Does a big honking V8 make a mediocre car any better? After my last disastrous experience with the V6 Camaro in San Francisco earlier this month, I was recommended by numerous friends, colleagues, and readers to try out the V8-powered model with a manual transmission.
After my last disastrous experience with the V6 Camaro in San Francisco earlier this month, I was recommended by numerous friends, colleagues, and readers to try out the V8-powered model with a manual transmission. I decided to listen to others for once, and requested a few days with this 2012 Camaro SS Convertible. Right off the bat, as soon as I started the engine of the big orange monster, I was slightly swayed.
Firing up this behemoth gave me the raw rumble of its 6.2L V8 and I immediately thought to myself, “this is what a Camaro should sound like”. The 6-speed manual with the infamous Hurst shifter had very short throws, and gave the true feel of a muscle car. The clutch was, in my opinion, far too stiff. It took me a few tries to get a smooth start with the Camaro; I actually counted my blessings that I didn’t stall the darn thing.
Power delivery is certainly more noticeable than in the V6 model, but it just didn’t feel like 426 horsepower. It’s definitely an absolute brute in a straight line, and giving it some gas coming out of the corners definitely tempts the back end to come sliding right out, but the lack of low-end torque is something I found exceptionally agitating. For instance, in the new 5.0 Mustang, the second I step on it, the power is right there; there isn’t any sense of lag or hesitation like there is in the Camaro. I managed to get the fuel mileage down to 10.3L/100km on the highway with the top down doing exactly 100 km/h. However, the second I got into the city, it shot up very quickly. Observed fuel mileage for the duration of the test was 16.3L/100km.
More standard equipment (obviously expected since the 2SS is the top-of-the-line Camaro) made the interior of this muscle car an awesome place to be. The Boston Acoustics stereo in the SS was able to provide adequate sound level to hear it at highway speeds with the top down. It did have some distortion at high levels, but that’s to be expected at that kind of volume. The user-friendliness of the standard-issue GM stereo has actually improved significantly. Controlling and navigating through my iPod playlists was seamless and simple.
One thing is for certain; as someone who grew up well past the era of muscle cars and convertibles; as someone whose high school parking lot was full of 90s Civics and abused 240SXs, I had never actually experienced proper top-down driving in the countryside. Flying through the hills at “legal speeds”, top down, sun shining brightly, was quite possibly the most liberating experience I’ve ever had. It had me all over the local classifieds trying to find myself something without a fixed roof. Frankly, I think it’s the fact that I’d been driving hardtop versions of muscle cars that had my view of the entire segment completely distorted.
At an as-tested price near $55,000 for this, it’s hard to justify for me personally. I’d spend my $55,000 on a Maserati GranSport, a Ferrari F355, or even a lightly used Aston Martin DB9. However, none of those would give me a brand-new car that I know hasn’t been abused by a previous owner, and the peace-of-mind of a new vehicle warranty. I can definitely see how cars like this Camaro creates a nostalgic appeal for those approaching retirement who grew up driving the original “true” version; and nostalgia is not something you can put a price on.3 comments