The Truth About Cars » Camaro SS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 29 Jul 2014 21:42:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Camaro SS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Rental Car Review: 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/rental-car-review-2013-chevrolet-camaro-ss/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/rental-car-review-2013-chevrolet-camaro-ss/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:30:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=784609 ttac1

The Victory Red 2013 Camaro Super Sport that awaited me on the third floor of what I still think of as the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s “new” rental car facility was not my preferred choice. It was, instead, the vehicle that had appeared at that perfect intersection of my desire to drive something fun during my brief trip home and my own innate frugality. It was, I thought, a good-enough-for-who-it’s-for kind of car, a convenient compromise made possible by a friendly rental agent who had offered it to me for the low-low rate of just $100 per day. But now as I approached it and saw first-hand the car’s cartoonish silhouette, its low roof line, its impossibly high windowsills and its over accentuated, nee, bulging curves, – a modern, steroid-era rethink that has changed car design in the same way that the grotesquely overdeveloped bodies of professional wrestlers have usurped the rightful place of Michelangelo’s David as the embodiment of the perfect male form – I wondered if I shouldn’t have suppressed my frugality just long enough to drop the extra cash for a BMW 5 series.

Of course, I had known when I struck the deal just what I would be getting. Camaros aren’t exactly exotic and I’d seen plenty on the street. Although I had yet to drive one, I had sat in one during a visit to my local dealership a year or two ago and so I knew that being in the Camaro was a little like sitting in an uncomfortably tall bathtub. Time had muted that feeling but, as I opened the door and slipped behind the wheel, that impression returned with real force.

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The Camaro is not like my little cute-ute or the family minivan and, as I sat in it, I had my doubts about my ability to make myself comfortable in what I looked like a fairly small and restricted cabin. After some simple adjustments, however, I found the interior of the car a nice place to be. The leather seats were a tad too low for my taste, I prefer to sit up high and to have my seat back almost bolt-upright. But thanks to the power seats’ wide range of adjustability I was able to make myself comfortable without much trouble. The seats themselves were quite supportive and, although they were deeply dished with high side bolsters, I never felt like I was too big – or too wide – to fit. Leg room was very good and this was the first time in a long time that I haven’t had to have my seat all the way against the rear stops in order to be comfortable.

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Taking stock of my surroundings, I noted that the inside of the car was well-appointed and very well put together. I spent a lot of time looking for imperfections and didn’t find anything of note. The stitching on the seats and the leather dash cover were flawless and the various panels all fit together without any annoying gaps or spaces. The controls were well placed and everything my hand touched felt good under my fingers. On the downside, the gauges, specifically the plastic bezel that surrounded them, looked cheap. Also, I was not especially enamored with the gold-colored hard plastic on the console and I noted that the one in my car had several nasty, deep scratches, indicating to me that this surface may become an unsightly problem after a few years of normal use. The radio was easy to use and although I never really cranked it up, it sounded passable. The climate controls, which looked a lot like a 1980’s boom box I once owned, were retrotastic tacky but easy to figure out and intuitive to use as well.

2013 camaro SS

2013 camaro SS

The view out of the car was much more of a mixed bag. The high windowsills, something I was really dreading, had almost zero effect on my overall driving experience. Thanks to all the liquid sunshine, I never felt the urge to put my elbow on the windowsill. Visibility out the front was, despite A pillars almost as big around as my leg, surprisingly good. Even the car’s low roofline did not prove to be a problem, and I didn’t need to duck my head to see out, as I did when I sat in the last iteration of this car back in the 90s. The high hood and low seat position did make it hard to judge where the front of the car was and, while this was never a problem while I was out on the road, it made me feel especially vulnerable while moving around at slow speeds in parking lots.

The view out the back was a flat mess, with noticeable blind spots on both rear quarters made worse by small sport bike-esque  sideview mirrors. The interior mirror was just as bad and, although it was large enough to block out an entire car at a four-way stop, it offered only a panoramic view of the tiny rear window framed by the car’s package tray and interior trim parts. At the very least, the car I drove was equipped with a back up monitor that I much appreciated, but since it only worked while I was backing up, I needed to exercise extra caution before making lane changes on the highway.

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The drive between the Sea-Tac airport and Snohomish takes about an hour, and uses the same roads that I once spent great amounts of time traversing as a part of my daily commute. Generally, the roads are in good shape and I whisked my way northward without incident in a car that I had already determined I really didn’t care for. The steering felt heavy but precise and the car’s big, wide tires seemed to find every imperfection in the pavement. Still, despite the fact that I hit almost every bump for 50 miles, I simply could not find fault with the way the Camaro drove. The suspension felt perfect, firm but never rough or jarring, and the car motored up the freeway with only the steady drum of tires on pavement finding their way into the interior.

After a stop at my mother’s house in Monroe, I decided to take the Camaro up into the hills, to those roads that I have written about on these pages so often, where I determined that I would, once and for all, ring the snot out of it. On the climb up and out of the valley, I noticed the first thing I felt was a real problem with the car, a transmission that seemed devoted to fuel mileage rather than performance. The car was constantly looking to up shift as quickly as possible, and I caught it several times lugging the engine at lower speeds on the flats or failing to downshift on grades. The answer to my problem was, of course, to put the car into manual mode and control the shifts myself via the paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel. I had hated the Autostick in my 300M and seldom used it, but the paddles on the Camaro worked well and gave crisp shifts as I ran up through the gears. I was more reluctant about manual downshifts and engine braking with an automatic, but I soon found that the car handled most of the downshifts on its own, leaving me solely responsible for the up shifts or on those few occasions when I needed to downshift to bump up the revs.

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I’m not going to say I went crazy out there, the roads were wet and in the decades since I left the hills hundreds of new homes have been built where once only woodland creatures walked, but the Camaro handled itself well on the twistiest of what were once my own personal twisties. With 426 horsepower under the hood, this is hands-down the most powerful car I have ever driven, and it should have been easy to get the car out of shape, but that never happened. Despite the wet surface, the wide tires clung to the road with real tenacity and the big brakes were always quick and accurate when hauling the car down from high speed. On my favorite stretch of road, the one with the curve known locally as “devil’s elbow,” the Camaro set such a blistering pace that I could hardly believe how slow my old Shadow and 200SX felt in comparison.

In the days that followed, I took the Camaro out into the hills at every opportunity and soon I noticed a strange thing happening. Little by little, I began to connect with the car. Just like when I still rode sport bikes, there came a point where the machine just fell away and I found myself working the vehicle automatically while my mind ranged out ahead of my forward progress. One mile at a time the Camaro and I began to gel, and I realized that what I had originally believed to be major faults with the car were just tiny little annoyances that were wiped away by everything the car does right.

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On Saturday morning at 3:00 AM, I rolled out of my brother’s modest abode and made the hour drive back down to Sea-Tac. The rain had abated, and the pavement on Interstate 405 was mostly bare and dry. This time, the roar of the car’s tires did not bother me and somewhere within it, if I cocked my head just right, I could recognize the sound of the engine as I motored smoothly down the freeway. From my seat I looked out through the windshield and across the broad, bulging hood as the road rushed towards me and wondered why it was exactly that I had decided not to like the car in the first place.

The Camaro SS is one of those cars that makes no secret of what it is. It is a Mr. Hyde who does not hide behind the facade of Doctor Jekyll, an Incredible Hulk free to roam about with no concern for Dr. Bruce Banner. It is the monster in its purest form, loud, brash and in your face, even if it is overwrought. Chevrolet has built something amazing here – maybe it just took me a little longer than some to realize it.

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Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Review: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/review-2010-chevrolet-camaro-ss/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/review-2010-chevrolet-camaro-ss/#comments Wed, 01 Sep 2010 19:23:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=364438

The third-generation Camaro, so much swoopier than anything else on the road back in 1982, looked more like a concept car than a production car. The throaty V8, though pitifully weak by today’s standards, at the time was easily capable of getting a 14-year-old’s pulse racing. Some critics dinged the car for its impractical packaging, size, and weight, but I didn’t care. I wanted one, badly. Never did get one. By the time I could afford a Camaro, I agreed with the critics. From frenzied test drives in the Toyota Corolla GT-S and Honda CRX I learned the joys of high-revving multi-valve engines and agile handling. GM recently introduced a fifth-generation Camaro. What has it learned in the last 28 years?

In form and spirit, the 2010 car’s big, bold exterior is very much that of a Camaro. My 14-year-old self would have loved it. I thought my kids would love it, but instead they seemed puzzled that a car with such exaggerated styling could exist outside of a cartoon. Many people do clearly love the look of the new car, and virtually everyone has a strong opinion about it. GM deserves credit for crafting a shape that is at once current and readily identifiable with its ancestors. The lesson not learned: the racier the styling, the shorter the shelf life. Sales have been strong so far, but where will they be in 2012?

Size remains a big issue. Compared to previous generations, the new Camaro is about as long (190.4”), wider (75.5”) and heavier (3,860 lbs.). The original Camaro was based on a compact car platform. The new one is based on GM’s largest car platform. You’d never guess that gas prices reached record highs during the car’s gestation. Another lesson not learned.

Check out the 2010 Camaro’s back seat, preferably from a safe distance, and as with past iterations you’ll wonder where all of those exterior inches went. Adults who don’t regularly practice yoga simply don’t fit beneath the low roof. My skinny nine-year-old son complained about the lack of room and his inability to see out of the small, high-mounted windows. His comment on the car: “Everything is big except what you want to be big, and that’s small.”

Slide between the widely-spaced bolsters of the front seat, though, and you’ll wonder if the Camaro was designed for giants. You sit low behind a hulking instrument panel. Both the deeply dished steering wheel and shifter are super-sized: Camaro drivers best have big, manly hands. The retro-styled interior possesses some interesting elements, but it’s overly plasticky. The silver-painted trim bits are so thick they come across as clunky. The bulging center stack with its pair of oversized round HVAC controls (I’ll avoid references to the female anatomy) appears more 1990s GM than late 1960s. Sometimes there’s a fine line between retro and dated. The most attractive part of the interior: the door sill trim plates. Too bad they’re no longer visible once you clunk the door shut.

The windshield is much more upright than with the third-generation Camaro, and perhaps even the second—a retro touch I can definitely live with. Sitting low and gazing over a long hood as the V8 rumbles provides a badass feeling you just cannot get in a Mustang. Visibility? It’s as bad as everyone says, but still livable.

When paired with the six-speed manual, the 2010 Camaro’s 6.2-liter V8 puts out 426 horsepower at 5,900 rpm. Years ago GM claimed they could get pushrod engines to breathe well at high rpm, and they’re rightly proud of the peak output they’ve been able to wring from this one. But there are downsides to this approach. With only two valves per cylinder, breathing cannot be optimized separately for low and high rpm. So tune for high rpm breathing and the low end suffers. The 6.2’s torque peak is a fairly lofty 4,600 rpm, so there are only 1,300 rpm between the peaks.

Then there’s the way the Camaro’s engine sounds and feels when racing for the redline. Its raucous roar (with stray mechanical undertones) borders on violent, with much of this violence seemingly directed towards the engine’s own internals. Put another way, under hard acceleration at high rpm the big V8 sounds like it wants to tear itself apart. At the other end of the spectrum, the idle is a bit lumpy, which is typical of a cammy old-school V8.

Shift feel is similarly unrefined. Throws are moderate in length, but can feel clunky, and in casual driving it takes conscious effort to shift the car smoothly. Go too easy on the throttle in first and the shifter will take you straight to forth, an old GM trick to bump the EPA rating. The V8 is torquey, but shifting into fourth so early still lugs it. Even if this feature is avoided—and I didn’t encounter it at all the first few days I had the car—the gearing feels too tall. Fuel economy ranged from 13 in hard driving to low 20s on the highway. Figure 16 and change in moderately aggressive driving around town—nearly the same I observed in an Altima Coupe.

Then there’s the chassis, which seems to have received all of the refinement the rest of the car did not. The nicely weighted steering doesn’t communicate much, and the Camaro handles like the large, heavy car that it is. But body roll is restrained without killing the ride quality, and the precision with which the car can be steered with the right foot (a trait shared with the late, lamented Pontiac G8 and the Corvette) should serve as an example for other manufacturers. (Nissan, I’m talking to you.) Add in good balance and very grippy tires, and you’ll rarely come anywhere near the Camaro’s limits on public roads.

In the final analysis, outside of the chassis GM hasn’t learned much in the last 28 years. Some things they didn’t need to learn. The driving position might compromise visibility, but without it the Camaro wouldn’t be a Camaro. And a Camaro should be boldly styled and chock full of big, vocal V8. But the fifth-generation car is at least a half-size too large, a few hundred pounds too heavy, and far too unrefined. Sure, a Camaro should be raw, but not raw all over. Like hair that has been painstakingly styled to appear disheveled, rawness must be carefully distributed. The bits that enhance the driving experience should be retained, even amplified—as raw as it is, the Camaro could feel more visceral. But the other rough edges, that cheapen the car and disrupt the driving experience, should be excised. The good news: the chassis would be the hardest thing to fix with the refresh that needs to happen before the styling goes stale.

Chevrolet provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data.

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