In an era when muscle cars are adapting to the need of fitting in a family and graceful family sedans are masquerading as sporty sedans, there are very few samples of classic metal that grip their raison d’être just as fiercely as they claw on the tarmac. The Camaro belongs to the haloed breed and continues to promise knights of the new era with a loyal steed that responds to their hoarse whispers.
The macho-meter in a Camaro is largely stirred by two parameters – the engine size and the difference between an automatic and manual transmission. Given the fact that most of those who prefer the larger 6.2L monster also sides a manual transmission and those who settle for the 3.6 L version are content with the ease of automatic, I tested both the cars out so as to give you an inside comparison as well. And surprisingly, vastly different as they seem, they are essentially similar in one familial trait – the ability to please with a powerful drive.
Camaro SS 6.2 L V8 manual
If jockeys are supposed to be short, Camaro drivers are better off with long legs. Getting around that hurdle with a bit of steering and seat adjustment, I searched for buttons for lumbar support or thigh bolsters. There weren’t any of those – just the sheer old-school comfort of those leather buckets, fit for any driver worth his mettle.
The Camaro V8 is built for power play, both on road, and on the racetrack. While the build is heavy, it doesn’t deter the machine from revving up its 426hp to your aspiration, with a lot of fanfare like exciting tire burnouts, wheel spins and undeterred charging ahead.
Like a faithful steed, the Camaro takes an abusive push of the throttle in its stride. Pumping all the power you need at rpms as low as 2500-3000, it was refreshing to see the speedometer needle hurry past the rpm indicator, which seemed to be at a leisurely climb.
I could do a 0-100 km in just above 6 sec in very normal conditions, while Chevrolet claims it to take just 5. Just switch off the stabilitrack to alert the competition mode and let the earth fly or the asphalt melt under the burning rubber!
Even at 1.7 tons, the car feels heavy and you can feel the rear-focused differentials pull hard to maintain the straight line at curves, or quick changing of lanes. Though often a bone of contention, I found the visibility not an issue thanks to the wide side mirrors.
My V8 was a 2010 model and the car had clocked over 30,000 km, giving a feel of how the performance parameters remained in the long run. Some hectic activity at the Dubai Autodrome turned up the heat by a few degrees but the gauge was quick to recover.
The Camaro has one of the most individualistic fascias in motor town and well-developed muscles in all the right places with a strong shoulder line and haunch. The overall profile is pretty much shared by the American ponies, which are from a distance often called by each other’s names. It’s got less to do with design nuances than with their same square-jawed hunk-back character.
With its wide windscreen and the coupe window with a tiny rear glass, the Camaro looks as though wearing an eye-band; it’s perhaps one of the most recognizable masked heroes outside of DC comics.
Pay extra attention when you negotiate parking ramps. The hood is extra long. Use even more caution when you swing the door open – those are extra-wide and could bang right into the car parked two lots away!
The Cabin and Controls
The machine speaks to those who like to take hold of the reins and keeps electronic intrusion to the minimum. The buttons call in the Bluetooth or auxiliary input, and the mini system seems to be a decent one. But the V8 purrs and screams are so overwhelming that you tend to care for the 8-piece orchestra’s performance more often than the audio system.
The foursome panel at the console junction – the voltmeter, the oil temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge and the radiator thermo, not only adds to the dated look but also suggests a car built the way Detroit once built muscle cars. The car still features hard plastic dashboards and surround panels more for their likeness to its bare-necessities legacy rather than the obvious reason of cutting corners.
The leather seats are sportily low but my 6-foot passenger in the rear stretched his leg (though across) and yawned – a good sign when we are talking about a car that is acknowledged as a 2-seater in its registration card!
What family? The Camaro is still a macho man’s car and the rest can be ignored gracefully (or otherwise, as you please)!
The road noise is minimal; but the wind and the engine together create an uproar that is music to those who swear by muscle cars but mere noise to others. I tried pointing out the layers of meaning in the suggestive snarl that emanated from the engine but to my lady passenger, it was just the wayward imagination of men! The utter lack of vision ahead in the dug-up sport seats was already making her claustrophobic.
Boot space is quite enough for a golf pack, but mind the narrow opening if you are trying to push a pram in!
2012 Camaro 3.6 L V6 Automatic
The brand new 3.6 L hadn’t finished its 1000 km check and gave me a good feel of what an AT version offered the driver. Nonetheless a Camaro, it picks up almost as well as its big brother, you won’t have a grudge to chew on, if you’ve never driven the “other Camaro”. The V6 sounds powerful with a rasping kinetic character but quite unlike the lane-clearing growl of the V8 powerhouse!
The 2012 Camaro has largely addressed the hard plastic interiors that used to give the impression that a Camaro buyer searched for solace under the hood alone and not within the cabin. There is a good mix of gloss and class in the new cabin. From the glossy, soft steering and dash paneling to stitched leather, the cabin has more refined instrument and control panels. The 2012 model comes with a miniature rear parking view that lights up on the rear view mirror corner, particularly helpful with measured guidance.
Considering that many 2.0L turbo engines give around 10km/L, to squeeze 6.93 km/L out of a 6.2 L monster from my race against the radars is great progress for macho metal; and great value! With advancements like Direct Injection and Variable Valve Timing, the 3.6 L automatic drive train feeds on just 7.98 km/L – which still qualifies as exceptional in its category. (Tested in real-life mixed driving)
The essential Camaro
The V8 Camaro with its ancient pedals is a great workout regime for your calf muscle and ego. And if 8 or 6 cylinders brimming with the fiery fuel of confidence send sparks all the way up to your head, remember. The Camaro is only as human as any other car!
UPSIDE: Powerful drive in V6 and V8 versions / Excellent fuel efficiency / Wow factor / Refined 2012 cabin / Great value for money in V6
FLIPSIDE: Wide, heavy doors can be a pain in parking lots / Cabin sound-proofing and seating dynamics might not be liked by all / Poor road vision for front passenger
Drive Courtesy: Al Ghandi Automobiles
Picture and words: Sudeep Koshy