2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS car reviews
2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS (Stick)
|Retro-compliant, modern muscle car|
|Why we’d buy it: Brute force and excellent cornering, looks|
|Why we wouldn’t: Seating position, visibility, gas mileage|
|Mileage: 16/24 as tested; 16/25, auto; 17/29, V6 stick|
The Chevy Camaro has always followed its own path, from its musclebound early days, through the nimble “Porsche style” cars, past the big-heavy look cars to the cheese-wedges of the 1990s, the Camaro changed but never completely left its roots of prototypical muscle.
The Camaro is back, and still on a unique path. The styling merges past and present more than the Mustang, Charger, or Challenger, throwing classic Corvette curves into the mix, and six-speed sticks or automatics are packaged with both of the two engines.
Our “high school kid” test revealed that the Camaro was more attractive to teens than just about any car we’ve tested so far (alongside Challenger, PT Cruiser, SSR, and Sky). Both genders went out of their way to look in the window, touch the spoiler, point and giggle, or thumbs-up. Older people were impressed, too.
The view over the hood is as good as the view from outside, with the hood gently curving down from the fenders to the air scoop in the middle of the hood. This reverse fin effect is subtle it makes the curves that much more enjoyable.
The new Camaro is far more manageable, as one would hope, and gets better mileage than the old performance models could hope for, with an optimistic EPA rating of 16 city, 24 highway. The 6.2 liter engine pushes out either 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, or 400 horsepower with 410 lb-ft of torque, depending on whether one gets the LS3 (manual transmission) or L99 (six-speed automatic, with cylinder deactivation for better gas mileage — 1 mpg more on the highway).
The V8 engine’s performance is between the Dodge R/T Hemi and the SRT8 — more forceful than the smooth 360 hp Mopar powerplant, less so than the instant-on SRT8 motor. The V6 is far ahead of the Charger and Challenger’s 3.5 liter engine, which produced 250 hp but has to push a heavier car.
The six-speed manual transmission’s clutch is surprisingly smooth, while the stick is surprisingly heavy. It wasn't hard to grab any of the gears (nor was it as easy as it should be), and Reverse is far enough off to the right — which isn't to say I wouldn't prefer having Reverse safely off to the left of First, preferably with a mechanical lockout instead of a little “beep.” Getting started up a hill is not too hard, though we missed Dodge’s standard hill-holder.
Both LS/LT and SS have a choice of six speed automatics or six speed manuals, using different transmissions (whether automatic or manual) for the two engines.
Braking is excellent, as one would hope from a vehicle with this much raw power, with 60-0 coming in 123 feet with the V8 and 132 feet with the V6. The four-piston Brembo brakes, which are clearly seen through the wheels, are part of the reason; the SS’s summer tires, which must be swapped out in winter, also help.
Cornering is also excellent, with no sloppiness or hesitation on emergency maneuvers, and a moderately light feel that was out of place in a car weighing nearly two tons. The stability control was subtle and seemed better-tuned than many other cars, and should make itself seen fairly rarely; the suspension was tuned for high performance without the need for electronic trickery.
There was a time when cornering of this caliber would have required a stiff, uncomfortable ride, but the Camaro had good dampening, dealing with bumps and rough roads well; poor road surfaces neither interfered with cornering nor appreciably hurt the ride. Small jiggles and bumps were filtered out, concrete was nearly vibration free. Sound insulation was admirable, with little wind noise and external noise pollution nearly eliminated, except for the impossibly loud muffler.
The engine is smaller than in the past top-line Camaros, but has more power. The 6.2 liter V8 provides near-instant torque practically from idle; horsepower builds smoothly (and quickly) from under 2,000 rpm as you go up the dial. The tight-ratio shifter is overkill given the engine’s power band, which lets you get away with loafing at just off idle. No matter what speed the car is going, there is ample power on tap — no need to wait, it’s there at just about any engine speed. One pays for that in gas mileage, of course, but that's what the V6 is for.
The engine is loud and burbles at idle, with the odd kick and pop that betray a hot cam; hitting the gas yields a massive roar even if just slowly, gently coming up to 25 mph. The sound perfectly matches the look — and the feeling when you floor the pedal. Though it's a bit much when you're just slowly crossing the parking lot.
Get out onto the highway, and the Camaro launches smoothly and roars its way forward, pulling hard and usually with full traction, even on uneven surfaces. With the six-speed manual transmission, the Camaro roars its way to 60 mph in a mere 4.7 seconds, which used to be Corvette turf; and it does so with the ability to come to a full stop in 123 feet. Disable the Stabilitrak and traction control completely (destroying a sensor does that admirably, not that we're advocating it) and you'll find that... nothing has changed. Unless you really push the Camaro, you're not likely to need the stability control. (But when you need it, you really need it, so just leave it there.)
Zooming up to 65 is one thing — easy, fast, fun, and over far too soon. Once at highway speeds, if you downshift into the main power band, you get pretty much instant oomph. In the normal driving range, there's less instant gratification than from the Dodge SRT8, though of course the car also costs a lot less, which is something to consider. And it is more instant-on than the Charger R/T or Challenger R/T. With this much power and torque, though, regardless of whether you downshift or not, you can speed up in a hurry. We do wish they'd gone with a five-speed manual and a lighter feel on the stick to make it easier to take advantage of the shifter, but chances are with more practice it would become second nature.
The standard engine is a V6 which produces twice the horsepower as the 1970s two-barrel 350 V8s, and delivers acceleration that the original small block Camaros (and other small-block muscle cars) couldn't match: 0-60 in 6.1 seconds with a 13.0 second quarter mile time (even the hot 427 version clocked in a slower quarter mile time). The Camaro SS stick shift includes an automated launch control system which lets the driver floor the gas pedal (with the clutch disengage), wait for the engine to steady at 4,000 rpm, and then lift the clutch...but shifting manually seems to get better results.
The car has high beltlines and small windows; while there is plenty of headroom, the roof looks lower than it is from the inside, thanks partly to the black interior on our test car, partly to the center ridge, and partly to how low the roof comes down on the sides. The front window is laid nearly horizontal, but it's still small in area, allowing for small, effective wipers; visibility is good out front nonetheless.
The side views are not bad either, but the right-side-rear blind spot is huge, far larger than on most cars, because the windows shrink to almost nothing and the roof pillars are immense. The tiny triangular window in back is barely sufficient, and drivers will have to get used to the idea of pulling to a sharper angle when merging with traffic and checking their mirrors more carefully.
During the day, if the sun manages to make it in through the narrow side windows, the tiny sun visors are completely ineffectual and can't even be pushed all the way into place because the roof comes down too far, blocking them. The sun visors aren't especially effective in their normal position, for that matter. Visibility at night is aided on cars with the RS package by high intensity discharge headlights, as well as powerful electric defrosters for both outside mirrors and the rear window (standard on SS).
Inside, the Camaro is an odd mix of achievements and nightmares. The gauges are beautiful at night and faithful to their heritage during the day, including the squarish temp and fuel gauges, but they're not as functional as they would be if GM was less concerned with appearances and more with function. Perhaps the Camaro SS can reach 180 mph and perhaps it can't, but the 180 mph speedometer, being as small as it is, is cramped and requires more attention than it should; having such a limited sweep in the legal range (less than 1/4 of the circle) also reduces the perception of speed (since the dial swings more slowly). The tachometer has around 2,000 rpm listed that are above the computer-enforced redline.
The steering wheel is somewhat angled; it can be a little awkward. The seating position is like that of past Camaros — low and more horizontal than with most other cars. Getting in and out is for the flexible. The front seats can be pushed pretty much all the way back until they hit the rear seats.
Rear seat access is aided by seat belt guides that snap open and closed (so one doesn't have to duck the belt), and center-of-the-back-seat tilt controls, along with the long, heavy doors. The doors are awkward for parking lot access; the driver has to push the door open, and somehow get up and out through a relatively small opening. (Drivers also quickly learn to use the electric locks, since the mechanical lock is situated on the door behind the driver's seat.) There are two rear seats with a rise in the seat between them, creating a bucket-seat effect and preventing the squishing of a third passenger in back. Once one contorts oneself to get into the back seat, one must be under 5’9” to avoid hitting the roof. Rear passengers don't get headrests.
The black interior in our test car was relieved by chrome accents around the side vents, door handles, and steering wheel; a dull metallic plastic was used for the stereo area and center console inlay, with a shiny, darkish, metallic plastic going from a strip across the dashboard to a wide swath on the doors. At night, the top of the strip was lit with a dim blue stripe that added some character and interest to the car; the central round gauges gained blue outlines as well.
The parking brake is perfectly located for the passenger to use; drivers will build up their muscles and throw out their backs with the “opposite side of the console” brake placement, if they take the parking brake seriously.
The Camaro SS has full instrumentation, with oil pressure, temperature, voltage, and transmission temperature all shown by period-correct gauges under the stereo, in the large center console (the gauge package appears to come with the 2LT and higher). Digital versions are also available, one at a time, in the message center between the speedometer and tachometer. The message center also tells you what speed you just locked into the cruise control, the current speed, gas mileage, etc., albeit one readout at a time (with the compass heading always showing).
The door handles are flush mounted, so opening them with gloves is a struggle, and they are probably too far forward, while the door locks are actually behind the seats and can't be unlocked manually without a pliers anyway (the power door unlock switch is in the climate control area.) The usual GM headlight system is present, with a warning light to tell you the headlights or parking lights are on, and automatic being the default; shutting headlights off brings up a warning buzzer and warning display, and the rheostat is shaped like a knob but is actually an awkward push-and-hold control.
Side air conditioner vents are cleverly designed and flexible, with the ability to close them off entirely; the central vent is a period correct piece with 1960s/1970s controls. But the control knob/button icons are too small to be read at a glance while driving, the buttons are small for auto controls, and the placement takes some getting used to. On the lighter side, while the fan and temperature knobs have traditional 1960s/1970s controls, showing only three fan positions, there are really 14 discrete fan settings, with modern gliding controls with grippy surfaces. You can go from “barely registering” to “blizzard.”
The cruise control takes getting used to and is awkward regardless, with tiny buttons and another one of those "move the knob up or down" controls, but it does tell you what speed is locked in. The computer controls get their own stalk, and the wheel-mounted audio controls make sense, with a mute button, tune up/down, and volume control.
As one might expect from a modern car, but not a classic Camaro, the modern version has an powerful, clear stereo, with satellite radio and a DVD player built into the controls; a Config button lets you set some preferences and the stereo remembers what tone settings were applied to each station, and can include stations from any band in the favorites. There are a user-selectable 1 to 6 pages of favorites, with a dedicated button to change favorite pages. When you turn the tune button, an analog-style display comes up to help, a nice touch and certainly appropriate for the car.
Owners can set some preferences from the stereo, and some from the center status display; the layout doesn't seem to have been thought out especially well, with some submenus only having a single item, and no logical separation between the two sets. On the lighter side, you can set the preferences without going to the dealer.
The current Camaro has a large, usable trunk, with a traditional lid where just the top comes up, albeit using modern non-intrusive hinges and a modern cargo net. To clear out nearly 12 cubic feet of trunk space, the spare was banished, and tire sealant and an inflator kit are packaged in the car instead. The trunk can pop open from a button the driver's door or the key fob, but there's no traditional lock or keyway. The rear seats do fold down, so if all else fails, you can reach the trunk that way.
Inside, there are now cupholders (one large and one medium), small map pockets in the doors, and a decently sized glove compartment; the console has a little storage area behind the seatback, with a built in USB port for iPod-type devices. Rear seat denizens share a single map pocket behind the passenger seat.
The satellite radio system works well except under heavy tree cover or in a tunnel, and is treated by the stereo as another band; turning the tune button lets you see the names of the channels, though their names are often not an indication of their content (what’s Watercolors, exactly?). GM’s implementation has better antennas or a larger buffer than some competitors, providing more constant reception.
OnStar is also included; the basic system is good for emergencies, but pay a little extra and you can use the Internet to select the location you're going to (or call an operator), and the system will then give you step by step directions to get there, just like a navigation system, but without having to get one of those pricey touch-screen stereos that make you go through ten steps (with your eyes off the road) to lower the bass a little. There is no map on this system, which is standard on the LT and SS.
Conclusion: the 2010 Chevy Camaro, all things considered
Overall, the Camaro is an amazing car, a heavy coupe that feels light, a rear wheel drive car that maintains a constant, firm grip on the road without punishing the occupants, a V6 that runs with V8s and a V8 that runs with the best. The base model costs around $23,000, but has a V6 capable of 0-60 in 6.1 seconds; gas mileage is rated at 17 city, 29 highway with the manual (the automatic is similar), running on regular gas. Not bad for a 3,700 pound car.
The base Camaro LS comes with a six-speed automatic with tap-shift or a six-speed Aisin Warner manual transmission, and a V6 that pushes out 304 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Standard features include CD stereo with graphic display, driver information center, compass, remote kelyess entry, power-reclining front bucket seats, Stabilitrak stability and traction control, and dual-outlet stainless steel exhaust. Going to the LT keeps the V6 but adds the OnStar directions and connections package; the 2LT adds a Boston Acoustics 9-speaker stereo, phone connectivity, USB port, four auxiliary gauges for the console (normally unused but pretty and sometimes essential), heated leather front seats, and universal remote.
The Camaro SS brings a huge price bump, popping up from the LT’s $24,630 to nearly $31,000. For that price you get the capable V8, four-piston Brembo brakes, special front and rear fascias with air scoop and brake cooling slots, rear spoiler, special high-performance summer tires on bigger wheels, and all the LT gear; a 2SS package, which our car had, adds the 2LT gear and the door trim ambient lighting.
Our test car was a top of the line 2010 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS and it came with the six-speed manual transmission, limited slip differential, power variable ratio steering, and the V8. Safety equipment, handy in such a potent machine with summer tires, included front and rear curtain side airbags, Stabilitrak with traction control and four wheel ABS, and tire pressure monitoring with displays of the pressure in each of the tires. In addition to the items mentioned above, the car came with intermittent wipers, heated outside mirrors, rear park assist (just the beeps, not the lights), air conditioning with air filter, telescoping/tilting steering column, six-way power adjusting driver's seat, audio controls on the wheel, dual power outlets, express up/down windows, remote trunk release, and rear window defroster.
As outfitted, the car ran to $34,595, but our test car also had the RS package and optional 20 inch wheels. The wheels set our buyer back $470; the RS package was somewhat more, at $1,200, including special wheels (which were then overruled by the wheel option), body color roof ditch molding, high intensity discharge headlamps with halo rings, and unique tail lamps. All told, our test car ran to $36,265, which is competitive with the high end Mustang and bigger Challenger SRT8.
The government gave the Camaro four stars for driver and passenger in front collisions, five stars for the front seat in side impacts (the rear seat was not tested), and five stars for rollover safety. 60% of the car comes from the U.S. and Canada, including the engine; 24% comes from Mexico, at least with the SS and manual transmission. The car itself is built in Oshawa, Ontario.
Is the Chevy Camaro SS right for you? That depends. The rear seating area is not appropriate for full sized adults, the trunk is usable but not especially large, and some people will tire of the engine roar echoing off the walls when they're driving at 25 mph around the school zone. The added attention will please some people and annoy others; the Camaro is still fairly unusual and a real attention grabber, especially in SS/RS trim. The explosive acceleration is thrilling and usually safe, given the car's excellent stability, cornering, and braking; though not quite as instant-on responsive as the Dodge Challenger SRT8, it is more impressive than the Challenger R/T and is pretty smooth. The clutch was also easier on the foot than the Dodge’s, though the Dodge hill-holder is a great convenience. The lighter feel is an advantage for the Camaro, in our opinion, though some like the heavier feel.
The car, with manual transmission, requires attention and the driving position is something you either love or can live without. The light but solid feel is a real plus, as is the look of the hood from the driver's seat, assuming you're tall enough to see outside; the visibility is a problem but you can get used to the controls. Those who need to use the back seats for adults should probably look more closely at the Challenger; but kids, including teenagers below 5’7”, liked the back seats and could clamber in easily enough.
Many more people will probably find the Camaro V6 (or SS automatic) to their liking; it requires less muscle and attention to control, but is still very rewarding, with the V8-like acceleration and power and V6-style gas mileage (and presumably insurance rates), not to mention all season radials. The Camaro LS and LT aren't quite as outgoing but sometimes that's a good thing; not everyone wants to hear the rumbly exhaust full time especially when driving past the constabulary.
Certainly, the Camaro is a strong competitor for the similarly sized Ford Mustang, especially given its apparently strong build quality and excellent braking and cornering. The interior and exterior styling are both unique and attractive — more so in person than in photos. A five year, 100,000 mile warranty helps add to the security. If you're in the market for a sporty coupe, the Camaro is a must-see; it’s designed to be loved or hated, and I can't say which way you’ll feel about it. It’s certainly worth a look, if only to go down memory lane... or to see what your parents either loved or hated.