- Retro-contemporary looks
- 30-mpg highway for the base engine
- Better handling from the 1LE
- Good ride quality
- Impressive connectivity and features
- Frustrating outward visibility
- Simply not enough headroom
- Super-tight back seat is a tease
- Interior trims disappointing compared to other Chevy products
The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro may have a somewhat gimmicky wrapper, but in its ZL1 and Z/28 guises especially this muscle machine turns into a serious performance car with truly entertaining handling.
The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro is the most comprehensive update to Chevy's muscle car since it was relaunched for the 2010 model year, though they're largely limited to its design and styling. Even in its fifth year, the Camaro continues to sell well, with a lineup that runs from the affordable V-6 to the V-8 SS, the track-worthy Z/28, the close-to-a-supercar ZL1--and our choice, the best-of-all-worlds 1LE.
The category of American muscle cars returned with a bang several years ago, and while the Ford Mustang stood alone for many years, it now competes head-to-head not only with Chevy's Camaro but also the Dodge Challenger. The Camaro's cartoonish, broad-shouldered design, scorching performance, and general muscle-car attitude face off against the uber-retro Challenger and the longstanding and well-known Mustang--each of them with a similar lineup from tamer V-6 entries through pavement-pounding hot rods.
The Camaro's design continues to turn heads. The look is polarizing, no doubt, and outrageous in almost every inch of its sheetmetal, from the too-low roofline to the squared-off haunches. It's an attention-getter, even if the styling gives it some of the worst outward vision of any volume vehicle we've driven. But owners aren't likely to care about that.
For 2014, the whole Camaro lineup gets somewhat revised sheetmetal all around, a new functional hood vent for Camaro SS models, and a revamped look front and rear, the Camaro strikes a somewhat different chord on the outside. A thinner upper grille with a larger lower grille help make the front end look a little lower, perhaps, while new rear lights are wide, rectangular, and thin, which helps exaggerate the car's width from some angles. Inside, changes are very minimal, with a central gauge-cluster information center the most significant difference for this especially low, cockpit-like layout.Powertrains essentially remains the same. There's the stock 2014 Chevy Camaro, with its 323-horsepower V-6 and a choice of six-speed automatic and manual transmissions. It's the foundation for greatness, and in truth, it doesn't fare too badly as a sports car. Overall, if you can forgive the odd driving position, its electric power steering, rear-wheel drive, and independent suspension bring relatively nimble responses and a ride that's comfortable enough for just about any enthusiast type. EPA highway numbers ranging up to 30 mpg are an unexpected bonus.
The V-8s are still what most people have in mind when they think of the Camaro; the 6.2-liter V-8's lyrical engine note is a hypnotic for men of a huge range of ages. We're looped by it too--and by the gripping 60-mph runs of 5 seconds or less. With huge staggered tires and a front-end weight bias, there's still room for improvement in the way the SS handles; get the 1LE package that rights out the tires to equal sizes, tightens up the steering and manual gear ratios, and you can tap into some easy, controllable oversteer.
At the top of the performance ladder is the ZL1 coupe and convertible. With their supercharged, 580-hp version of the 6.2-liter (with either transmission) and the magnetic shocks found in the Corvette and some Cadillacs, it not only provides near-supercar numbers (0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, a top speed of 184 mph); it's also affordable, considering that, at about $60k.
Even more affordable is the new-for-2014 Camaro Z/28. With a focus on track capability, the Z/28 takes after the original 1960s models, and not the later '70s and '80s ones carrying that nomenclature. In it, a 7.0-liter V-8 makes 500 horsepower and 470 lb-ft. There's no standard A/C, and all Z/28s have a six-speed manual gearbox, but the design saves 100 pounds overall in weight. Spool-valve dampers, stiffer spring rates, and special Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires all add to the track chops.
The cabin appointments are where your love affair with the current Camaro's style and performance might come to a screeching halt. Why? Because the low-set roofline means that there's a severe shortage of headroom for taller drivers (not just the really tall ones, but most six-footers will find it tight, too). SS and ZL1 Camaros can be trimmed up with suede and leather and brightly colored trim pieces--some of those combinations are love-or-hate, really--while on all Camaros the back seat is for children only and the trunk is tight.
With a lineup that includes the LS, LT, SS (and 1LE), and ZL1--in addition to the new Z/28, equipment also spans a wide range, and the Camaro can be a rather basic coupe, a luxurious touring car, or an all-out performance machine. OnStar comes standard and navigation is available; Bluetooth, USB, and iPod connectivity are offered as options or as standard gear, and a head-up display mimics the one found in the Corvette. Convertibles get power-folding soft tops with glass windows, and standard rearview cameras. The ZL1 bundles it all together in instantly collectible form--but even SS Camaros, especially 1LEs, show the same potential to entertain auctioneers long after they've thrilled their original drivers.
For 2014, the Chevrolet Camaro gets a number of trim and appearance changes, with new wheels and colors throughout. The Hot Wheels Special Edition is no longer offered, and a rear spoiler is no longer standard--which might appeal to those who want a cleaner look.