Tag Archives: V8

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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