Saturday, January 8, 2011

Judging from the TV commercials that were running constantly during the month of December, getting a new car for Christmas—or, excuse me, during “the holidays”—is apparently quite commonplace. So I imagine there were some spoiled 16-year-olds who woke up on December 25th to find in their driveway a new Chevy Camaro with a giant red bow on the roof. To them I say, bully for you—and try to be a bit less snotty to your parents, at least for the next few weeks.

I, too, found myself at the wheel of a new Camaro over Christmas, a bright orange SS with a pair of fat black stripes on the hood, and a black-and-orange interior (what, no houndstooth?).

Backing up all that flash, my Camaro SS featured a 6.0-liter V-8 with a potent 426 hp and a rip-snorting exhaust note. That engine makes this car blisteringly fast, and it’s also plenty torquey enough to let the Camaro cruise happily in its ultra-tall fifth and sixth gears. The manual transmission gets full marks for the action of its clutch and shifter, with one major exception. GM is still using its obnoxious 1st-to-4th “skip shift,” that hackneyed old EPA-cheating trick, which dates all the way back to the last Camaro.

Also dating back to the last Camaro—and every one before that—is the cramped back seat. Front-seat occupants need to scoot their chairs forward to make enough space back there even for kids. Unlike in Camaros of yore, here Chevrolet engineers did not scoop out the seat cushion to aid the cause of headroom, but maybe they should have. A more endearing bit of retro is the dash design; it looks cool and has easy-to-use switchgear. The SS has a firmer suspension, but even so the car rides well and resists tramlining despite its wide tires.

One of the biggest knocks against the new Camaro is the visibility—that’s the outward visibility. This particular example, at least, proved highly visible to others. That’s one reason to appreciate the head-up display (standard on the 2SS trim level), which is great for keeping precise track of one’s speed, useful in such a fast and highly conspicuous car.

This extroverted machine got a warm reception everywhere it went, despite the freezing weather. On the day the big blizzard was approaching the Northeast, one parking-lot commenter said, “Nice car,” but then admonished, “You better get that thing home.” I did make it home just as the snow started to fly. But the next day, I drove it into an only partially plowed-out New York City. Historically, Camaros have been good for only one thing in the snow: doing donuts. This new one, with the aid of snow tires and traction control, was able to make it all the way to its parking garage in Manhattan despite the snow-covered streets—which made this one happy return.

The dash takes cues from the first-generation car.
Joe Lorio on January 7 2011 12:27 PM
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