Chevrolet Camaro SS

Review Notes: Chevrolet Camaro SS
Personality Old-fashioned muscle
Quirks Old-fashioned muscle
Unique features Incredible performance (both straight-line and handling) at a reasonable price
Superior in: Acceleration, handling
Needs Work In: Door locks, turn signal stalk, interior space

The Camaro easily outperforms the Mustang, but doesn't sell as well. The Camaro SS uses the Corvette LS1 engine, producing 325 horses, with outstanding handling, and a dry-or-wet traction control that prevents burnouts on takeoff. The result is outstanding but easily controlled acceleration (0 to 60 in well under 6 seconds), without torque steer - indeed, with more control than the all-wheel-drive Audi TT Coupe! (Which, by the way, is not as fast).

Brakes are equally capable. The transmission shifts firmly, but is up to the task of dealing with 325 horsepower. Gas mileage is acceptable considering the acceleration, with city traffic yielding in the high teens and highway driving bringing mileage in the mid-20s.

Yes, the Camaro has some insane features, including the old and illogical 1970s keys - one for the ignition, one for the doors! - the crazy GM cruise-turn signal-washer-wiper stalk that cannot do any of those tasks well - and the big heavy doors. Visibility is hampered by the convertible top, especially on the sides and in the rear. However, it is still an almost unbelievable performer, providing even inexperienced drivers with excellent control. And, as long as drivers understand the limits of traction - especially on wet roads - the Camaro will do its best to keep them out of the ditch. Those who remember older Camaros will be amazed by the difference. (To be fair, the SS version we tested has a tweaked suspension and special wheels and tires).

The interior is well designed for the most part, with a very good stereo boasting actual audio control knobs. Well placed demisters quickly defog the windshield and side windows. The convertible top works well and is easily to take down and put up. The rear seat is usable, though either the front or rear passenger must be relatively trim, and the passenger seat floor is raised. In the convertible, there is almost no trunk space, though.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Camaro is its ability to provide full throttle acceleration with total traction, no spinning tires or burnouts required. It makes the Camaro easy to drive quickly, much more so than older muscle cars or, from what we hear, the Viper.

In short, the Camaro is an excellent muscle car, providing a livable interior and blistering performance, along with enough control to keep the car (and its driver) in one piece. Yet, GM is set to cancel the series - which has survived in an unbroken line since the 1960s - due to low sales. That's a shame, since the low sales are most likely due to GM's refusal to invest in new sheet metal and, for Heaven's sake, new turn signal stalks and locks. On the lighter side, rumors abound that GM will re-create the Camaro using a new, more modern rear wheel drive platform, or even a variant of the Corvette platform. That would make the Camaro cheaper to build, since at the moment it pretty much has a platform all to itself. We look forward to it, while lauding the current generation for its performance and well-tuned handling.