Driven: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS

June 17, 2009
2010 Chevrolet Camaro

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

There are only a few reasons to dislike the new Chevy Camaro. I've found them all this past week, I think.

Getting into a short-term relationship with the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS has left something cranked up, and it's not the Camaro's chilling exhaust note. It's me. I've driven the trio of muscle cars in the past few months, and as we predicted last year in our first looks at the new coupe, the 2010 Camaro's just as soulful a rendition of the Sixties original as, say, the latest Dodge Challenger. Truth be known, I'd give up my iPhone and maybe a child or two, in exchange for a black SS with red-stitched black leather trim like the one going back to General Motors tomorrow.

But the Camaro's a poor fit for my tedious daily existence. It's overwhelming in traffic, it draws too many stares to get errands done quickly, and worst of all, it's small. So small, I've opted most of the time to take a taller, easier, more frugal option sitting out in the driveway: a 2009 Nissan Cube. You know, the car with a frackin' hairpiece on the dash.

Day in and day out, the new Camaro is cramped and nearly useless. Forget putting adults in the back seat: I looked forward to a two-hour round trip to the country last weekend, but realized with three adult males, it wasn't going to happen. I don't recall these kinds of issues in the Dodge Challenger or in the Ford Mustang, either. The Challenger's roofline looks low, sure--but the actual space inside is more forgiving than the Camaro headspace. The Mustang's almost a Gothic cathedral compared to these two.

Inside the Camaro has some delightful details, but the Mustang's more advanced, for sure. I don't have much to complain in the SS--I liked the orange plastic trim on the dash and doors on the Camaro SS test vehicle provided by GM to me this week. The "useless" gauges ahead of the manual shifter (a friend's comment) could have been better used for storage. Say, for the USB port and a music player, which have to hide instead in the glovebox, or if you're really targeting today's Camaro buyer, maybe a bottle of Cialis. The trunk space? Share a laugh with the bag boy if you try to stuff groceries in there. Or a tennis bag. The opening's so small, you have to resist the urge to Crisco up the edges to get anything in. The dished steering wheel leaves Bluetooth stranded near the wheel hub, too--just try going handsfree when you have to reach in to connect a call.

Cranky flies out the window when you feel the lusty V-8 kick in and real gears moving at your command. All the space shortcomings are forgiven. The V-8 powered Camaro SS rumbles in an orgiastic rush from the sub-1000-rpm range, all the way to a banshee 6000-rpm howl. The manual six-speed could use a more knobby shifter (and it could ditch the 1-to-4 shift skipper that keeps the Camaro's gas mileage in the mid-20s), but the effort of the Tremec box is positive and firm. Automatic Camaros get by with 26 hp less--how do those people live?

Like Rex Roy said in his road test, the latest Camaro is easily the most planted, capable handler to ever wear the name. The body feels stout and muscular. Hardly a shiver moves through the body on single-wheel bumps, despite the wide wheels and tight suspension settings. It's a class above the Mustang GT's occasionally rocky ride, and more direct in feel than the bigger, heftier Challenger.

One last note: the 2010 Camaro seems an instant classic at first glance. Look closer, though, and some modern-car compromises reveal themselves, and show how much the Sixties themes carry over--and don't. The high sills are one giveaway: crash safety, not so much a selling point back in the Summer of Love, is big now. To get good numbers, the new Camaro's roof and glass are a lot smaller, and the thick sides and short greenhouse can look cartoonish. Also, there's the fracas at the front end, lots of little lines that the SS Camaro's black paint covers nicely, like an untucked shirt covers a lot of sins.

It's easy to overlook the sins of the Camaro, everywhere but at the gas pump. Study it from the rear quarters, listen to the big 'Vette-based V-8 fire up and warm the exhaust, and scream along with it as the Camaro trades tread for traction on its way out of sight. That's what it does best--and that kind of headspace doesn't come easy.

Want more on the latest musclecar from Chevy? Check out TheCarConnection's 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, photos, specs, and our definitive Bottom Line road test--and swing by High Gear Media's for a deeper dive into the world of the SS Chevy Camaro.

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