– Aggressive styling
– Strong old-school V8 engine
– Excellent handling
– Useless back seats
– Some hard-plastic cabin bits
– Slightly firm, noisy ride
The Chevrolet Camaro has been around since 1967 as an answer to the successful Ford Mustang. It’s gone through six generations, even being discontinued in 2002 before being reborn in 2010 thanks to the continuing success of the Mustang. But was it just playing catch-up all these years? While that may have been true all these decades, the latest sixth-gen Camaro SS that we rented certainly isn’t playing catch-up to anyone.
Choosing to forego a complete makeover in favour of keeping the retro-modern lines of the previous generation, the latest Camaro is actually a shorter car riding on a completely new Cadillac ATS-derived platform. In terms of looks, the headlights are thinner, the rear C-pillars are meatier, the front-bumper grille is bigger, and the roof is actually lower. So it maintains its chop-top profile with more taut dimensions, but the tail lights are oddly generic, and the black wheels look like matte plastidip rather than paint.
Inside, General Motors has taken steps to reduce the cheap interior ambience of previous Camaros. There are now patches of stitched leatherette and padded areas on the upper dash, door panels and knee bolsters, although the percentage of hard plastics remains high. The new cabin design itself is very modern, with an intentionally low-mounted dash to improve forward visibility and lots of fancy mood lighting, but certain design decisions are odd, such as the a/c vents mounted right in front of the gear-shifter, and a central touchscreen that’s tilted downwards (possibly to reduce glare).
Cabin space is fine for two adults. The front seats are moderately-bolstered, but you sit very low in the car with the roof close to your head. The rear passenger compartment has actually shrunk further, offering almost no rear legroom. That makes the Camaro the least practical “four-seater” muscle car on the market. Even the boot is very shallow, with a small opening, although it has a bit of length, so there’s still some use for it.
Chevrolet’s MyLink 8-inch touchscreen is not as big as the one in its rivals, but it is fairly responsive and handles everything from multimedia and chassis settings to navigation and rear-camera duties. The Camaro also has a full-colour screen between the actual gauges that can show a whole host of performance stats, and is very customisable.
The Camaro SS comes in well-equipped form for the GCC, and includes the usual Bluetooth phone, smart keyless entry and start, remote start, electronic parking brake, drive-mode selector, cruise control, heads-up display, wireless charging pad, a decent stereo with Apply Carplay, and 2 USB ports as well as an AUX jack inside the awkwardly-shaped centre-armrest cubby. The dual-zone auto a/c is good, and uses nifty dials around the central circular vents for temperature control. There are a full set of airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP and a tyre-pressure monitor, but active-safety options such as adaptive cruise and blind-spot monitoring are not offered in the standard model.
The SS gets a hairy-chested 6.2-litre V8, with our tester mated to a well-tuned 8-speed automatic with paddle-shifters. Making 455 hp at 6000 rpm and 617 Nm of torque at 4400 rpm, we managed a 0-100 kph time of 5 seconds flat most of the time, although it can vary sometimes by up to half a second. The car takes off with some wheelspin as the traction control feeds in the power smoothly, and it’s not scary at all.
But it’s the handling where the new Camaro SS shines, as there’s tons of grip from the wide tyres — 245/40 in front and 275/35 in the back — wrapping the 20-inch alloys. And yet, it can get up to playful antics as the rear can be made to swing out a bit with steering, brake and throttle inputs while staying in complete control. The new model’s tighter dimensions also means it is fairly chuckable on the twisties. It’s a darn good chassis.
There is almost no perceptible body roll, the well-weighted steering offers decent feedback, and the Brembo brakes are pretty strong. The ESP is tuned smartly, modulating wheelspin rather than just cutting the power.
On the day-to-day drive, we found a amount of torque, but it never feels as strong in the low-end as, say, a Challenger SRT. The Dodge always wants to do burnouts on every take-off, but the Camaro refuses to break traction so easily. There’s a great grunt from the adaptive exhaust, although our as-tested average fuel consumption of 15.5 litres/100 km means you may want to take it easy on the throttle.
The Camaro SS rides with reasonable smoothness on most surfaces, although it can feel harsh at times, even though it’s equipped with adaptive suspension. It is also louder inside than the Mustang or the Challenger, and there is a noticeable amount of road noise. And outward visibility remains awful thanks to the slit-like windows, but looking ahead over the lowered dash and driving, it’s easy to get comfortable quickly.
The latest Camaro SS continues to be a compromised car if seen as a daily-driver, even more so than before in some cases, but it has evolved into a proper sports car now, and its newfound prowess has to be pushed hard on a winding road to be appreciated. To be honest, something like the more-powerful Camaro ZL1 would be overkill. The SS may just be the best sports car in its class at the moment.
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