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I honestly didn't believe that any new Camaro could possibly revive the spirit of the Camaros of yesteryear. I'm not talking about original Camaros, back in the late 1960s. I mean more recent ones -- well, like my 1979 model, the car I still drive and love.
There's a spirit to it. It has soul. But when they chopped off the rear of Camaros in the 1980s, I decided Chevrolet had completely ruined its elegantly balanced styling for the sake of so-called aerodynamics. I was, of course, in the minority. The blunt back end was hailed as a tremendous breakthrough.
Well, the soul is back. I can feel it. Settling into the 2000 Z28 is just like settling into my own 21-year old car, albeit with an updated interior and a bulkier body. The Camaro essence is there: low-slung seats, lots of leather, a 5.7-liter V-8 (bigger than my 5.0-liter), the sleekest styling, long nose, and low roofline. Best of all, the stylish rear is almost as beautiful as that on my 1979 model.
I tested the Z28 convertible equipped with a Hydramatic 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. The base convertible costs $28,615 but chrome wheels, leather seats, acceleration slip regulation, special radials, and a Monsoon sound system added almost another $2000 to the tab.
Key features on the powertrain include a control module that measures throttle position, vehicle speed, gear range, temperature and engine load to create a seamless interface between engine and the transmission. Believe me, it works. After fighting with a 2000 Firebird Trans Am's manual transmission with the same V-8 engine as the Camaro, it was restful to allow the automatic version to speed me on my way.
Although the Firebird and the Z28 are essentially mirror images of each other in the big picture, there are enough small design differences in switches and gauges and a few other cues such as pop-up headlights to let you know which brand you're sitting in. The convertible can be ordered with a 320-hp SS performance and appearance package but I found my Z28 as powerful as it needed to be.