It's not quite Bumblebee, but it'll do just fine | The Chevrolet Camaro has always been a car that I’ve lusted after.
The Chevrolet Camaro has always been a car that I’ve lusted after. Perhaps it’s because ever since I was born, there has always been either a Camaro or Firebird in our garage at home. My dad’s first car was a ’73 Camaro that he bought new, and he has since owned a few others. My weekend toy is currently a 1996 Camaro Z/28 with the LT1 and infamous t-tops, so I guess you could say I know my way around these cars. I spent Labour Day weekend with a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible and tried to determine whether or not the latest restyle does justice to a car I truly love.
Similar to my car, my tester came with a V8 mated to an automatic transmission. There have been some improvements over the past eighteen model years though – the V8 now has a displacement of 6.2 liters, and as a result puts out 400 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. The ancient 4-speed automatic transmission has been yanked in favour of a new 6-speed unit. If the new Corvette Stingray is any indication, the new 8-speed automatic should make its way down into the Camaro very soon. The manual-transmission Camaro, which, as an enthusiast, I would prefer, puts out a few extra ponies, totaling 426.
Because the convertible is a bit heavier, it doesn’t feel as planted as the coupe version does. That being said, few things feel as good to me as top-down cruising on a beautiful summer day. The Camaro was the perfect companion – the V8 sings a lovely sound out of the exhaust pipes and gets the car going very quickly. It may not be ZL1 or Z/28 fast, but the SS is very quick. You can definitely feel every one of those horses working hard when you give it some throttle. Passing on the highway is effortless, and the Camaro makes every move feel like a piece of cake.
Fuel economy has never been a strength as it relates to V8-powered muscle cars. That being said, the Camaro SS has cylinder deactivation, which shuts down four of the eight cylinders when cruising on the highway at ideal and steady speeds. My week of combined driving (mostly cruising through my favourite backroads with the top down and air off) returned 13L/100km. I remember when we tested a manual transmission SS convertible a couple years ago, a slightly heavier foot took the average closer to 16L/100km. I wasn’t disappointed; if you opt for the SS V8 over the RS V6, you shouldn’t be complaining about added fuel costs. The Camaro requests premium fuel, but can get away with regular grade. My observations were based on feeding it the good stuff for optimal performance and efficiency.
At $58,000 as-tested, Chevrolet optioned up my Camaro SS tester nicely. It was painted in a rather boring silver with white stripes (one colleague called it “rental-car silver”), with black leather and blue accents around the interior, but the equipment list was quite generous. Leather seats, Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment, Bose speakers, and HID headlights with gorgeous LED “halo” daytime running lights were all niceties that made this car a solid pleasure to live with. The automatic transmission does have a manumatic mode, which allows you to use paddle shifters should you want that extra pep for spirited weekend driving.
When I drive convertibles, I like a top that is either manually-operated and relatively light (à la Mazda MX-5 without the PRHT option), or a soft top that’s quick to operate. The BMW 428i Cabriolet we recently tested had a very neat top mechanism, but it was quite slow overall in its operation. The Camaro’s top retracts pretty simply; you undo one latch and press one button. It’s pretty quick too; fast enough to close at a traffic light should you feel your skin baking in the sun on a hot afternoon.
There wasn’t really anything I absolutely despised about the new Camaro. There are interior bits that could be feel bit better, but this is a historic thing. The car is built to start at a low price point (a base V6 can realistically be had from your dealer in the low-$20,000 range), so interior cost cutting is not surprising at all. The MY2014 facelift keeps the overall exterior profile essentially the same, minus the addition of much sharper-looking head and taillights. I think this restyle is gorgeous, and I’ve been in love with it since the first time I laid eyes on it.
I think the Mustang is marginally better to drive in stick-shift guise (the manual transmission is a little less tedious than the Camaro’s), and the SRT Challenger’s sheer size makes it appear positively sinister. The Chevrolet Camaro though – it’s stunning. Everybody knows exactly what it is instantly, and it looks large and in charge. In fact, I love it so much, that when the time comes for me to part with my beloved 1996, I don’t think I would even contemplate looking elsewhere for a replacement – this is it, and it will one day be mine. Can anybody say 1LE Performance Package?