This past week Rob and I had a blast covering the New York International Auto Show for CarDomain. We got to enter early, have some great meetings and generally got to poke around more so than your average Joe. All in all, a great experience. One major highlight of the week was our meeting with Ed Wellburn, Vice President of Global Design for GM. This is the guy responsible for bringing the 2010 Camaro to light. We spoke about the Camaro and GM’s plans for the car. Then, when Ed asked if we’d driven one, we simply sighed and said, “no…”
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What happened next was very unexpected. Not only did GM hook us up with a Black SS automatic to take for a quick blast around the block, but then upon returning it, they said they had a red SS 6-speed to give us for the next 24hrs. Oh the joy! The following day we picked up a fire engine red 2010 Camaro SS, 6-speed. This car was a stripper: no rally package, no leather and no BS. Just a 422 hp V8, six gears and a whole bunch of traffic lights to launch from. Man I love NYC.
First and foremost the Camaro is a looker, and driving one around the streets of NYC on a spring day proved this in spades. Everyone was giving the Camaro looks, even if they didn’t know what the hell it was. Cab drivers, pedestrians, door men, bus drivers as well as the rest of the NYC masses loved it. In fact we didn’t get one negative comment the entire time we were in this thing. Interestingly enough, one comment that we kept getting is that people thought the Camaro was a concept car, and with it’s low profile, chopped roof and aggressive stance, I can totally see why. It just doesn’t look like a production ready car, and when viewed from the front it is a really mean looking SOB.
People have been bitching about the car’s interior and I am not sure why. Yes, it definitely has some new age, retro funk going on, but it works in this car. There is A LOT of gray. In fact everything from the door panels, to the dash, to the seats are gray. But the materials themselves are really not bad.
The gauge cluster and climate controls will obviously be a bone of contention for some people. For example, Rob said that the climate control pod reminded him of a cow’s utter. Hmm… I don’t see it, but hey, I’m not Rob. Gauges are easy to read and are not obstructed by the steering wheel and all the controls are where they should be for easy access. As mentioned, we had a stripper SS, but if I were to purchase one I’d probably get the extra gauge package which includes oil pressure, volts, oil temp and transmission temp. This is a cool option and one that lends itself well to the overall look and feel of the car. Plus I want to know what the hell’s going on if I decide to beat on this thing.
Driving the Camaro is another experience entirely. First off, the 6-speed is SO much better than the automatic. While the automatic is fine it just doesn’t seem to fit the cars personality. Launches are somewhat lazy and uninspiring and really detract from the overall road feel. This is not to say that it isn’t fast–quite the contrary, it’s very fast, but the automatic just doesn’t feel that way. The six-speed cures this. Once in the car I found myself having to lower the seat all the way down and back to gain not only headroom, but visibility. What everyone should know, regardless of the model they’re interested in, is that this car has blind spots. A LOT of them. With a somewhat chopped roof, narrow windshield and windows, I was constantly checking over my shoulders for a better view. The A and B pillars also greatly reduce visibility. For Chevy to get that cool roof line they had to extend the windshield, which means compromising your forward view. At stoplights for example, I was constantly leaning forward to see the signal as the roof kept obstructing my view. It was a total pain in the ass.
During normal highway driving you won’t really notice this, but just wait until you come to a signal. Back seat room in the Camaro is a joke, even for small children, so if and when you buy it I would consider it a two seater. Trunk space is limited as well, with a narrow opening and shallow well. If you’re looking for four usable seats in a modern muscle car then the new Challenger is the way to go.
Power wise the Camaro does not disappoint. The all aluminum small block pumps out 422 hp and hurls it to 60 mph in under 5 seconds. Ladies and gentleman, this car is fast. Turn the traction control off, rev it up and dump the clutch and you find yourself incinerating the tires at will–it’s a riot. 1st and 2nd gear are amazingly tall. Hell, we cruised around NYC all day using just the first two gears–it’s all you needed. Once the lights went out, I took the Camaro out to my neighborhood in Queens, NY. I hit the good ole’ Cross Island Parkway and began trolling for unsuspecting imports and strudel wagons, and as always, I was not disappointed. I ran everything from STIs to a few BMW 3-series, to a standard Caddy CTS and had no issues with anyone. I did however get my ass handed to me by someone in a crazy silver Honda S2000. Man did that sucker move (dude, if you’re reading this, BRAVO!). Also, before all you STi and BMW guys get your panties in a twist, just know that I am just stating what happened, I don’t know if the other cars were stock, modded or whatever, so don’t get all defensive on me.
Brakes on the SS are Brembos but didn’t offer the same binding power as say, those on the SRT-8 Challenger. For what it’s worth, though, they are better than those of the Challenger R/T. Handling wise the car was simply great. Throw the Camaro into a corner and it will not disappoint you. Side to side transitions are great and throttle response out of the corner is smooth and even. I would really love to get one of these on a road course to see what it would do.
At the end of the day all the modern muscle cars out now are really fantastic, so choosing a clear winner is difficult because the margins are just so close. We all know that the world has Ford, Chevy and Mopar guys, and we all have loyalties to each brand. What I would say to everyone though, is to go out and try to drive them all before making a decision if you are in the market for one of these. As said, they are all great cars, each with its own distinct personality, so don’t sell yourself short with the whole, “I’m a Ford guy” or “I’m a Chevy guy.” You’d just be doing yourself a disservice. Check them all out, because right now, regardless of the economy, it is a very exciting time for the auto enthusiast. There are some truly great performing, beautifully designed cars out there, so do your homework, shop carefully and enjoy.
And by the way… yes, I do like the 2010 Camaro SS - A LOT!