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Motoring: One S for sexy, another for speed

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | December 7th, 2009

Earlier this year, when I testdrove the new Chevrolet Camaro. Saying that I was less than impressed is more than an understatement. Maybe it was because the car I drove was the V6 model, or maybe because it was an automatic - either way, at the end of “our” drive, we were more fateful foes than star-crossed lovers.

Fast forward to present time, and what a difference a V8 with a manual gearbox can make! After spending a week with the new and improved version, one could say that I had fallen in love…with a set of wheels.

The reasons for my affection start off with this car's looks. A perfect take on the classic late 60s Camaro, the new SS has just the right styling touches to modernize it. Though the car's appearance was never an issue when it came to the prior model, now from every angle this car is gorgeous to behold.

The Chevy's styling does come with a price though because the “low roof look” also means very little headroom. Further, due to structural rigidity issues encountered throughout its manufacturing, the Camaro's trunk opening was compromised, and so putting anything in it is a big squeeze. However, one should remember that practicality in such cars is not their main priority; if it looks good and goes well it will make their owners happy.

Accordingly, I have already mentioned that it indeed looks great, and thanks to its 426hp, 6.2- litre V8, the SS goes well too (base engine is a 3.6-litre, V6 that produces 304hp).

Seriously one quick car, this Camaro is fast enough to put a huge smile on anyone's face as soon as they stand on its throttle. To put its performance into numbers, it will sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds, as a result of its macho six-speed manual gearbox that, in my view, has one of the nicest shift knobs in the business. If you keep its right pedal buried, it will sail past 260 km/h, making it as fast as some Porsches.

Nothing compares to a big American V8 at full song, and the Camaro SS is no exception to this rule. On full-bore acceleration runs it produces 81.8 decibels; the loudest rock concerts, by comparison, produce 90. So, if you like your cars to be loud, you'll love this little Cammy; your neighbours however, might not share this same passion.

One feature I particularly liked was the quickness and responsiveness of this Chevy's engine. At pretty much any speed, in any gear, once you put your foot down this car instantly picked up pace. Its lightning-fast throttle response means that YOU can make this car dance to YOUR beat. So, when you turn its three-stage traction control off (you can have it on, off, or in competitive mode), you can make this vehicle drift very easily and impressively, it is very controllable.

For those of you who've ever tried to drift in a Challenger or Mustang, you'll know that when they finally regain grip, both cars lurch forward so badly, you'd think they were deliberately trying to throw you out their side windows. The Camaro, thanks to its fullyindependent suspension, drifts much more smoothly, and transitions back to normal driving, without the addition of drama. So, if you're a bit of a hooligan, you will definitely love this car. On the other hand, if you prefer carving up twisty tarmac, then I suggest you look elsewhere.

Because of its size and less than precise steering, the new Camaro does not like sharp corners, or rapid changes in direction. But, if it handled like a BMW, it simply wouldn't be a muscle car. The same view for better or for worse could be applied to its interior.

Though the Camaro SS has been designed to act as a modern take on its classic predecessor, when it comes to its interior, sadly keeping with the muscle car tradition makes it both look and feel cheap. The biggest irritant interior-wise overall has to be the ill-positioned door handles.

It is fast. It is loud. It looks great, and is quite entertaining to drive. Sure it's not spacious, practical or fuel-efficient (I averaged a mere 16.8-litres/100km in my week), but it is still a fun car, especially for the price. While the base version can be yours for $26,995, my almost-loaded tester, with the V8, was worth an estimated $45,000.

Is this the best car this sort of money can buy? No, but after spending a week bonding with this car I would consider bidding for her keys.
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