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ReflectionsOfTheDrive: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review


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2010 Camaro SS

It may seem odd, but for years I associated the Camaro with speed. It’s true. I had no feelings of malcontent, and I did not associate the Camaro with wife-beater t-shirts, mullets, and bondo. It looked good, had a great V8, was relatively comfortable, and provoked driving fast. That was a win in my book. It still is to some degree.

My entire first-hand Camaro experience was with a 1989 Camaro RS which had the 5.0 liter V8 option. By today’s yard stick, the engine’s 170 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque is quite meager. But in 1990, even short the 70 horsepower which was available in the IROC-Z’s 5.7 liter V8, it was a monster to this high school student.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in North Texas when a friend picked me up in his new RS. I immediately was addicted to the torque pushing me into the seat. The next thing you knew we were flying along at 135mph, T-tops removed, and my hair blowing in the wind. That’s right. I had hair once. Moving on…

Now let’s fast forward almost 20 years. Everything has changed. Here’s where the wife-beaters, mullets, and bondo come into play. In the 7 years following Chevrolet killing the Camaro in 2002 after 35 years of production, its reputation went drastically downhill. There still was that distant memory of high school, but that memory was all too often overshadowed by a giant mullet cutting me off in traffic with his bondo-covered Camaro apparently fitted with a smoke screen “feature”.

A few weeks ago, everything changed again. Chevrolet delivered Burnout Radio a 2010 Camaro 2SS, and I drew the long straw to drive it the first few days. This is the 5th Generation of the Camaro, and I’ve yet to find someone who dislikes the way the way this car looks. Every curve and angle blend together to make one of the best looking American cars produced in recent decades. This 2010 model urges you to reminisce of the first four generations while remaining wholly modern in design. Chevrolet nailed the styling, pure and simple.

 

Here is my experience:

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As I slide into the driver’s seat, I am first amazed at how comfortable I am with no adjustments. I make a few seat adjustments and surprisingly quickly have the perfect driving position. The layout of the cockpit caters to the driver and everything is well within reach without taking my eyes far from the road. While I do like the gauge layout and design, the speedometer and tachometer need some work. First they are annoyingly vague with their sequoia sized needles. I want to know exactly how fast I’m going at a glance and not a 5 mph estimate. Yeah, yeah, I know there’s a digital readout option in the driver information center (DIC), but maybe I want something else on that screen. There are plenty of other good options to display there. Anyway, the gauges just feel a bit of an afterthought. Secondly, a few times the speedo even seems to stick a little while decelerating. It jumps down in 5-7 mph increments rather harshly instead of a fluid motion under braking. Otherwise, the gauges and DIC readout are very well placed and designed. The DIC is very easily navigated by controls on the blinker stalk. Most of the rest of the interior looks great. There is nifty ambient lighting in the top edge of the door panel inserts, which unfortunately is seemingly made of CD case plastic. The design continues across the dash, but for whatever reason the lighting does not. I am assured it is not broken and is not actually lit. Odd.

Now it is time to really drive this puppy. As I roll out, the clutch requires little effort while still feeling solid. It engages smoothly and quickly as a proper muscle car should. The 6-speed transmission is smooth with enough of a snick to know I am properly in gear, albeit with a bit of a long throw. Unfortunately though, there’s no good way to hold the shifter. It just feels peculiar in my hand regardless of how I hold it. The same goes for the steering wheel if you’re the 9 and 3 type (as all should be). Both are a bit awkward.

Next is the requisite downshift and foot to the floor to merge on the freeway. The 6.2 liter LS3 V8 roars to life, punches me into the seat with 400 lb-ft of torque, builds to its full 426 horsepower, and all thoughts of the aforementioned awkwardness go out the windows as I launch up the ramp.  The colossal acceleration is well beyond anything I experienced that Sunday afternoon in 1990.  That aside, this Camaro is different somehow.  It is more composed…a bit mature even.

As I amble through traffic, I plug my almost dead iPhone into the USB port to give it a little charge on the way home. Much to my surprise, a few seconds later, “Trent’s iPhone” displays on the screen and my stored music begins to play automatically. Brilliant! I turn up the Boston Acoustics audio system equipped in this 2SS model. It sounds crisp and clean even at 70mph with windows down and sunroof open. It’s at this point that I notice the exhaust note could use a little tweaking, as it’s a bit of a nasal sound when behind the wheel. And since I’m nit-picking here, a little more volume under normal acceleration would be nice for those who like to roll the windows down and shift by ear. I have no complaints outside the cabin though, as a quick jaunt through a tunnel sounds great.

Yes, the 2010 Camaro SS has a few faults. Yes, it still has a bit of a back-woods reputation. Yet this is just the first year back from retirement. The Camaro will improve and will overcome the stereotype. Once again I am in love with the Camaro, although even with no hair I do miss the T-tops.  The Chevrolet Camaro is back in the muscle car fight.  Welcome.

 


Over the next few days, I was able to experience the Camaro in various scenarios. Unfortunately it rained almost the entire time, although I luckily got one small window of dry roads to explore the Camaro’s capabilities.

 

Ugh. More rain

Ugh. More rain

THE RUNDOWN:

Rush-hour commuter: The comfortable seats, low RPM torque, and high gearing make bumper-to-bumper traffic easy. Throw it in 2nd or 3rd and leave it there. Gas mileage isn’t great, but if you’re buying an SS then it’s most likely not a priority. While on the gas topic though, the fuel cap needs a better hook to hold it while fueling. It is horribly small and rarely actually prevents the gas cap from hanging loose on the paint.

Highway cruiser: The comfortable seats and high gearing are great here as well. With the engine spinning less than 2,000 RPM at 80mph, it gobbles up the miles with ease. On-center steering feel could use a little adrenaline kick though, as it’s a bit vague.

Grocery getter: I wouldn’t advise going to Sam’s Club and grabbing a flatbed, but for an average grocery purchase there is reasonable space in the trunk. The back seats are easily accessible as well if the space is needed.

Family & friends hauler: If you only have friends under 6ft tall, you’ll all be happy with the occasional back-seat passenger. Notice I didn’t say passengerS. Unless you’re both jockeys, an average-sized adult won’t fit behind the driver. For those with kids, there is plenty of room for them even with a booster seat. If you have a child still in a rear-facing safety seat as I do, adult passengers over 5ft tall should avoid you like swine flu and take their own car. The passenger seat has to be fully forward and completely upright in order to fit the safety seat in back. Surprisingly though, it was relatively easy to install the safety seat in the back.

Occasional hoon-mobile: I find the SS suspension to be quite competent. The suspension is compliant, yet responsive and communicative with minimal body roll. As I stated above, steering feel does need some dialing in regarding on-center feel, which is a bit lifeless. However it is nicely weighted and communicative once you chuck it into a turn. If you take it into that turn smoothly and with a bit of reserve, there’s enough suspension compliance to get hard on the throttle on exit. Yet if you throw it in hard, you’ll get the obligatory initial understeer and a nice progressive switch to oversteer if you get on the go-pedal. I am quite pleased with the progressive nature near the limit. If one is to press the StabiliTrak button in front of the shifter once, traction control is disabled to allow tire spin while the stability control keeps you from getting sideways. If one is to press it twice, Competitive Mode allows a generous amount of tire spin and slip angle before bringing the tail back in line. It will make lucky bad drivers look good. Unlucky bad drivers will still crash. Competitive Mode also enables launch control. It’s as simple as holding the fun pedal down while the ECU limits engine RPM and dumping the clutch. Finally, holding the button for about 5 seconds will defeat all traction and stability systems and let you have your way with the Camaro.

Track toy: Most of the characteristics which make the Camaro SS a capable hoon-mobile apply here as well. The pedals are a bit widely spaced for easy heel-toe downshifts in my size 9s, but it’s manageable. The giant Brembo brakes work as expected and haul all 3849 lbs down quickly with good pedal feel. Modulating the brakes under hard braking is no problem. The Camaro handles well but is no Miata, so a tight course or autocross won’t suit it too well. Like usual with many production vehicles, a few modifications would be needed for a frequent track car, but the Camaro SS should easily handle a track day every now and then with no problem.

Dragster: Like all Camaros of yore, this car is at home on a drag strip. All but the novice will find faster times not using launch control. The engine and transmission beg to slammed through the gears and the suspension is compliant enough to give you a little of that muscle car squat under acceleration.

 

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Thank you GM and Burnout Radio for providing the Camaro and making this review possible. ♦

 

 



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Bruce

2016 Cadillac ATS-V gray/black

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