The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro: Bitchin’ Again

25 Aug

Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, the Chevrolet Camaro was something of a joke. We Westchester kids used to associate the Camaro with Long Island Guidos doing three-lane sweeps in heavy traffic. This was a differently-badged Trans Am, belonging in a tongue-in-cheek Burt Reynolds road movies than a serious sports car.

It hadn’t always been that way.

The original Camaro was GM’s response to the hugely popular Ford Mustang. Introduced as a ’67 model, it was a big, bad-ass muscle car, but regrettably morphed through the years into something more closely resembling a cut-rate Corvette than a coupe. Just think IROC-Z and the jokes about what “IROC” stood for. Yeah.

In 2002, GM killed the Camaro off entirely.

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But like the retro Mustang and Challenger, GM joined the muscle car redux bandwagon last year with the 2010 Camaro. Closely resembling the original from ’67, the new version comes available in a cool-looking V6, or a truly epic V8. The V6 offers 312HP and 29 MPG highway, and starts just north of $22k. That’s not too shabby at all, and with rear wheel drive, Stabilitrak stability control, traction control, an independent rear suspension, and 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS standard, it’s a car that can handle the power in normal driving conditions.

Last week, West-Herr Chevy on Southwestern Boulevard in Orchard Park lent me a maroon Camaro SS. The V8, like the V6, comes standard with RWD, stability & traction control, 4-wheel ABS, an independent rear suspension, and all that good stuff. The V8, however, adds a rear limited-slip differential. Both engines come standard with a 6-speed manual gearbox – significant because it’s not that easy to get an affordable car with a V8 driving the rear wheels enabling you to row your own gears.

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The major difference between the V6 and the V8 is, naturally, the powertrain. Because 312HP is clearly inadequate, the V8 bumps you up to a massive 426 HP. The car I drove had GM’s new 6 speed automatic gearbox with manual shifting available through buttons on the back of the steering wheel (the “paddle” is for show). Given the fact that I only had a couple of hours to play with this car, I was lucky to have an automatic because the power from that engine is so intense, and comes on so quickly, that I suspect there would have been a bit of a learning curve – although the manual comes with launch control.

The car’s interior is minimalist and neat. It has everything the driver needs within close proximity, together with radio and cruise controls on the steering wheel. The seats are comfortable, and keep the driver pinned in one position – quite necessary when throwing a very fast car through anything resembling curves. The rear seat was smallish and looked more appropriate for kids than adults. The rear seat folds in one piece, expanding the cargo space of the smallish trunk. It’s quite clear that this vehicle is built for performance and looks over mere utility. And that’s a good thing, because its performance is phenomenal.

Long gone are the days when American carmakers built and sold crap and got away with it. The Camaro’s engine is growly and instantly responsive. Put the pedal down, and it shoots you to 80 MPH before you even realize what happened. The brakes – in the SS you’ve got a set of 4 vented Brembo brakes – are equally responsive, quickly bringing 400+ horses to a safe stop with no panicking. The Camaro shares this particular V8 engine in the SS with its cousin, the Corvette.

Driving around the Southtowns, this car got a lot of looks. One guy crossing the street in front of me in downtown Hamburg mouthed, “that’s sweet” whilst staring at the car’s front end. The car’s handling is tight, and the suspension is firm without being harsh. The driver’s position is quite comfortable, although the narrow windows take a little getting used to. Because of the wide C-pillars, there are some blind spot issues on the rear passenger side. But this car isn’t made for convenience – it’s made to go from 0-60 in 4.6 electrifying seconds.

Amazingly enough, the top-of-the-line Camaro 2SS stickers at just under $35,000. The Corvette with the same damn engine costs $15,000 more.

The Camaro is a supercar for the everyman. It has to be driven to be appreciated.

Check it out at West Herr Chevrolet in Hamburg and Orchard Park.

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18 Responses to “The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro: Bitchin’ Again”

  1. Christopher Byrd August 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    Meeeeeeeeeee want!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Mark Dashner August 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    So nice to see! Unfortunately my second car was was a 1981 Camaro. T-tops. It may have been a joke but I still liked it. As I think back to it, it never had the power I thought it should and seemed heavy. Maybe it did suck I just didn’t know any better.

  3. Ward August 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    Clarkson would like this ride; Hammond would not.
    Your operator’s license would not last two weeks in this thing, n’est ce pas?

    • Alan Bedenko August 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm #

      Other way around.

      Hammond loves muscle cars. Clarkson hates American cars, regardless of their power.

      • Ward August 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

        Jezza was pretty giggly over the ‘Vette–while sort of acknowledging that much of its driving fun came from the mystery of whether one would survive the encounter.

  4. kris August 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    Hate to break it to you BP, but you are in camaro country & the kids you were making fun of from Westchester could have easily been from here. My brother had a z28 and I would guess that 1/3 of the kids that had cars in high school had some form of camaro. This was in the eighties – I know – we are years behind here. I did grow up in the shadow of the Chevy plant which explains a lot. I still love to see the old ones driving around. And I have helped push many out of snowbanks.

    • Alan Bedenko August 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

      No, they were mostly kids from Long Island. Sometimes New Rochelle.

  5. dan August 24, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    Bitchin’ Camaro, Bitchin’ Camaro!

    Donuts on your lawn

    Bitchin’ Camaro, Bitchin’ Camaro!

    Tony Orlando and Dawn

  6. Hank August 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    I’ve driven one. They’re BAAAAD. About time Chevy put a muscle car back in the lineup that is within the grasp of the working man. Harley Davidson could take a lesson on this one. I wanted to buy my wife one, but she’s always been a Mustang fan. I drove the new Mustang Convert and I believe the Camaro to be an all around better ride. Still prefer my 65 Corvair Monza with the 4 speed manual though. same 4 wheel suspension that the Corvette of that era had.

  7. STEEL August 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    Ford still wants its Mustang plans back

  8. Mikey August 24, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    If Chevy can build a better Mustang.. what’s wrong with that? More power to them. The Camaro bests the Mustang on handling simply because it rides on a more modern platform.

    I’ve heard the 300 HP V6 is equally impressive and gets much better MPGs. Plus, it’s the base engine.

  9. BobbyCat August 24, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    There is still a nostalgic pull to these muscle cars. I used to have an SS Camaro and it went pretty good.
    But for those folk on a budget who feel the need for speed and can’t lay out 20 or 30k, they can spend a few K on a used go-fast bike that will leave these muscle cars in the dust. Many of them have governors that hold the top under 180 or so. (Such a shame) But if you like a machine that will accelerate from 30 to 100 in about 3 seconds – and no one says you actually have to do it – look for a sport bike in Craigs List. But hang on tight.

  10. sconnors August 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    The Mustang, Camaro and Charger have shitty plastic interiors and disappoint me…. that said The New Charger is by far more car for your money.

  11. STEEL August 31, 2010 at 12:00 am #

    Hmm,  You do a camaero story and then poof a camero add appears on your site soon after.  Didn’t you harp on BRO for that kinda thing back in the day.  🙂

    • Marc Odien August 31, 2010 at 12:26 am #

      Did you just wake up? We had this conversation a few weeks ago

    • Alan Bedenko August 31, 2010 at 5:48 am #

      Steel – we go to great lengths to disclose the fact that, while the reviews reflect my opinion of the cars I review, the cars and the reviews themselves are paid for by West Herr. The posts are categorized as paid spots and we’ve been quite transparent about that since the day the Fiesta review came out.

  12. STEEL August 31, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Marc, That Fiesta was too ugly for me to read that add.

    Alan, awh shucks – your addvert-omentary looks so much like your regular content I was fooled into thinking it was just you giving your opinion “free”ly. My bad -its just that your history of venomous ranting on this kind of thing is just throwing me for a loop here.

    Still I do want to go see that car in person. Do I have to do it at West Herr?

  13. STEEL August 31, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    I will say though Pundit, you are very good in the video version. Professional – and I mean it.

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