• Mar 23rd 2009 at 11:58AM
  • 105
2010 Chevy Camaro – Click above for high-res image gallery

Like Bumblebee on his interstellar voyage from Cybertron, the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro has taken years to arrive. If we take the Transformers analogy further (bear with us), the Camaro has landed after a few Decepticons – the Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang and Nissan 370Z – have already begun staking out territories. More than the others, the Camaro has to justify its place in the battle, while at the same time backing up three years of unrelenting hype.

Follow the jump to find out if Chevrolet has brought the required weaponry to fight to the death for muscle car supremacy.

All photos Copyright ©2009 Jonathon Ramsey / Weblogs, Inc.

Like every other gearhead on planet Earth, we've been champing at the bit for the Camaro to arrive in production guise since its debut as a concept in 2006. Furthermore, when we made our way to San Diego for some long-awaited wheel time, we hoped beyond hope that its achingly attractive exterior would be backed by a chassis and drivetrain primed for global domination. We didn't need the Camaro to turn into a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot, but gut-rocking thrills were the minimum standard.

Walk up to the Camaro, and it's a spitting image of the coupe we've seen in a variety of forms for the past 1,100 days. It's big, it hunkers and it's angry – or at least perturbed. Built on a modified Zeta platform that underpins the Pontiac G8, the changes to the Camaro versus its sedan sibling include tweaks to accept larger wheels, a shorter wheelbase thanks to the rear wheels moving farther forward by about three inches, the base of the A-pillar was pushed back and lowered, and the front strut tower height was dropped to allow for a lower hood line.

Regarding its stance, the car has been designed to maintain the same tire-to-fender gap regardless of tire size: three fingers in front, four fingers in back. And while the massive face of the car appears to present various expanses of uninterrupted surface, take a closer look and you'll notice that a substantial amount of detail work has gone into its fascia.

The "trap hood", which means it's fully enclosed by body panels, features a negative angle along its sides where it meets the fenders. The windshield washer nozzles are hidden under the rear edge of the hood for an uninterrupted line. The reverse mohawk in the roof is meant to tie the car to the twin-cockpit silhouette of the Corvette. The side mirrors conform to legal standards, yet remain true to those on the concept. There are subtle crisp lines that tie the roof and C-pillar into the rear, and the deck features a diagonal cut line that gives the trunk a unique profile when raised.

Get in the car, and the Camaro's size asserts itself: it's dark inside. The high beltline, low roof and black interior don't let bundles of excess light to play within the cabin. It isn't dire, but it is somber. An optional sunroof can brighten things up, of course, but if you get the sunroof you lose the sculpted roof.

The interior is utterly straightforward. Fabric inserts in the doors and on the dash save you from being overwhelmed by black plastic. The controls and the contrasting materials, in a palette of slight variations, are clustered in such a way that even as a passenger they pull your eyes from the black expanse on the non-drive side.

While Ford's Mustang can be had with an astounding touch-screen, sterling navigation operation, dual-zone climate control, six-disc CD changer and a reversing camera, the Camaro gets no such fripperies. Climate control is an entirely manual affair, handled with two large knobs and four small buttons housed within. The best you can get from the factory is a single CD player, although Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port and iPod controls come with the Connectivity Package. There's also talk of an audible parking sensor system available further down the road.

Creature comforts aside, the cabin is striking. The deeply dished steering wheel is an attention-getter – and not only because it's huge. The seats, even in cloth, are compellingly sculpted. The optional analog gauges on the center tunnel break up the space, are a retro treat and are supplemented by an electronic display in the center of the dash when you want the kind of precision expected post-millennium.

If you opt for the RS package, you will avail yourself of a remote starter on Camaros equipped with automatic transmissions, HID headlamps with halo rings, a rear spoiler on the LT V6, unique taillights, and 20-inch wheels in Midnight Silver. And when the ambient lighting package arrives, you'll get body-colored metal in place of the fabric interior inserts and LEDs.

For now, though, you also get room. Lots of it. The Camaro is not a car that keeps all of its big on the outside. The front seats will be friends to anyone of almost any size, and in back there's a pleasant amount of space for heads and feet.

The Camaro is big everywhere, but it isn't necessarily butch everywhere. GM design chief Tom Peters said he wanted the Camaro to look like the baddest, meanest dog on the block. Mission accomplished. But start the car up and go, and the Camaro acts like a show dog – all mannered and polite. It wasn't too long down the road that we wondered: "Where did that mean-ass dog go?"

That's because the Camaro is... refined. Not Maybach refined, but it's certainly more subtle inside than you'd expect from The Return of the Muscle Car Icon. The size of the car swallows the perception of rapidity. Making the high-speed run-up on a series of highway on-ramps, we kept thinking "We're going quick smart, but it doesn't feel like we're going as fast as we know we're going..."

We'll start with the 3.6-liter direct-injected V6. It puts out 304 hp and 273 lb-ft which, and in the car's heaviest guise – the LS manual – has to pull 3,780 pounds. According to the EPA, the long sixth gear on that car will get you 29 mpg on the highway. So, while it weighs 379 pounds more than a 2010 Ford Mustang V6 manual, it has 94 more hp and gets three mpg more on the highway.

How does it go? Nicely. It's sufficiently fast to stay with the competition even if it doesn't necessarily feel it, and the car pulls so well that you'll never worry about having enough power to have fun on steep grades or pull off racy passing maneuvers. Interestingly, we found that you can also hear the V6 much more than the V8 inside the cabin, and even when it's being worked, it doesn't sound strained.

The 6.2-liter V8s – either one of them – are where it's at. Except for the fact you can barely hear the engine note once ensconced inside. That's a shame, particularly when you've stood outside, bathed in the V8's roar and then find once yourself seated inside, only to learn that everyone gets to enjoy the noises but you.

But the V8 also looks more like the Camaro we've come to expect, with a slightly different front fascia and 20-inch wheels that seal the aesthetic deal. Get it with the six-speed manual – all 3,849 pounds of it, 53 pounds lighter than the automatic – and you'll have the Camaro we want. This coupe will get down with the get down, and when you step on it you can begin to hear the long, low, muted rumbling exhale of the LS3's 426 hp and 420 lb-ft. (the automatic-equipped L99 engine gets 400 hp and 410 lb-ft.) Even though the V8 has Active Fuel Management that shuts down four cylinders, we doubt you'll ever think about it.

The Camaro offers two different independent, multi-link front and rear suspensions: the FE2 on the V6 and the stiffer FE3 on the V8. The FE2 is capable and fun, but if the road is seriously twisty you could find its limits before you expect. Nevertheless, although we didn't put them through a day of Hell, the single piston calipers never let us down when carrying excess speed and exuberance into yet another corner.

The FE3 suspension on the V8 is noticeably stiffer than the FE2, and you realize it immediately. The car bolts, brakes (with four-pot Brembos at each corner) and goes round the bends with assurance. Squat and roll are well managed, and it betrays no devotion to understeer. Still, it feels like there is a large helping of performance left on the table...

Part of that might have to do with the steering. One trait the Camaro shares with the Mustang is steering that isn't as crisp as we'd like. That also contributes to the sensation of the car "driving big" – well, that and the enormous steering wheel – that left us constantly wanting a better idea of where the wheels were. If we had a chance to tighten up the steering, we'd really know where we were with the suspension.

But don't get us wrong: the V6 and V8 Camaros were, during our two afternoons of driving, a heap of fun on straights and through turns. And even though we kept throwing the thing through corners to find out where its ragged edges were, we still wanted more and felt like the Camaro was up for it. We asked vehicle line executive in charge of the Camaro if we could get the car to handle like the Pontiac G8 GXP, he replied "You could get close." The truth is, we were at least $9,000 cheaper and not exactly far away.

While the Camaro "drove big," as muscle cars are wont to do, at no time did it drive heavy. The lightest V6 Camaro still carries 100 pounds more than a 2010 Ford Mustang GT Convertible and the Camaro SS manual is more than 350 pounds heavier than a Mustang GT. On a few occasions we felt it, but we never got the feeling it couldn't handle what we asked of it and there was always a sense that the Camaro had more potential lying in wait.

But the Mustang comparison isn't exactly fair right now – we've had a lot more time to get to know the 'Stang than the Camaro. Based on looks... well, that's entirely subjective, so we'll let you decide a winner for yourself. Based on features, the Mustang owns the modern convenience battle inside, but the Camaro SS smacks back with performance features like optional Brembo brakes, which aren't even an option on the Mustang Track Pack. Based on handling, it's too soon for us to tell, but we know the Camaro is ready and able to do plenty of walking to back up its talk, and if you lined up a 2010 Mustang next to the Camaro at a start line, we'd head straight for the Chevy.

Know for now, then, that the Camaro has handsomely paid the first dividend on its three-year promise. When one makes its way to the Autoblog Garage, we'll find out if it has all of the funds necessary for payment in full. And if we can get GM to let us try some performance parts on the car, the first things we'll ask for are straight headers and a growling exhaust. That way, at least we can hear Bumblebee as he takes the fight to the Decepticons.

All photos Copyright ©2009 Jonathon Ramsey / Weblogs, Inc.

Lodging for this event was paid for by the manufacturer.

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own – we do not accept sponsored editorial.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      no the paint is mismatched on the bumpers, It's that way on the red car too, look at the rear three quarter view. Reminds me of my 1980 chevy monza 2+2.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The more interesting battle will be next year. When the Mustang will hopefully get new powertrains. :) But for this year I go with the Chevy.
        • 6 Years Ago

        The 2011 Mustang will get the 265 hp 3.5 (or 3.7?) V6, and a new 5 liter V8 rated at 400 hp. Couple that with the weight savings, and that stoplight battle gets closer. For the record, the Mustang has a shorter stopping distance with the "non- Brembos", and posts a better skidpad rating. The Camaro ekes out a win in the slalom. Not quite the "spanking" the bowtie boys were hoping for. That'll come next year!

        All in all, I'm glad to see another domestic musclecar. It looks like fun! I still think it looks ugly compared to it's two main competitors (I said TWO. Beat it Hyundai.), but it seems to have the goods under the hood!
        • 6 Years Ago
        What new powertrains for mustang???
      • 6 Years Ago
      No matter what people say, I think that is one nice looking car. If you miss the older generation of muscle cars, and hated the Camaro's of the 80's & 90's, this is a pretty nice looking & welcome redesign. Now, I wish they would do the same with the Impala.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sure this car has been talked about to death but it still looks SICK! And hey no one complained when all the headlines were about the GT-R for about a year straight. I'd take a 6-spd V6 model (300+ hp AND 29 mpg!!) Sign me up...
      • 6 Years Ago
        • 6 Years Ago
        @ Rob,

        Call it a nod to the '67. Maybe they'll fix it on the next year's model like they did for '68

        • 6 Years Ago
        The outside looks good Yellow or Black would be better. BUT the interior is a let down for me. It looks really cheap. Too bad. I don't know why Chevy can't make an interior.
        • 6 Years Ago
        What!?! The interior's awesome! Finally a car that doesn't feel the need to squeeze touchscreens into every crevice. Your eyes should be on the road--making tactile controls (like knobs and buttons--or even switches in the old days) a much better, and much more natural choice.
        Try living with a BMW 'Turn the knob to fail' system for a week and you'll yearn for a tried-and-true radio tuning knob too. Jeez.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Why do GM designers always throw on the reverse lights at the last minute? Same with the Monte Carlo, and many cars before that. They design the car, then right before production someone goes "Oh crap we forgot reverse lights! I know, let's just put some generic ones right ..hrm... yeah, right in the middle of the bumper. Good job! Build it!"

      • 6 Years Ago
      I own a 2004 mustang GT at this moment and I ll probably buy a new car in 2011 or 2012. My options are either a mustang GT or the Camaro SS.

      If the mustang has a 5.0 liter engine with at least 350 hp, less weight and IRS my money is in the mustang. If I see the same 4.6 engine I am going for the Camaro SS.

      I like the mustang shape better, I just don't want to see the same 4.6 engine that I currently have in my car, It was a great engine when it came out but now competition is getting tougher, I love my car don't get me wrong. I just don't want to get smoke by Japanese cars like the Z.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Nice review. Damn that's a heavy car. I wonder what the EPA figures would be if they shaved 300 pounds off of it!
        • 6 Years Ago
        "depending on aerodynamics and friction losses from drive train and rolling resistance"

        So there really is no rule of thumb, you just like to write down numbers.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The 4th gen f-bodies were about the same lbs and had less HP.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I saw one driving around oshawa on tuesday, it was glorious

      • 6 Years Ago
      It doesn't have screen-based nav, but it does have OnStar turn-by-turn nav, and not that it will be a substitute for everyone, but honestly I find the OnStar turn-by-turn nav to be more convenient even when the screen-based nav is available.
      • 6 Years Ago
      there is no mention of the old skip shift "feature", does this mean that owners of the new camaro won't have to pay someone with a copy of ls1edit to have it removed?
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's there on the LS3 Manual cars.

        And you can buy a bypass cable (Corvette kit) for about $25 online...
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Nissan 370Z is not a Pony Car. Comparing the Camaro, Challenger and Mustang to the Z makes about as much sense as comapring them to the Vette.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The lines have all blurred these days. Car magazines as well as many enthusiasts are making all sorts of comparisons based on all sorts criteria. Trying to make sense of it all will make you nuts.
        In the end, the consumer will decide whether the car was a good move or not.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Surprised to see so many people saying how they liked the concept but, don't like the production car. Seems to me GM stayed pretty true to the concept with respect to design. Just shows to go, you just can't figure some people.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I just figured them out, they are stupid.
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