2010 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT CoupePosted on August 6th, 2009
Chevrolet reinvents its legendary two-plus-two for the twenty-first century
By Nina Russin
The Camaro may not be an active lifestyle vehicle, but it’s a car close to my heart. Last May, I parted ways with the 1994 Camaro Z28 that I bought new.
The name, Camaro, comes from the French word “camarade,” meaning “companion, or partner.” My Camaro was truly that. In addition to being my daily driver for many years, it was the car I made my last cross-country trip with my mother in, as well as many shorter trips through the Midwest, Arizona, and up the California coast.
By the time I sold the car, the cloth seats were stained with sweat from morning runs here in Phoenix. The folding cover over the storage well was chewed up as well: a victim of repeated crushing from cameras, lighting, duffel bags, coolers, and heaven knows what else I stuffed in back. My two cats rode with me on the cross-country trip: something neither ever forgave me for.
The old F-Body wasn’t a perfect car. Many of my colleagues commented on the solid rear axle, which lacked the finesse of an independent rear end. The exterior styling wasn’t exciting, and the interior certainly wouldn’t have won any design competitions.
None of this mattered to me, because nothing beat the Camaro when it came to horsepower for the money. The Z28’s six-speed ZF manual transmission was icing on the cake.
Out with the old, in with the new
Following an eight-year hiatus, the Camaro returns to the showroom for 2010. In many ways, the new car is a huge improvement over the old one, with a fully-independent suspension, more powerful engines, and a host of interactive features to entice the driver.
The 2010 Camaro’s styling comes closer to heritage models from the 1960s and 70s than the F-Body. Its wide, smiling grille, bulbous front end, huge wheels, and snub rear deck remind me of the cars I grew up with.
There are three available engines: a V6 rated at 304 horsepower, and two V8 blocks rated at 400 and 426 horsepower. All are available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The test car is the 2LT: the more upscale of two V6 models, with the RS performance package and six-speed automatic transmission. Standard comfort and convenience features include a USB port, satellite radio, heated leather seats, Bluetooth interface, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls.
The RS package upgrades the standard 18-inch wheels to 20-inch rims, adds high-intensity discharge headlamps, a rear spoiler and different tail lamps ($1450). I’m happy to report that I deposited my fair share of the rubber surrounding those rims on the pavement.
Base price is $26,580, not including the $795 destination charge. The automatic transmission with remote start, optional spare tire, RS package and special engine cover bring the price as tested to just over $30,000: about $11,000 more than I paid for my 1994 Z28.
Test drive in the Superstition Mountains
For the test drive, I wanted to find some sparsely-travelled roads with rolling hills and sharp corners,in addition to the usual mix of city streets and highways. I headed east out of town towards the Tonto National Forest, which includes several man-made lakes, paved and unpaved canyon roads.
It’s hard not to have fun driving a 304-horsepower car. While I prefer manual transmissions to automatics, shift paddles on the steering wheel allow the driver to manually control gears. Engineers utilized aggressive first gear ratios to give Camaro owners muscle-car launch characteristics. The dual exhausts emit an appealing growl during hard acceleration.
I’m a big fan of GM’s longitudinal Hydra-Matic transmissions. In my experience, they’re very durable, and have good inputs, enabling engineers to fine-tune the shift logic. The six-speed automatic transmission on the test car works very well in drive mode. The transmission shifts at about 4500 rpm: just short of peak torque.
I didn’t find the manual mode to be very user friendly. The steering wheel is quite large: too large for my hands. The shift buttons are too far inward of the wheel for someone with smaller hands to reach comfortably.
I also didn’t like the fact that the driver has to shift the gear lever into manual mode before using the steering wheel controls. Systems that make the transition automatically are a lot more intuitive.
The new suspension is a night-and-day difference from the old model. The wheels dig into the road like track spikes, while delivering ride characteristics more like well-cushioned shoes. Standard stability control helps the driver to maintain directional control in rain and snow.
A variable ratio rack-and-pinion steering setup delivers exceptional response at all speeds. On center response is positive: especially noticeable on the corkscrew turns through the canyons.
Single piston disc brakes worked fine on the test drive. Buyers who purchase the V8 SS model get four-piston Brembo brakes.
Visibility around the car is not particularly good. As with the classic Camaros, the hood scoop obstructs the forward view. The narrow rear window is as small as some convertibles, creating huge blind spots in the corners. Small side view mirrors don’t do much to compensate.
Camaros are really two-person cars. As with most two-plus-twos, the back seats are primarily a nod to the insurance companies. The Camaro’s back seats aren’t the smallest I’ve seen, but they’re better suited for storage than passengers. The seats fold flat to extend the trunk floor.
The six-way power driver’s seat is easy to adjust. The front passenger gets two-position manual controls. I found the driver’s seat comfortable for my test drive of several hours.
The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel includes redundant audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls. A stalk to the left controls an information screen in the gauge cluster that displays average fuel economy, distance to empty, current speed, and trip duration. The gauges themselves are easy to read.
A gauge pack on the center console includes analog oil pressure, temperature, transmission fluid temperature and charging system displays. The leather-wrapped shift knob is comfortable and easy to reach.
A deep bin under the armrest includes a USB port and 12-volt power point. Two cupholders in the center console are large enough for water bottles. The doors have map pockets. The glovebox is average size.
The trunk is not very functional. The floor is long, but the trunk is unusually shallow. It will hold small suitcases and groceries, but none of the gear people with active lifestyles typically carry.
All models come with standard front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, and a year of complimentary OnStar automatic crash response. Chevrolet builds the Camaro at its Oshawa, Ontario Canada assembly plant.
Likes: A modern muscle car with a powerful engine and responsive six-speed automatic transmission. The rack-and-pinion steering system and four-wheel independent suspension deliver much better handling and response than former models.
Dislikes: Poor visibility, especially to the rear. Lack of cargo space.
Model: Camaro 2LT Coupe
Base price: $26,580
As tested: $30,160
Horsepower: 304 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 273 lbs.-ft. @ 5200 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 18/29 mpg city/highway
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