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First Drive | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times staff

Chevy Camaro revives the past, looks to future

When Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opens nationwide today, one of the stars of the movie about morphing machinery is Bumblebee, a heroic "Autobot" who disguises himself as a 2010 Camaro SS. On Monday, a designer from General Motors stopped by St. Petersburg to give the Times' Daily Drivers a preview of the car and to explain how Chevy morphed the classic Camaro into a modern version of the muscle car.

Jeff Perkins, who helped design the car's interior, said GM had two goals: to have the "Camaro faithful" respond to it as the car they loved from the '60s, and for it to appeal to younger drivers unfamiliar with the original.

"We look back at all the generations of Camaro . . . but really focused on the '67 to '69 (models)," said Perkins. "They really embodied what a pony car is . . . from a design statement. We felt it was the purest shape."

Here's a first look at the Camaro. Of course, we'll hope for more time with the SS in the future to confirm our initial impressions.

The look

• The gills on the rear fender well are just like the classic.

• Single-lens headlights have a contemporary touch with halo lighting.

• The taillight design is borrowed from its Corvette cousin.

• A sloping roof reflects classic lines, and the sharply creased body panels are touches of modern.

• A slightly V-shaped grille gives the car a menacing look.

•A backlit polycarbon lining in the doors and dash that glows at night is futuristic.

• Stitching on the leather seats and armrests adds class, and "good plastic" is soft to the touch on the dash and doors.

Performance

• The 426-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 was strong and refined.

• The six-speed manual shifts smoothly with responsive clutching.

•The big motor's exhaust note has a low rumble, not obnoxiously loud.

•Handling was firm and controlled, with good grip on turns.

Price

The Camaro SS we tested was stickered at $36,750, which included wheel and lighting upgrades and a sunroof. A 305-horsepower V-6 Camaro is also available with prices starting at $23,040.

Chevy Camaro revives the past, looks to future 06/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 12:38pm]
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