transmission. The 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine borrowed from Cadillac features 304 horses and a torque of 273 lb-ft. As for the V8 that powers the Camaro SS, it is derived from the Corvette’s V8 and demonstrates impressive power with its 426 horses, which is just a little more than the Dodge Challenger SRT8.
The Camaro is the least retro-looking car of this trio of legends. While the Challenger represents a modern interpretation of the original, the designers at GM had no interest in simply re-creating the Camaro. Rather, they wanted to give it a typically modern look. There are definitely a few elements, such as instrumentation, that are inspired by the past, but everything else reflects current tastes. Its lines are fluid and pleasant. We like the 20-inch rims and the discreet rear spoiler in the SS trim. However, the RS package for the V6 model offers the same look as the SS, which is great for V6 owners but somewhat annoying for those who opt for the SS. When you pay the hefty price tag for the top-end model, you want others to be able to immediately differentiate it from the more affordable model, as is the case with the Challenger SRT8, which looks very different from the model with the V6 engine.
The interior trim is like no other GM product. The attention to detail is immediately evident and there is a marked improvement in the quality of the finish compared to other products. Its higher beltline and smaller windows makes the passenger compartment feel a little confined but, unlike with the Solstice or the Sky, this effect is lessened by the plain and relatively efficient dashboard. Of course, since this is a coupe, the rear space and head room remain very limited. It is more of a 2 + 2 than a legitimate four-seater.
The seats are comfortable and provide good lateral support for a sportier ride. Another positive element is the wide foot rest that, along with the telescopic steering wheel, helps you find a good driving position. Finally, the main nuisance on board has to do with the steering wheel. It is more or less V-shaped, which doesn’t exactly make it easy to hold and it puts more noticeable pressure in the palm of your hand. Basically, the steering wheel is not comfortable.
On the road
We had the opportunity to drive practically all of the versions during the recent launch of the Camaro. Of course, the Camaro SS with its 426 hp engine offers performances that are as good as those of the competition. The rich tone of the V8 turns out to be one of its best features. The manual gearbox offers precise shifting while its gear ratio and the sixth gear help increase fuel economy. The four-wheel independent suspension, a first for Camaro, uses the SS model’s sportier settings and it demonstrates good balance and minimizes weight transfers. The Brembo brakes are reasonably powerful but the pedal is somewhat spongy. It feels like you have to push down a long way in order to brake adequately.
The Camaro V6 will most likely be the better selling model. As it turns out, it is every bit as interesting as the V8 and it is far from underpowered. Sure, the V6 doesn’t sound as nice as its big brother, but its 304 horses are enough to give it relatively dynamic handling. The car’s dimensions and its reduced weight are also features that maximize the V6 engine’s performances. In this model, there is a Touring suspension that is less capable on the track, but more comfortable for day-to-day use. It does not look at all cheap, and it offers good fuel economy, too.
GM has often been criticized for neglecting certain things on its new vehicles. In the case of the Camaro, GM left no stone unturned, and it really shows. Moreover, this very well made sport coupe could win over a lot of people, thanks mainly to its lower pricing.