The return of a legend The return of the Camaro has easily been the biggest tease in the automotive industry in the last decade, so when GM finally put the car onto the showroom floor, there were lineups not unlike an Apple product release to test drive the car.
The return of the Camaro has easily been the biggest tease in the automotive industry in the last decade, so when GM finally put the car onto the showroom floor, there were lineups not unlike an Apple product release to test drive the car. In typical GM fashion, they decided to turn people away, saying things like “oh, deposit first”, to drive away some tire kickers. However, also in typical GM fashion, the rental companies began buying Camaros in bulk. In the first few months following the Camaro’s release, I actually don’t think I saw any that weren’t equipped with Enterprise stickers on it. My tester was a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro V6.
This review is a Double Clutch exclusive from San Francisco, California; where I had the opportunity to drive a Camaro for a week. Even in base automatic trim, the Camaro is a menacing looking creature. Bearing up on a slow-moving vehicle in the fast lane of the US-101 in a black Camaro would intimidate even the most arrogant lane-hog. I decided to experience the charm of the Camaro by taking the Golden Gate Bridge right over into the Marin Headlands, home to inarguably the most breathtaking views in the Bay Area.
My tester was equipped with the 3.6L V6 featuring 323 horsepower and had a 6-speed automatic. The engine was relatively smooth and power delivery was on tap (much more easily attainable by using the paddle shifters). Tearing up the corners of the Marin Headlands on a sunny Thursday afternoon was reasonably fun even with the Camaro’s inability to go around any corner. While the V6 definitely doesn’t have the fun factor I anticipate in the V8 model I have booked in the near future, it definitely is eager to jump at the slightest poke of the go-pedal. Handling was a sheer, sheer disappointment though. I had to go well under the suggested cornering speed limit on most curvy roads.
One thing to note is that everyday driving would get tedious with the Camaro’s ridiculous blind spots. Typical Corollas and Camrys would magically tend to vanish from my mirrors and sightlines, and if I didn’t crane my neck hard enough to pull a few muscles, I probably would have knocked a few cars into ditches in my path. Don’t get me wrong though; I completely understand and respect that this is a muscle car thing and has to be kept that way for the sake of tradition.
Approaching a one-lane, one-way tunnel in the Marin Headlands, my co-pilot and I decided to lower the windows, downshift, and hear the sound of raw American muscle. As I hit 2nd and went wide-open-throttle from 20 mph to well over 70, I couldn’t hear anything. For the love of all that is holy, I swear my retired 1999 Toyota Camry would have produced a more menacing sound than this Camaro did. If GM is going to downsize their engines for “efficiency” and “keeping the world green”, they might as well do what BMW is doing and start putting artificial engine noises in. As much of a natural-sound kind of person I am, I do feel that in a car like the Camaro (or Mustang), even with the lesser engine option, there has to be some semblance of beastly engine noise. In the case of this car as it sits, its bark is certainly worse than its bite.
The base model Camaro does not come very well-equipped at all. Obviously power windows, locks, traction control, and all that jazz is standard, but there are a few things that are certainly missing on a $27,965 car. For instance, other than the Suzuki SX4, I have yet to experience a 2012-model year car that lacks USB or iPod compatibility. An intelligent key system was missing; instead GM has equipped this car with a Volkswagen-type switchblade key. My Camaro also lacked a sunroof. The cloth upholstery on this trim level was absolutely unbearable, so it’s probably a very good thing that only 21% of Camaro buyers are expected to go for the base trim.
Overall I did enjoy the Camaro. For all intents and purposes, the Camaro was a phenomenal dance partner through some amazing driving roads. However, there’s no mistaking this specific model for an entry-level stripper vehicle. Throw some options on it, a big V8, and some bigger wheels, and you’ve got yourself a car that unsurprisingly sells like hotcakes.
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