• Mar 20, 2009
2010 CHEVY CAMARO: DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

I'm sure there are a lot of Autobloggers out there who know the specifications of the new Camaro far better than I do. But numbers on paper don't mean much until you experience them through the seat of your pants. So here are my driving impressions of the new Camaro, after spending the better part of a day with four different models, driving them hard over a variety of different roads.

First off, this is unmistakably a Camaro, yet one that looks fresh and modern. It's a powerfully built car that almost has a pugnacious appearance to it. Almost. But the size and proportions are well balanced, and it looks good from every angle. Follow the jump for more.

Come back Monday (3/23) at 12:00PM EST for Autoblog's own First Drive of the 2010 Chevy Camaro. We'll be working on it all weekend, so you won't want to miss it.

John McElroy is host of the TV program "Autoline Detroit" and daily web video "Autoline Daily". Every week he brings his unique insights as an auto industry insider to Autoblog readers.




Inside they kept it clean and simple. The belt line wraps around the entire interior in one unbroken line. The dashboard is big and expansive with all the instrument gauges clustered immediately in front of driver. The radio and HVAC controls are mounted in the center, lower part of the dash. This uncluttered look creates an impression of simplicity and solidity with no frivolous design cues to distract you from the job at hand: you're in this car to drive!



And the performance this car offers is awesome. Even the base 3.6-liter V6 will thrust you from 0-60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. That's better than the 1969 Camaro did with its base V8. Yet the new one (as you probably already know) is rated at 29 mpg on the highway. Go easy on the gas and you should be able to eke out a combined 24 mpg.

But if you're really after power, try one of the 6.2-liter V8s that come in this car. Talk about brute force. The LS3 version, with 426 hp and 420 lb-ft, will rocket to 60 mph in about 4.7 seconds and still deliver 25 mpg on the highway.

When you stomp on the 6.2-liter it sounds fantastic, everything a V8 should be. But at steady highway speeds in 6th gear, I found the exhaust note became a droning, low resonance boom. In fact, I found myself downshifting into 5th gear just to raise the pitch of the note and get rid of the boom. I suppose some people will actually like that boom, but not me. The V6, on the other hand, has a nice balance. Jump on it, and it growls like it means it. Cruise at highway speeds and you can barely hear it.

You can really fling this Camaro around. Stability control, ABS and traction control mean you will have a hard time getting in over your head unless you do something really stupid. But if you deliberately want to hang it all loose, you can always turn those controls off.



One reason the car handles so well is its independent rear suspension. It may add some weight to the car, but it sure pays off in the handling department. On bad, bumpy roads the car can feel like its bouncing all around, yet the wheels stay planted firmly on the ground, even when cornering hard, thanks to the IRS.

And when you need to come to a stop, you do it in a hurry. The standard brakes are good, the optional Brembo brakes are exeptional.

I like the Camaro a lot, with certain exceptions. For example, the steering wheel is a bit weird. It seems like they wanted to have a deep-dish look, to resemble the ones from the 1960s. It has a very thick rim that is shaped funny. If you grip it at 10 and 2 it feels comfortable. Otherwise it feels awkward to hold.

And despite the clean look of the instrument panel, I was surprised to see hard plastic on the dash, dash top and the top of the door trim panels. Even on the +$30,000 V8 versions it's all hard plastic. Fortunately, the places that you would normally touch are padded or covered in cloth, like the arm rests and the door trim panel next to your arm.

Pony cars are not meant to be family cars, and this is especially true of the new Camaro. There is next to no rear seat leg room. Plus, the trunk opening is inky-dinky. There's a fair amount of trunk room, but good luck trying to fit something through that opening.



There are two different 6-speed manual transmissions. One is made by Japanese company Aisin and comes with the V6. I found it kind of clunky and notchy to use. The other 6-speed is made by Mexican company Tremec and shifts very nicely with short throws that are precise and sure.

But it's difficult to heel-and-toe in the Camaro. I've been bitching at GM for decades that their sports and performance cars are not designed for enthusiasts who truly love to heel-and-toe, yet no one has ever been able to explain why this is so. Strangely, the GM truck group comes out with manuals that are easier too heel-and-toe with. Go figure.

But I quibble. This car is great to look at and an even better to drive. My guess is that Chevrolet has an opportunity to sell Camaros to people who would otherwise never be caught dead walking into a Chevy store.

###

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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 34 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hey i just wanted to let everyone know that in all the pictures i have seen the interior looks cheep and ...well crappy BUT i have sat in a production model and it is NOTHING like the pictures. The stereo has red led lighting around all the knobs and the quad gauges by the shifter as well as the 2 large gauges are nothing but awesome. They look so great in person but terrible in pictures. Trust me when i say this is one car you have to sit in to understand.. when you're in it you feel at one with the Camaro and want to do nothing but DRIVE !
        • 5 Years Ago
        +1
        I noticed the same thing when I sat in one.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess John doesn't have a proof reader eyyy? lol

      I have a feeling this one may suffer from what past camaros suffered from, poor visibility. Seriously, its one of the reasons the mustang survived, and outsold camaro. Guys liked them, their chicks who got stuck driving them a lot of the time didn't.

      Also, anyone check the insurance rating on these yet? If there like past camaros that will kill it too. The last one was horrible to insure.

      All in all, its nice. But its too late. They teased us for 3 years and I've seen so many pictures and magazine articles on it, I could care less if I ever own one. It feels like I already have!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow, just wow. I thought GM had learned how to make an interior after the new Malibu, the new Equinox, the Traverse. What the HECK happened in the design studio when they where doing the Camaro? Looks as bad as the G6 interior.
        • 5 Years Ago
        LOL fortunatley you are just speaking for yourself. Interior is awesome for its uniqueness if nothing else.
        • 5 Years Ago
        GM has learned a lot about this segment and that's exterior style and a low price matters more than a great interior. If interiors sold muscle cars the GTO would have been a runaway hit versus the Mustang.

        They need to cut costs somewhere how many cars can you get with 300hp for less than $23k? Even Hyundai can't hit that price point.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I actually like the two tone interior. I agree that the grey interior is plain and kind of cheap looking, but the two tone seems competitive in this price bracket.
      • 5 Years Ago
      GM nailed the exterior. It looks great. The interior reeks of 80's crap. The interior is where I spend most of the time. It needs to be good. The interior needs to be modern... not futuristic, but look like it was designed this millennium. Look at the Malibu interior. GM has good interior designers somewhere in the world, please start using them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I want to see the SS model performance tested against the shelby gt500.
      I think it will prove once and for all that the gt500 is grossly overpriced, and puts the power to the ground poorly.
      I'm a ford fan, but i think this SS is a great value, especially at 10k less than a gt500.
      I have a feeling, even down 100 horses, the SS will prevail. Then maybe ford will realize that there is more to a good car than just numbers on a paper.
      The mustang gt is a great value, but the gt500 is piss poor.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Those reverse lights look lost...not part of the taillights, not near the license plate, just right in the middle of the bumper.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @skine: it seems outdated because it IS outdated. It's a big, heavy caricature of the Camaros of old, which is the same beef I have with the Mustang, Challenger and even the Mini for that matter. GM has a great platform to play with here. It would just be nice to be looking forward, rather than backwards. And why the hell is something so massive essentially relegated to being a two-seater, or a 2+2 at best?

        Yes, the interior IS important. It's where you spend your time, and if it's not satisfying to look at or touch, well, that's a deal breaker. I have nothing at all against a minimalist IP-- I prefer it to the sea of buttons and screens we're getting these days-- but why does it have to look like this. The instrument panel is an awful expanse of plastic, even with the two-tone detailing, and it sounds from the article like GM is back on form vis a vis materials. Hard plastic dash, dash top and door panels??? If it didn't look and feel shoddy, at least it'll be crunching, creaking and rattling like the last- and previous-generation Camaros in no time. Is that what they mean by "heritage?"

        I wanted to like this car. Scratch that; I wanted to love this car. I was raised on muscle cars, and I'm thankful it exists at all. They blew a great opportunity to build a modern, forward-thinking muscle car with intelligent packaging. No doubt, they'll sell a million of 'em.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If the lower rear was like this, then it would be all good.

        http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e103/jinxergt/jinxz28pro2.jpg
        • 5 Years Ago
        beautiful rendering ..the back up lights should have been made like the rendering ...thats just perfect ...the ones on the production look like an afterthought ..."lets just put them here"

        the exterior ..while at first i hated it ...then it grew on me ...i like it ..i just seems outdated already

        the interior ..i love all for the exception of the radio and the HVAC controls ..why does it bulge out so far they should of just left them flush ...where would a navigation screen go or even an aftermarket head unit? ..i think the mustang interior is much more refined and light years ahead of this

        glad to see the pony car wars are back though :)
      • 5 Years Ago
      All in all, it looks very impressive!

      If you aren't in line to get one at the dealership, it could be a few months!

      And bring your checkbook!
      • 5 Years Ago
      If he reviewed the base of the base model he wouldn't have walked away impressed. When I sat in the seat of that car at the autoshow I couldn't believe that they wanted $22k for that car. It felt like I was sitting in a really big Kia Rio.

      The rubber steering wheel and shirt knob were terrible, beyond the worst material I could imagine. People say Mitsubishis and Hondas have cheap feeling interiors. The new Camaro breaks new ground because it costs a whole lot more, yet gives you so much less. The inside door handles are also placed in a very weird location. Ergonomics were not the strong suit of the interior designers who worked on this car. The HVAC controls make absolutely no sense. It's like they tried to emulate a game pad. You push either up, down, left, or right and then turn the knob. It is overly complicated and the feel is Chinese dollar store quality.

      The trunk opening is flat out moronic. Looking at it you could easily see how they could have either made the opening larger or followed the lines of the rear glass and made the decklid fit the opening.

      6.5 seconds for the V6 also seems very slow. Adding a couple thousand dollars to a Civic, Lancer, or Cobalt priced in the teens can give you better performance for much less than the base price of the Camaro. Those cars also have far more utility. For the size of the Camaro you would expect a usable back seat.

      All is not lost though. The V8 Camaro with a leather trim package is actually pretty nice. The interior and exterior look better and the performance to back up the car's character is there.

      Chevrolet missed the boat with the base Camaro and never should have produced it. There is no reason to buy it unless you want the look of the $30k car and can't afford it. Even the V8 still retains the cheap build with a really good engine quality of the previous generation. Only this time there are far better cars for the money that can match or exceed the performance of the new Camaro.

      I am being hard on this car because it should have been much better. American buyers deserve a world class car. The only real appeal of this car is the American heritage of it. Instead of buying this car, go out and buy a classic Camaro. You will feel much better about it. I truly think people look at these cars with gear goggles. The fact that it is supposed to be an American muscle car clouds judgement and makes them overlook major faults just because.
      Christopher
      • 5 Years Ago
      i like this car a lot and would love to own one. gunmetal gray with a black interior, and i'd want the LT2 because i want the interior accent and mood lighting. i will agree that the interior photo from this post looks rather base. personally i really couldn't give a damn if the dashboard surround and top is made of hard plastic or not as long as the switchgear for the radio/hvac controls and door mounted controls like power windows/locks/mirrors and all that wear well.. and the door mounted armrests are padded to be comfortable enough. that's all because i happen to like the layout of the interior. i'll be frank here i really don't think i'm gonna be spending anytime at all carressing the dash top or the glove box door. anyone who says this is a crappy interior has never been in an 80's era camaro, i can personally attest that those were pretty much the screaming pinnacle of "cheapness." i've always kinda liked the body style but everything inside looked like it was scotch taped to the dash or door.
      all that aside, one of the my only nitpicks i have is the instrumentation with the 20mph speedometer markings, not crazy about all i'm saying. give me a heads up display please.
      if i really wanted something with a nice interior i'd also really like to take a look at the 2010 buick lacrosse, which looks real nice inside and is much nicer looking than the current lacrosse
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Christopher
        "anyone who says this is a crappy interior has never been in an 80's era camaro"

        Been there, done that, and don't ever-- ever-- want to go back. Unfortunately, we just did.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have wanted this car since the first rumors came out, but the big plastic pseudo retro dash kills it for me. It really makes me want to rant on and on and on, but what's the use.

      I think I'll wait for the 2012 (or whenever) refresh. On the upside, by then, there will probably be a tuner or 2 who can jack the V6 up to 400 HP, and the V8s up to 500+

      That it, if GM survives at all.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This car is so fresh
        • 5 Years Ago
        More like 3 years BoxerFanatic. Lets learn to count next time
        • 5 Years Ago
        Excuse me?

        As in forty year old re-hash fresh?

        It may be a good car or not, but retro and fresh tend to be mutually exclusive adjectives.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Oh, I get it... You mean fresh, as in taking 5 years from concept to production, that sort of long lead-time "fresh."
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