KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
There were some working in the halls of General Motors' rescue partner, the federal government, who felt that a V8-powered sports model like the Chevrolet Camaro was the wrong car at the wrong time; clearly the American consumer felt differently and has proven so by voting with their hard-earned dollars. The Camaro is a hit and whether in V8 trim or powered by the also-available V6, the 2011 Camaro is not just a car to be respected; it's a car to be celebrated. Not only does the newest model evoke all the good emotions of an earlier time, it also provides those same emotions for new generations who may remember the Camaro only as the noisy relic owned by the old guy at the end of the cul-de-sac. The 426-horsepower SS model certainly grabs the headlines, but the 312-horsepower V6-equipped LT offers significantly more performance than you might expect, while turning in laudable fuel efficiency.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you want a great-looking car that expresses your personality without forcing you to take out a second mortgage on the declining value of your home, you have to like the Camaro. In SS form its performance-per-dollar ratio is outstanding as well.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're seeking BMW-like handling or a sophisticated interior brimming with quality plastics and trim, the Camaro may prove disappointing. Those who have kids who are older than toddlers may find the Camaro's minimalistic rear seat area too tight for anything other than short trips.
What's New for 2011
For 2011, the V6 Camaro gains an additional eight horsepower, bringing its total output to 312. Also new this year is the limited availability of Synergy Green Metallic paint on all trims, while a Head-Up Display is made standard on Camaro 2LT and 2SS trims.
While we had a chance to sample every level of the Camaro from the V6-powered LS to the 426-horsepower LS3 V8-equipped SS with its six-speed manual transmission, we have to admit that we spent most of our time in the SS. Power and torque are effortless and ever-present, making it an easy car to drive fast, and its 0-60-mph acceleration, aided by electronic launch control, is a more-than-respectable 4.4 seconds. But while you might expect excellent straight-line acceleration, you might not expect the sophisticated handling offered by its multi-link rear suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and substantial tires. Further, the handling is enhanced by the 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 reduces the level of skill required to get off the line quickly, while "Competitive/Sport" modes for the stability system allow turning off many of the electronic aids, for doing your own thing. And, you would not be wrong to opt for either the less-expensive 304-horsepower V6 version or the 400-horsepower L99 V8 with active fuel management and its six-speed automatic with paddle-activated shifting.
Great Exterior Styling
Certainly beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we are of the opinion that the new Camaro looks like a car that could command a much higher price tag. The details like the grille, rear roof pillars and taillights are simply gorgeous.
Camaros of old were great in a straight line, but a lot less great around corners, especially if the road surface was uneven. With its multi-link rear suspension instead of a live axle, the new Camaro is much more at home in those challenging situations.
Frankly, the interior of the Camaro doesn't win as much applause as the truly striking exterior. Several of our colleagues complained about the large expanses of hard plastic, and we have to agree that we wish the dash were a bit more inviting. On the positive side, the key gauges are very readable; the steering wheel, although placed a bit high for many drivers, has a nice heft and feel and the action of the manual shifter is excellent. We're not fans of the placement of the optional gauges for oil pressure, oil temperature, volts and transmission fluid temperature low in the center console, because it is difficult to scan them quickly, but we do like that old-school touch. We also like the supportive and adjustable front seats, but feel adjustable lumbar support would make them even better. As for the Camaro's backseat, let's just say it is as small and confining as you would expect.
From where we sit the 2011 Camaro is a design tour de force. It is great looking from every angle, and it is definitely identifiable as a Camaro without drawing too heavily on designs from previous generations. While the front end with its bold grille immediately grabs your attention, our favorite portion of the design is the interface between the roof and the ultra-wide rear fenders. GM designers told us it was hard to accomplish this using factory stamping techniques, but in the end GM production engineers were able to make it happen. We also like the tail with its hooded classic Camaro taillamps.
Notable Standard Equipment
Perhaps the most notable standard item is the Camaro's good looks, and they are accompanied by a supple and responsive suspension that makes this the best handling, most comfortable Camaro of all time. Cloth-upholstered, four-way manually-adjusted driver seat and two-way-adjusted front passenger seat are standard. The 11.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity can be increased with the standard fold-down rear seat. All models include a three-spoke steering wheel with manual tilt/telescope adjustment, plus cruise control and rear defogger. The Camaro's standard entertainment system is a single-CD radio with six speakers, and it offers XM Satellite Radio. All models also include power door locks and express up-and-down windows. Standard safety technologies include front dual-stage airbags, front seat-mounted thorax side-impact airbags, head-curtain side-impact airbags for front- and rear-seat occupants, front-seat safety-belt load limiters and pretensioners and a front-passenger detection system that senses children and small-stature adults and suppresses airbag deployment when appropriate.
Notable Optional Equipment
While the base Camaro with V6 engine is reasonably well-equipped, some judicious checking of option boxes can add up to a more comfortable while still reasonably priced car. We liked the optional heated, leather-trimmed seats with driver six-way power adjustment. On SS models, the seats feature a distinctive SS logo on the headrests with contrasting stitching, and an "Inferno Orange" interior trim package is also available with leather interiors. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; redundant steering-wheel controls; Bluetooth and USB port are part of the available "Driver Convenience and Connectivity" package, which also includes remote start on automatic transmission-equipped vehicles, as well as an interface module for iPods and the like. The available premium audio system is by Boston Acoustics, with nine speakers and 245 booming watts. An optional short-throw Hurst shifter provides quick, concise shifting, and there are a variety of available wheel-tire packages, including 21-inch machined aluminum wheels.
Under the Hood
The Camaro offers three engine choices – 312-horsepower 3.6-liter direct-injected V6, 400-horsepower 6.2-liter L99 V8 with active fuel management or 426-horsepower 6.2-liter LS3 V8. The V6 can be backed by either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. The L99 is accompanied by a six-speed automatic with paddle-activated driver shift control, while the LS3 has a six-speed manual.
312 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
278 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/29 (automatic) 17/28 (manual)
6.2-liter V8 (L99)
400 horsepower @ 5900 rpm
410 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25
6.2-liter V8 (LS3)
426 horsepower @ 5900 rpm
420 horsepower @ 4600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/24
Deciding whether you want a V6- or V8-equipped version is the biggest question you must answer concerning the Camaro. The LS with V6 has a base price of right around $23,500, while the V8-equipped SS has a base price approaching $32,000, and options can take that into the mid- to high-30s. The Camaro's popularity means customers will have to bargain hard to make a good deal, and our Fair Purchase Price pricing that shows the typical transaction price seems to bear this out. In comparison to its American brand competitors, the Camaro is expected to retain a better-than-average residual value than the Dodge Challenger, but remain on par with the Ford Mustang.