Enthusiasts first laid eyes on the Chevy Camaro Concept in January 2006. This author drove that car in April of that year. Since then, thousands of stories, articles and photos have appeared, making Chevy's new pony car one of the most-exposed new cars ever.

Full production of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro commenced in March and cars are arriving at dealers as you read this. Was it worth the wait? You bet. Chevy's pony car may be the jolt that this country needs to reignite its love affair with the automobile.

Visual Nitroglycerin
Chevy representatives swear the 2010 Camaro's styling isn't retro, although it does bring forward some styling cues from older Camaros (namely the 1969 model) in a thoroughly modern manner. If you're not intimate with the historic Camaro design language, zero in on the new car's vestigial vents ahead of the rear wheels and the dual-plain grill flanked by round headlights. These elements overlay the long-hood/short-deck 2+2 body style Ford made famous with their original 1964 Mustang (the source of the "pony car" moniker).

What's modern about the new Camaro's exterior is everything else. Short front and rear overhangs are modern, as are the large wheels (up to 20-inch compared to 1969 when 14-inch wheels were the norm). Furthermore, extensive aerodynamic testing shaped the brooding overhang of the grille, plan view shape of nose, and everything aft of the roof's rear pillar.

The blend of old and new carries through inside. High-quality and modern materials form the foundation for a driving environment bejeweled with instruments clearly inspired by the first-generation Camaro. The twin pods and their curiously canted numerals effectively communicate the Camaro's formidable performance. The Camaro's interior technically seats four, but because it's a 2+2, the rear seats don't offer much leg room. However, complaining that the Camaro doesn't have enough room in the rear is silly...much like complaining about a motorcycle having inadequate doors. (If you're looking for more interior room, check out the Chevy Malibu.)

Medicine Stronger Than Aspirin
Everybody expects tire-shredding performance from this car, and the 2010 Camaro delivers. With a V-6. Unlike the V-6 versions of the Ford Mustang or Dodge Challenger, the V-6 Camaro is an unapologetic 304-horsepower sports car. To put this engine's power into perspective, Mustang's V-8 produces 315 hp, while the V-6 Dodge Challenger produces a relatively meager 250.

Base 2010 Chevrolet Camaro LS and LT editions use the 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6 that was first used in the Cadillac CTS. But even though this V-6 produces V-8 levels of power, its EPA highway fuel economy rivals some four-cylinder cars; 29 mpg. City mileage for the V-6 six-speed manual is 17 mpg, and 18 mpg for the six-speed automatic.

Moving up to the Camaro SS--the V-8 edition that's in everyone's mind's eye--there are two distinct engines based on the driver's transmission choice. Both are 6.2-liter V-8s sourced from the Corvette. The L99 V-8 goes with the six-speed automatic and benefits from variable valve timing and active fuel management (that enables the engine to run in V-8 and V-4 modes). EPA numbers are 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Horsepower and torque are 400/410.

The LS3 6.2-liter V-8 is matched to the manually-shifted six-speed Tremec TR6060. The LS3 puts out 426 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. torque. Mileage is a respectable 16/24. Drag strip shoot outs should be interesting this summer because the Dodge Challenger SRT-8 produces 425 horsepower while the just-introduced Mustang Shelby GT500 boasts 540.

The above numbers are important and tell part of the new Camaro's story, but they can't fully describe the differing personalities between the V-6 and V-8 editions. Camaros running the V-6 and automatic come close to being the ultimate everyman's sports car. They are stylish and drive with verve. We think it's accessible to all those people who think a clutch is a small purse.

V-6 Camaros equipped with the six-speed manual drive very differently, and should be considered by those shopping sports cars 2009 Nissan 370 Z or Hyundai Genesis Coupe. The V-6 revs willingly to its 6400 rpm horsepower peak, and the lightweight engine helps the car feel smaller than it is. According to Chevy, the V-6/manual Camaro will bump into its electronic speed limiter at 155 mph.

V-8 Camaro SS models stand out from the V-6 units because of the power and the sound. The V-8 rumble speaks volumes about this car's attitude. Pulling the trigger, 60 mph zooms by in less than five seconds...about 1.5 seconds faster than the quickest V-6 combination. Be warned, torque is an addictive drug, so use with caution.

Regardless of engine, the new chassis under the Camaro is buttoned up. While Ford has elevated the 2010 Mustang's ride using a live rear axle, the Camaro's independent rear suspension simply drives better, smoother, and with less twitchiness. Powering through corners, the suspension responds immediately with little roll. Steering is communicative and responsive. In nearly all circumstances, we'd describe the Camaro's handling attitude as completely neutral, a characteristic that gives the car an exceptionally agile feel.

The Prognosis
There's no disputing the Camaro's visual magnetism or visceral performance. But there are side effects. Initially, occupants suffer from a mild claustrophobia caused by the low roof and the wide roof pillars. Miles diminish the effect, and most patients agree it's worth pushing through the discomfort.

Those who have also experienced the 2010 Mustang might be disappointed in the Camaro's interior because the Ford's offers more interesting style and detailing, along with genuinely top-flight leathers with the premium interior package.

Overall, the examples we drove were better than any production Camaro that's ever turned a wheel. For those who have driven old Camaros, that may not be saying much, but the 2010 editions compare favorably to anything wearing a Toyota badge.

Something needs to push the U.S. past its state of catatonic economic fear. The bank bailouts have failed. Maybe simple car lust will work like an economic defibrillator. Clear! The Camaro is here.

Read More:

- Research the 2010 Chevy Camaro
- Sports Cars Hub

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