We got our first glimpse of Chevy's reborn pony car several months ago when we took a quick test drive in the 426-horsepower Camaro SS. And we were wowed. But here's what's even more impressive: The V-6 Camaro produces 304 horsepower and still gets 29 mpg on the highway. And the base model is really affordable.
Appearance: Peter describes it is as a life-size Hot Wheels car. Our tester had 20-inch aluminum wheels, which accentuated the bold, low-slung design. There's even a hint of the Corvette in these tail lights. The rear fenders flare out for a stout shoulder; the body creases and signature "shark gills" give it character. The front grille is pure menace.
Performance: The V-6 has great acceleration and a pleasing — if subdued — exhaust note. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, but we both would have liked to have experienced how the V-6 performed with a manual transmission. There is a "manual" mode, but we didn't like the button shifters on the steering wheel. Give us paddles, please. The car hugs into turns, even at relatively high speeds. (Those of us of a certain age will remember the TV commercials in which the original Camaro was called "The Hugger.") Peter drove it to Orlando with a full complement of passengers and it was a fun highway crusier.
Interior: Lyra loved driving the car at night. The ambient lighting glows neon blue with red gauges. Especially impressive is the built-in light in the door panels for a diner-like accent. Our tester had the optional four-gauge cluster in the center console — shades of the '60s Camaro. Cool, but it's more for looks than practicality. The dash's two main gauges — the speedo and tach — sandwich a digital display and are deep-set, as is the steering wheel, which Lyra found made the controls difficult to use. Lyra thought the AC controls were some of the best she's seen: simple and logical. The audio controls, also, are well-designed and easy to use. There's no LCD screen or navigation, however. But the radio is a blast from the past: When you tune to a station, you get the classic bar with the moving line. The leather seats are comfortable and have a good range of adjustment for the driver, but Peter could never quite get enough headroom. He blames the sunroof. Lyra had a size concern, too. Would she be able to see over the fairly high hood profile? Yes, she could. And you pay another penalty for style: The driver's rear visibility is compromised. (A blind-spot warning system would be welcome.) A few other nits: The door handle is awkward to reach. And here's a trend that we both dislike: door-lock buttons in the center console.
Our 3 favorites
Styling: There's enough of the original to say 1969 but it's not just a retro design.
The V-6: You won't say: I could have had a V-8.
Driveability: No need for much backseat room? Here's a stylish daily driver.
Hey, parents: You can set the speed control to warn the driver when the car hits 56 mph or faster.
The AC: Simple and strong. Backseat passengers aren't slighted.
Halo headlights: Distinctive, cool, menacing.
The bottom line: Hot Wheels indeed. It's a toy for the big kids. And you get at lot of the benefits of the more ferocious Camaro SS without the mileage penalty.