CAMARO EXPRESSES OUR MOMENT
By Casey Williams
“Design is an expression of the moment we live in, purposefully or subconsciously moving in step with political order, societal disposition, popular culture, and technological improvement,” wrote Sam Grawe, Editor-in-Chief of Dwell Magazine in the Dec/Jan 2010 issue. He could have been writing about the 2010 Chevy Camaro that is advertised on pages 16 and 17.
GM V.P. of Design, Ed Wellburn, must be pleased with the Camaro. I have to admit I was not impressed at the 2006 North American International Auto Show debut. The latest Mustang had just hit pavement and the Dodge Challenger was on the horizon. Camaro was recognizable, but not retro. Four years later, after the Ford and Dodge designs have nearly passed a generation, the car from Wellburn’s team is dead-on for the start of the next decade.
Traditional features like the Coke bottle curves, quad taillamps, grille, and roofline are reinterpreted for the digital and Gen-Y without offending baby boomers. Wide exotic rear fenders fill the rearview mirrors and the long hood is clearly visible from the driver’s seat. You have to love the 20″ alloy wheels, low roofline, pouncing stance, and thin decklid spoiler. Our test car was painted metallic orange with black stripes. It looked great – like a ’69 Camaro had evolved over 40 years without a crazy trip through the ’70s.
Designers spent as much time on the interior as the jewel of an exterior. Round instruments in square pods and available console-mounted auxiliary gauges take you back to another era while body color inserts on the dash and doors, lit at the top with light tubes, bring you into this time. A configurable LCD display between the tach and speedometer shows speed in big digits, fuel usage, range, or directions from OnStar. Thick, comfy leather sport seats are heated, power-adjusted, and can be accented with body color inserts. Huge knobs for the climate control and radio, and a USB jack for iPODs, couldn’t be easier to use. Rear parking sensors come in handy when negotiating obstacles with those big fenders in your view. Back seats are for children only, but at least the cushions fold down to enlarge the tiny trunk. In cold weather, you’ll freakin’ roast your chestnuts with the hot air from the vents and bun-burning seats.
Despite what your daddy told you, this is the golden age of muscle cars. It is not just about being fluffed and buffed – the coupe also comes stoked to run like no Camaro before. SS models harbor a 426-horsepower Corvette-derived 6.2-litre V8 engine, connected to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Power that comes in a flood with no end is best worked through the manual shifter that feels great and positively engages every gear. Clutch motions are stiff, but direct enough torque that you can pretty much put the car in any gear and leave it there.
I love the SS, but would probably choose the 304-HP 3.6-litre direct injection V6 (shared with Cadillac CTS) for everyday use. The SS’ clutch can wear you out in traffic and 304 HP is more than adequate. That powertrain comes in a car that starts at $22,680 and achieves 29-MPG hwy!
Finally, Camaro gets a chassis that can keep up with its powertrain. Developed by GM’s Holden division in Australia, and sharing a basic architecture with the outbound Pontiac G8, the four-wheel independent suspension is stiff, but can handle mid-corner bumps without drama. There’s also no rear wheel hop as in the old days; nothing you can do to a solid rear axle matches the Camaro’s chassis refinement. Much of the final tuning was done with the help of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
My dad equates power with spinning tires as on the ’64 and ’69 Chevelle SS models he drove in high school. That’s all I heard when we went for a ride in the Camaro. What he doesn’t understand is that while a Chevelle SS sits and spins, the Camaro just goes. Zero to sixty mph rolls up under 5 seconds; top speed is north of 155 – all with a chassis that can also flip through the corners.
Several months ago, there was a story about a modern house in Dwell with a bright yellow vintage Camaro in the garage. The car looked timeless and the new one has the same feeling. It is a new, but familiar, design that embodies our time of flat screen TVs, and iPhones, but roars off with responsible amounts of obscene power. It is a car ready for the children and grandchildren of those who first fell in love – a car for this moment.
As tested price: $35,860.
Photos Courtesy of Chevrolet