Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Short Take: 2010 Camaro SS

...or, the fastest cave I've ever driven.

The Camaro SS was one of the myriad of vehicles that were brought out to play at the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience event held by the RM Automotive Press. The Camaro SS is GM's latest entry into the decades-old pony-car race often dominated by Ford's Mustang.

The new Camaro is based on the Holden division (GM's Australian arm) designed Zeta rear-drive platform. While GM did spend significant resources customizing the Zeta platform to maintain the Camaro concept's neo-60's look (witness the move of the front axle line to give the long hood/short deck look). The downside was the weight inherent with a platform that was intended for 5-seat mid-sized sedans and El Camino-esqe 'Utes. This leaves the Camaro with a 400 lb disadvantage to the Mustang.

On the open road, the Camaro accelerates smartly with plenty of the classic V-8 rumble from it's 6.2l small block. However, open roads during the RMDE were mostly straight as an arrow and flat as a pancake (if you haven't been out this way, this portion of Colorado looks a bit too much like Kansas and Nebraska for a sporty car like the Camaro). On the up-side, this did give the the opportunity to take in the interior.

This Camaro was packing the color-matched accents inside - giving a narrow swath of shiny, body-colored plastic in the dash that wraps into a broad wing of color in each door. It is certainly what the all-black plastic needed to brighten the mood, though the overall feeling is still a bit cave-like - more below.

On the down-side, is a climate control pod that looks just like the concept and shows exactly why most cars don't have concept car controls. An owner would learn where things are located, but its combo of toggles, rotating trim rings, etc. are a bit much to master in a few minutes unless you have a long empty road ahead and can take your eyes off the road for the several seconds to find what you want.

Audio is in old-school (not 60's, think early 90's) blue-green displays. The graphics are a bit chunky and pixelated - but do the job - they just detract from the experience a bit.

Once you turn your attention back to the outside world, you'll find a great expanse of hood framing the world in front of you - just as a Camaro should. Just don't expect to see much out the sides or back. To give the classic look with a modern, slammed, slant - GM has given both a low roof and high doors that leaves you with gun-slit tall side glass. If you're claustrophobic - look elsewhere.

However, this likely won't matter to those that lust after the new Camaro (witness how it has been outselling its Mustang competition for most of the months it has been on sale) and if you have to have some light and air - wait a few months for the debut of the upcoming convertible.

It's just a shame that style and price-point have caused the overall experience to suffer. Especially since this is arguably the best looking pony on the market. The Camaro SS is oh-so-close to being the perfect pony - maybe after an interior freshening or the next-gen, Alpha based car, they'll have it just right.

Ultimately, the new Camaro is a great car to be seen in - but not one that you might enjoy living with all the time.

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