We’ve not tested too many American muscle cars in the past, not through lack of wanting to test them, but rather through a lack of availability for European imports. This perhaps adds to the notion that American muscle cars are exactly that; muscle cars, made for use on the sort of wide highways you get over in the US. Not for the UK. When this years Goodwood Moving Motor Show came around and we learnt that Chevrolet would be bringing a Camaro for test drives, we thought we’d book a drive up the hill for an initial experience with a slice of Americana!
Chevrolet first introduced the Camaro in 1966 as a competitor to the best-selling Ford Mustang. Since then, four generations have come and gone. The car the will form the subject of our review is the Chevrolet Camaro 45th Anniversary Edition, part of the fifth generation, introduced in 2009. Released last year, the 45th Anniversary Edition celebrates four and a half decades of the Camaro name. The Camaro has been a popular model for Chevrolet with 88,249 models shifted in 2011, mostly in the US.
With the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro you have five different model options, the first two, the LS and LT, have a 3.6 liter V6. The third and fourth options are Camaro SS models. The first is a six speed automatic which features a 6.2 liter L99 V8 with 400hp at 5,900rpm and 556Nm of torque at 4,300rpm. The final option is the car that our review focuses on, the manual with its 6.2 liter LS3 V8. It features 426hp at 5,900rpm and 569Nm at 4,600rpm. The reason for the automatic model’s lower horsepower is the lower redline, 6,200rpm in the automatic as opposed to 6,600rpm in the manual, and a milder camshaft. All four engine options are naturally aspirated. The fifth is the Camaro ZL1 which we have no reason to mention here.
Our 45th Anniversary Edition didn’t differ in terms of the engineering features described above. The changes to this car are purely cosmetic. The Camaro 45th Anniversary Edition gets a unique paint job, carbon flash metallic paint with a red and charcoal hood stripe. The wheels are 20 inch silver-painted aluminum units. Inside, you get a black leather interior with large white inserts for the doors and dash trim. Finally, red, white, and blue accent stitching brings connotations of the Camaro’s American heritage and the 45th Anniversary logos for both the exterior and interior identify its special status.
Past the cosmetic changes made to the interior, the finish quality felt very high compared to muscle cars of the past. Soft leather finishes and higher quality materials create a very reasonable environment. At 6 foot 1 inch, I found plenty of room inside. One of the major sources of complaints for the Camaro is its lack of headroom we’re told, perhaps this might be an issue for those taller than myself, but it didn’t seem a problem to me. It’s also possible for visibility to become an issue. The Camaro has a high waistline and a thick rear pillar which both contribute to obstructing the peripheral view. Chevrolet tried to counteract this with a rear view camera but it’s something to consider while driving the Camaro.
Power delivery is pretty nice although obviously hampered by its 3,902lb (1,770kg) weight rating. It never provided that euphoric feeling of power that we expect of American muscle cars. Perhaps Chevrolet provide launch control on the Camaro to counteract the weight problems. We never knew about it though so it remained switched off! The gearbox felt good though with a short shifting distance and a precise gate. Official statistics claim a 0-60mph time of 4.8 seconds which sounds like a reasonable claim compared to what we felt. The Camaro does have a redeeming feature though. Its naturally aspirated V8 allows for a tremendous soundtrack. Upshifts, downshifts and under acceleration, the Camaro sounds fantastic!
Cornering is as you would expect from a new-era Muscle Car. Stable, solid and reliable. The ride is good for the weight and the chassis handles corners about as well as can be expected. It doesn’t push the boundaries but there’s also very little to complain about. We’d like to give the Camaro a bit more of a review in this area as Goodwood’s hill climb isn’t the perfect environment to test this out. The primary reason for this is the width. The Camaro is a big car! It measures 1.917 meters across, almost 15 centimeters more than the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe and 23 centimeters more then the BMW M3. This might not be too much of an issue for our American readers, however, on narrower European roads we could easily see this start to become a problem.
While the 45th Anniversary Edition is no longer on sale, Chevrolet offer the V8 version of the Camaro to European customers. It’s essentially the same car but without the Anniversary Edition upgrades described above. At a starting price of £ 35,025 in the UK, it seems reasonably good value for those that want an epic soundtrack, a big V8 and something that looks a little different from the norm. To be honest, there isn’t much to compare it to. The price undercuts other 400hp cars such as the BMW M3, yet a comparison with the M3 just doesn’t seem right!
Ultimately the Camaro has flaws, chief of which are its weight, the lack of rear view and the sheer width. To an American, this would not be an issue. To a European, these become a make or break part of the decision making process. If you are going to use the Camaro as a motorway cruiser it is perfect. As soon as you start moving on to narrower roads, the flaws could become more pertinent. But we’d like to give the Camaro a better, more comprehensive test before we come to a final conclusion. Hopefully Chevrolet will oblige!