We first got a taste of the reborn Camaro SS around the time of the last Transformers movie that left us wanting more than the hour we got in the Chevy muscle car. Well, we finally got our chance, and one thing is clear: The horsepower wars between General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are in full swing.
Appearance: The SS has a menacing look, which is no surprise — what else would you expect from Bumblebee? When we drove the V-6 version last year, Peter called it a life-sized Hot Wheels car. The SS version is even more so. LED halo lighting stares out of the black, slightly V-shaped grille. The car has a low roof and high beltline, with rear fenders that flare out for a stout shoulder. The taillights remind us of the Corvette.
Performance: Lyra liked the exhaust note, a low rumbling growl that doesn't draw attention to itself as much as some of the muscle cars we've driven. (Peter misses the head-turning volume.) The 6.2-liter V-8 puts out 426 horsepower, which translates to light-up-the-tires power. The short-throw shifter likes a firm hand. For a muscle car, the SS handles really well, hugging turns thanks to its performance suspension, 20-inch tires and stability control. The Brembo brakes do a great job of stopping the 3,849-pound car, which gets decent mileage for a big V-8 — 16 in the city and 24 highway.
Interior: The backlit polycarbon lining in the doors and dash give the interior a futuristic pale blue glow at night. There's stitching on the leather seats and armrests, which adds class, and the "good plastic" on the dash and doors is soft to the touch. The leather seats are comfortable and have plenty of support, although the seat belt cut into Lyra's neck. There are no adjustments to make it lower because the loop is attached to the top of the seat. The seat-release handles in the middle of the seatback are difficult to reach. (It does make it easier for rear passengers to get out of the cramped space, though.) The seatbacks fold down as one piece, and there is pass-through access from the trunk — yes, it will hold a normal-sized suitcase — for longer items. The main gauges have retro numerals, which Lyra found a bit difficult to read. On the console, the four-gauge cluster just behind the shifter recalls the 1960s Camaro, but really is more for looks than practicality. The AC controls are intuitive and easy to use. The Boston Acoustics sound system is loud, if not as sophisticated as some stereos.
Our 3 favorites
Retro touches: There's enough of them to invoke 1969.
Styling: Besides the menacing grille, the rear end is downright classic-looking.
Parking assist: It helps warn if you get too close to a stationary object. You will need it.
Ice blue: Ambient lighting in the dash and gauges is striking.
Ready to rumble: The exhaust note is simply perfect.
Car with attitude: The LED halo lights stare you down.
The bottom line: The styling comes at a high cost for driver comfort: There is a lack of side and rear visibility that might make it a deal breaker for some. Still, the SS is impressive Detroit muscle. Look for a convertible in 2011.