Chevrolet Camaro -- reinventing that street-legal muscle car
Bob Plunkett, Sun, 23 Aug 2009 08:57:17 PDT
SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- What a ride: We snag the key to a souped-up SS edition of Chevrolet's new Camaro sports coupe, slip into the leather-clad driver's bucket and wake the ignition.
Chrome-tipped pipes at the tail play a deep-throat tune which hints at the strength of more than 425 horses hitched beneath the aluminum hood defined by knife-edge lines of a bulging power dome.
Our test car, riding on a long and broad platform with the wheelbase stretching to 112 inches and wheels set wide on a 63.7-inch track, comes with taut independent suspension elements plus huge disc brakes and calipers by the high-performance Brembo brand from Italy.
It also stocks the massive 6.2-liter LS3 V8 engine lifted out of a Corvette.
The plant develops 426 hp at 5900 rpm plus torque of 420 lb-ft at 4600 rpm as translated through a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission.
All of that fire power flows directly to the rear pair of 20-inch summer tires (P275/40ZR20) and sets them spinning.
With a safety harness pinning us tightly against the leather driver's seat, we rumble slowly along a traffic-clogged Grand Avenue in the San Diego suburb of Pacific Beach until a right turn points up the ramp to south-bound lanes of the I-5 San Diego Freeway.
That's when we stomp the throttle and this sweet sports coupe launches to warp speed -- in a flash we're streaking down the 5, a red-tipped needle on the vivid LED gauge in the instrument panel pointing to a speed number so illicit we dare not tell.
But fast times and hard-wrought performance seems to be the point of this lickety-split sports machine.
On a track it earns a zero-to-sixty time of only 4.9 seconds and passes the quarter-mile post in 13.3 seconds.
Of course, Chevy's new sports coupe bears the badge of a classic American muscle car which tracks way back to 1966 when the first Camaro coupe and convertible rolled off a Chevrolet assembly line.
From the outset, Camaro's muscle impressed, such as the original issue's optional SS350 package with a V8 engine spiked to 295 hp.
Other powerful versions followed through several decades until 1993 when a fourth generational edition emerged with more horsepower, the suspension tweaked and tuned, and additional cabin space for driver and passengers. That design with coupe and convertible variations extended to the 2002 terminal models representing 35 years of production.
The resurrection of Camaro for 2010 begins with GM's global RWD architecture, which was developed in Australia by Holden, the Down Under subsidiary of GM.
To compete in a global market, the overall length of the car has been limited to less than five meters -- or precisely at 190.4 inches.
Front suspension is multi-link, a dual-ball strut-type arrangement with direct-acting stabilizer bar and fully adjustable camber, caster and toe.
The 4.5-link independent rear suspension shows a unique L-shaped upper control arm which attaches to the knuckle at one end and has a ride bushing in the rear. It mounts on a sub-frame with double isolation to minimize vehicle body motions and dampen road imperfections.
Two suspension packages are offered: The FE2 sport tuning applies to Camaro with a V6 engine, while the firmer FE3 performance package works with the V8.
Steering, firm and precise due to a rack and pinion arrangement with speed-sensing variable assistance, feels direct and balanced.
And the four-wheel disc brakes are big, befitting a powerful performance car.
Camaro with a V6 engine carries 12.64-inch vented rotors up front and 12.4-inch rotors in the rear with single-piston alloy calipers front and rear.
Camaro with the V8 aboard has 14-inch vented front rotors and 14.4-inch rear rotors plus the Brembo four-piston fixed aluminum calipers.
The standard ABS (anti-lock brake system) is fully integrated with GM's high-tech StabiliTrak electronic stability control system.
All Camaro issues also get a load of passive safety equipment, including frontal air bags and seat-mounted side air bags for riders on the front seats and curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners above side windows for first and second rows.
Camaro for 2010 trims out in three models: Camaro LS, Camaro LT and Camaro SS.
Camaro LS and LT models tote a V6 engine borrowed from the CTS sports sedan by Cadillac.
The direct-injected 3.6-liter six with dual overhead cams and VVT (variable valve timing) generates 304 hp at 6400 rpm with the torque pushed to 273 lb-ft at 5200 rpm.
Standard transmission with the V6 is a smooth-to-shift six-speed manual gearbox by Aisin, the AY6.
Also available is an electronically controlled six-speed automatic, GM's Hydra-Matic 6L50, with driver shift control via paddles on the steering wheel.
Camaro SS pairs the Corvette LS3 6.2-liter V8 with the TR6060 Tremec six-speed manual.
To get a six-speed automatic shifter for Camaro SS, the engine shifts to GM's L99 version (400 hp at 5900 rpm and torque of 410 lb-ft at 4300 rpm) working with the Hydra-Matic 6L80 electronically controlled automatic overdrive transmission with torque converter clutch.
Camaro's stub-nosed hood stretches long and the body's beltline on flanks seems tall, with a roofline tapering down toward the rear and shaping window glass to triangles.
Front and rear overhangs have been whittled away and the big wheels on front and back corners convey an impression of strength and swift performance.
Despite its low-slung and muscular posture, Camaro provides a passenger compartment of sizable scale. Layout of the cabin consists of two big sport buckets in front and a back bench that's broad enough for three.
Chevrolet establishes MSRP figures for the 2010 Camaro beginning at $22,450 for Camaro LS with the V6. Camaro SS with the LS3 V8 runs up from $30,250.