This latest-generation Camaro (completely redesigned for 2010) is based on the great chassis of the Pontiac G8 that came from GM Australia. (The G8 sports sedan was a creative and mechanical success, but a commercial failure due to its cost.)
Compared with the pre-2010 Camaro models, engineers moved the rear wheels forward 6 inches, the front wheels forward 3 inches, the windshield back 3 inches, and lowered the front suspension. Viola: a racy-looking, road-hugging sports coupe created out of a great sports sedan.
The latest-generation Camaro captures the look of the original '67, while being 5.7 inches longer and 3 inches wider. And it hasn't been drawn into retro clunkiness with a bunch of chrome; in fact, there's almost none. The latest-generation Camaro is 2.8 inches taller than the vintage model, thanks more to bigger tires than anything else. The tires fit the same in the wheelwells of all models, whether with 18-, 19-, 20- or 21-inch wheels, because they all have the same outside diameter. The smaller the wheel, the taller the sidewall of the tire.
When viewed from the rear, the lines suggest the classic 1963 fastback split-window Corvette; and when viewed head-on, classic 1969 Camaro headlights appear. Behind the shark nose with black mesh grille, up on the long aluminum hood, there is a suggestive power bulge.
You can see the lines of the 1963 fastback Corvette from any angle, but especially from above. That classic Corvette made on a strong impression on the Camaro's young designer, Sang Yup Lee, who came to the U.S. from Korea as a boy and grew up in the California car culture. There are also slight twin humps on the roof, barely seen at the top of the steeply raked 67-degree windshield that helps produce a 0.37 Cd in the LS and LT, and 0.35 Cd in the SS.
But the long hood with its shark nose and black mesh grille (with simple headlights intended to be reminiscent of a '69 Camaro) is what catches your eye and triggers your longing. That too is by careful design. All models use an aluminum hood with a 2.5-inch power dome for appearance.
The SS has an additional wide and thin black simulated intake on the nose, the easiest way to tell whether it's a V8 or V6.
Otherwise, the V6 can pretty much pass, a bonus for the price. Styling gills located just forward of the rear wheels add another nice touch to the Camaro. Even though the power dome hood and cooling gills are not functional, they all work as touches of style and don't come across as phony.
The shapely strong hips stand out, like the long hood, an edgy element the designer is most proud of, because they took so much work. He said it took 113 tries to get the one-piece sheetmetal right, from the doors and pinched beltline rearward. There's no faulting GM for indifferent craftsmanship with this car, that's for sure.
The rigid B-pillar is blacked-out, thus creating a clean outline for the side glass, blending into a handsome hardtop roofline. The short rear deck climbs upward and looks hot, showing off the car's great butt. The twin taillights look like blinking red sunglasses in each corner. The rear spoiler is a small lip that could be integrated more smoothly, but it still works.
The convertible benefits from additional reinforcements to stiffen the body structure. Among them: a cross brace under the hood to connect the front shock towers, a transmission brace, an underbody tunnel brace, and underbody V-shaped braces front and rear. The objective of this was to make the convertible match the coupe as closely as possible in ride quality, handling and overall performance. Also, the Camaro architecture was designed to accommodate a convertible model. As evidence of its design and engineering success, Chevrolet points out that there was no need to retune the Camaro suspension for the convertible. Chevrolet claims the Camaro convertible offers superior torsional stiffness to that offered by the BMW 3 Series convertible.
At the outset, designers and engineers sought to eliminate the common appearance of convertible top support ribs and they succeeded, using composite knuckles rather than aluminum ones, as well as extending the top material below the belt line and revising the top's stitch lines. The result is a top that has a smooth, taut and carefully tailored appearance that also retains the sleek roofline of the coupe.
The convertible differs from the coupe on a few fine details: The radio antenna, located on the roof of coupes, is mounted to the deck lid on LT convertibles, while RS and SS convertibles embed the AM/FM antenna in the rear spoiler and mount the XM shark fin on the deck lid. The trunk lock cylinder on convertibles is in the rear seat area (irrelevant when you use the remote key fob), and the subwoofer is located in the trunk between the seats.
The interior materials of the Camaro are good, and excellent leather upholstery is available in black, gray, beige and two-tone Inferno Orange. The interior design doesn't rise to the level of the exterior, however. We think the instrumentation leaves much to be desired, if no-nonsense is your point of view, though we should point out that Car and Driver magazine likes it, calls it innovative.
A recessed speedometer and tachometer are stylized in square chrome housings, a nod to the classic Camaro interior. But that was 1967. Back then they didn't have LED light pipe technology, an ambient light option that gives the cabin a warm glow. There's a driver information center between the speedo and tach, its functions controlled via a stalk on the steering column.
The stitched leather wrap on the steering wheel is nice, although the wheel itself is thick, and its three-spoke design is mundane, a missed opportunity (most likely cost-related).
The standard cloth bucket seats are good, although the bolstering isn't fully there for hard cornering. It's a tough compromise to make, given the spectrum of Camaro buyers. The low bolsters make getting in and out of the Camaro easier. The front seat slides 8.5 inches and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so drivers of all sizes will fit. Lots of spirited women buy Camaros.
The climate control buttons on the center stack appear to have been designed for looks, and thus aren't as functional as they could or should be. An optional console-mounted gauge package includes oil pressure, oil temperature, volts and transmission fluid temperature. The information is good, although the location down by the driver's knee seems like another attempt to be cool; and maybe a successful, one, because it is a popular option.
The windows are small and A-pillars wide, so it makes the cabin feel a bit cave-like. Visibility through the windshield is compromised by the long hood and raked windshield, although careful location of the driver's seat helps. Rear visibility over the driver's shoulder isn't very good, but then it's impossible to make it good with a roofline this sporty.
The trunk is deep but the opening isn't large and it's almost flat, worth it for the handsome rear deck. There's a pass-through to the trunk behind the rear seat, which isn't easy to crawl into, and feels like a pit.
Rear-seat legroom measures 29.9 inches, a distinction, as few cars today break below that 30-inch mark. You'll want to avoid riding in the back seat. Easy. It's your car.
The top on the convertible is made of thick, durable canvas. An acoustical headliner material is designed to provide a quiet, coupe-like ride when the top is up, and the soft top incorporates a glass rear window and rear window defogger.
The power folding convertible top retracts in about 20 seconds. The convertible top is built in partnership with the same manufacturer as the Corvette convertible top, and operates in a similar manner. It folds in a simple Z-pattern and latches with a single handle located at the center of the windshield header. Other convertible models in this segment still offer convertible tops with dual latches, forcing drivers into two-hand operations reaching across the car. Once the latch is turned to the open position, the push of a single button lowers the windows and activates the power top. The car doesn't have to be parked for the top to be activated, allowing for spur-of-the-moment lowering while stopped at a traffic signal.