Economy Test: Chevrolet Camaro SS LS3 in Dubai
You know that all those years of being a good boy is paying off when people suddenly call up to offer you a black 2010 Chevy Camaro SS for the weekend. With an LS3 V8. And a manual transmission. For a second round. The manual SS is initially hard to drive, but having just about mastered the clutch-gearbox combo the last time, we figured we’d do something different this time around. We’ll do the first-ever fuel economy test for this car, while still driving in regular traffic at regular speeds.
The last time we got this exact Chevrolet Camaro SS, we averaged 16.8 litres/100 km in mixed driving. This time, our trip computer was already showing 17.2 litres/100 km when we decided to reset it for our conservative driving session.
Setting off from the middle of Karama, Dubai at 10 am, we encountered very little traffic as we headed towards the Hatta-Oman road, then onto Dubai Bypass road till the Sharjah border before ending the experiment and turning back by 11 am.
The SS lends itself well to economical driving. Both fifth and sixth are apparently overdrive gears, so accelerating slowly, braking slowly and quickly getting into the high gears whenever possible yielded some remarkable results. Ironically, “accelerating slowly” at 2000 rpm still seemed rather quick in relation to other “regular” cars.
We kept up with traffic on most of the highways. On roads with an 80 kph limit, we did 85 kph. On 100 kph roads, we did 100 kph. On 120 kph roads, we were maintaining 110 kph.
We had hit just above 10 litres/100 km before hitting the Bypass road, but couldn’t break the 10 mark. So once we were on that ultra-wide 120 kph highway, we slowed down to a constant 100 kph and cruised for around 15 km, with the engine barely doing 1400 rpm in sixth.
It was excruciatingly painful, knowing that we had 426 muzzled horses under the bonnet while we were being passed by speeding trucks. But the numbers started to drop. It dropped all the way to 8.7 litres/100 km before we ended the self-torture.
After that, we clinically pounded through the gears and made the monster motor roar, scaring trucks and camels along the way. We also found a road to try out the Brembos at full-tilt braking from 120 kph. Hot damn, it’s like being in a reverse roller-coaster! If it weren’t for seat-belts, we’d be thrown out the plucking windshield! After the pounding, we were still averaging 11.7 litres/100 km.
On the way back to the SUV-filled city, we also discovered a retarded 1st-to-4th gear feature, where the gearbox tries to lock out 2nd gear during slow driving, forcing you to shift from 1st to 4th. It explained why we kept popping into neutral from 1st, and then having to shove the shifter into 2nd at low speeds. We only found out the cause when a random glance at the instrument cluster display showed a “1st to 4th” message flashing, with a little picture showing what to do. We hear every V8-powered Camaro and Corvette since the late 1990s have this feature, supposedly to save fuel as they all have enough power to cruise in fourth gear.
But it is indeed possible to get Mini economy figures out of the monstrous Camaro with some careful driving, and without the need for gimmicks.