First Drive: 2010 Chevy Camaro
Camaro fans, you have reason celebrate. The model that aging Baby Boomers lusted for in their long-lost youth is being delivered to Chevy showrooms as you read this, and happily this 2010 model-year Camaro doesn't just look great, it also is the best performing Camaro ever. After an extensive drive through the most southern reaches of Southern California, we have virtually nothing but praise for the new car. We know we'll stir controversy with this, but through our eyes the 2010 Camaro SS with its 426-horsepower LS3 V8, six-speed manual transmission and all-independent suspension could well be the best ponycar ever. Interestingly, to GM that isn't enough. The company aims not just to build terrific New Age musclecars that sell to a relative few but also to find a broader market in buyers who don't care about ultimate performance but do care about looking great while getting good fuel economy. For those who seek those attributes, Chevrolet offers a 300-horsepower V6 version of the car that we can attest will surprise people with its overall balance of acceleration, handling and fuel miserliness. Others will find similar attributes -- and even brisker acceleration -- in the 400-horsepower L99 V8 with active fuel management and its six-speed automatic with paddle-activated driver shift control. In a bow to today's electronics, the beefy automatic also offers "Performance Algorithm Shifting" (PAS) that lets the transmission controller override the automatic gear selection during high-lateral-acceleration maneuvers. Yeah, the car's that smart.
All that being said, Camaro loyalists undoubtedly want to hear about the highest performance version of the car - the LS3-equipped SS. After wringing it out, we can report it's all good. Power and torque are effortless and ever-present, making it an easy car to drive fast. Its full-bore 0-60-mph acceleration, aided by electronic launch control no less, is a more-than-respectable 4.4 seconds. And because of its sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and meaty tires, the 2010 SS handles better than any Camaro in our long collective memories. In a thoroughly modern touch, the handling is enhanced by StabiliTrak electronic stability control system that incorporates anti-lock braking, traction control and an active braking system to control wheel slip. Old-school drivers might object, but electronic launch control eliminates the need to feather the clutch. The good news is that "Competitive/Sport" modes for the stability system allow you to turn off many of the electronic aids, so you have room for what Chevy engineers called "driver expression." (Sometimes referred to by spoilsports as "illegal display of speed.")
To our eyes, the new Camaro looks so good that some might declare it illegal. The exterior designers did an outstanding job of incorporating Camaro-esque elements into a contemporary design. None dare call it retro, but it certainly looks like a Camaro. We especially like the way the rear roof pillar, trunklid and bulging rear fender all come together in a complex series of bends that gave the production engineers sleepless nights. The high cowl makes the interior seem a tad claustrophobic, but that is the price of the luscious front fenders and the domed hood.
Compared to the stunning exterior, the interior didn't prompt as many raves. While avoiding the retro look in other areas, the four-gauge instrument cluster strikes us a little too reminiscent of the '69 Camaro. The entertainment center and heating/ventilating controls treatment gets plus points for novelty but it isn't especially useful or upscale. On the other hand, we really appreciated the comfort and support of the front bucket seats. In fact, after hours at the wheel, it still took considerable prying to get us out of them.