[Ed. Note: Friend of Hooniverse Nick Gregson recently rented a Camaro SS and hit the California roads for a weekend adventure. Here is part one of his story]
It all started on an overcast Friday morning, not unlike any other June-Gloom overcast morning in coastal southern California when I showed up at the Long Beach Airport. There it sat in the lot, a freshly delivered 2010 Camaro SS, gleaming in an eye-grabbing shade of yellow. I had the choice between yellow and black, and being a Transformers fan, I naturally had to get the Bumblebee yellow one, though this one lacked the rally stripe package. At first glance, though, I was quite pleased with the looks of the thing in person. For something so full of sharp lines, the car looks remarkably sleek and its wide, muscular hipline is unmistakably American, and it’s obvious to anyone familiar with cars that this is the descendant of the ‘69 Camaro.
Sure, I realize by now hundreds of publications have driven the 2010 Camaro, but it hasn’t been reviewed from a hoon’s perspective. Shamefully, I’ve never driven a Camaro before, but this also meant that I approached the car with an open mind. The plan for the weekend was a roadtrip from Route 66 in Glendora to Sonoma’s wine country and back on as many windy strips of asphalt as possible. Ultimately, the journey would hit San Fransisco, Sonoma, St. Helena, Bodega Bay, Petaluma, Santa Cruz, Carmel, Big Sur and San Luis Obispo.
I knew a the car would stand out like a sore thumb in a classy place like Sonoma, but that’s the point of a muscle car like this – its whole purpose is to be obnoxious, make noise, go fast, be offensive and generally be used for tire-melting hoonage. Naturally, a bright yellow Camaro SS was the perfect vehicle to offend the wine snobs.
Once inside the car, the influence of the 1969 Camaro became immediately apparent. Dominating the cluster are two square housings with sunken in, round analog 180MPH speedometer and 8,000RPM tachometer gauges, with a square opening inset between the two larger housings, copied almost exactly from the 1969 Camaro. What I was excited to see was the cluster of four center-console mounted gauges, offering a readout of transmission temperature, voltage, oil pressure and oil temperature, laid out in a 4-square on the center console, continuing the 1969 theme.
The cockpit of the 2010 Camaro is a nice place to be, make no mistake about it. The model I had was equipped with the 4L60E 6-speed automatic transmission, fitted with the Tapshift paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Traditionally, I haven’t been a fan of so-called ‘flappy-paddle gearboxes’, but I figured I’d give this one a fair shot. The cabin is more or less comprised of plastic composites, yet it doesn’t feel flimsy. Everything in the cabin feels pretty solid to the touch, though somewhat annoyingly, nearly everything illuminates in GM Corporate Blue—not my favorite color for instrumentation, but then again that’s an opinion. After spending some time familiarizing myself with the car’s systems, I set off for Glendora.
Once I had the Camaro SS on the road, my first impression was just how overwhelming the torque produced by the car’s 6.2-liter LS3 V8 is. Even in its de-tuned form for automatic transmission models, the motor still belts out a mighty 400hp and 410lb/ft of sink-into-your-seat torque. Really, I can’t say enough about how fantastic the LS3 engine is—each push of the go-pedal is rewarded with a throaty growl that becomes a roar when you put your foot in it. The Camaro SS’ engine definitely delivers on the performance its looks and exhaust note promise.
Without much time to spare, I took the car onto the freeway and made tracks for Glendora, taking full advantage of the opportunity to put the pedal to the floor to merge. I discovered that in order to time shifts properly with the Tapshift system, shifts need to be made about 500RPM early in first and second gear to avoid hitting the limiter. Which brings me to my next point. Of course, being in a bright yellow Camaro SS when Ponch and John might be lurking about meant cutting the throttle before things climbed into triple digits. As I merged onto the freeway, one of the Camaro’s shortcomings became apparent—its thick C-pillars and tiny rear window that give it its muscular look also translates into a fairly large blind spot—I nearly merged into another car once or twice simply because I couldn’t see the other car when I looked over my shoulder through the tiny quarter window.
Once on the freeway and settled into a cruise, I was surprised to discover just how comfortable and docile the Camaro SS could be. In 6th gear, it only takes a nudge of the throttle to increase speed smoothly whenever necessary and cruises effortlessly. It was surprisingly quiet and its 4.5-link independent suspension setup smoothed out the bumps of LA’s poorly maintained freeway system surprisingly well. The Camaro always felt composed, its wide 245-series front and beefy 275-series rear tires wrapped around 20-inch wheels hold the road well, and despite 20” size and skinny sidewalls, the ride is not harsh. I was never jostled, even over expansion joints. The cruise control worked well, though in LA, Cruise Control isn’t a very useful feature due to the constantly changing flow of traffic. With a few minutes of cruising ahead of me, I had some time to spend on the car’s sound system. The model I tested featured the optional XM stereo, which sounds pretty good, considering that this isn’t a luxury car and delivered good bass response and clear sound quality.
Upon picking up my passenger from Glendora, CA, another of the Camaro’s weaknesses comes out. The trunk is tiny. Make no bones about it, it’s small—you aren’t fitting a body back there, that’s for sure. I managed to squeeze two small suitcases, a duffel and a case of water into it before I ran out of space. Despite Jeremy Clarkson’s assertion that the trunk of a Camaro is for dead hookers, you’d be hard pressed to get a body into the trunk.
As I left Glendora on the legendary Route 66, there was one more thing about the car that bothered me… because the window-line is so high on the 2010 Camaro, it isn’t comfortable to hang your arm out the window and really enjoy true arm-out-the-window muscle-car cruising. The drive into San Fransisco was pretty uneventful. Considering that I was Interstate 5, I was able to resist the temptation to put my foot in it and managed to pull 21mpg from the Camaro SS in 6th. San Fransisco was a challenge in this car, with such a long nose and small windshield, on the sharper inclines, it was hard to see where I was going.
Day two put me back into the leather upholstered driver’s seat, which is pretty comfortable despite the side bolsters being set pretty far apart. I chalk that up to the Camaro’s market, which I reckon, is baby boomers looking to recapture their youth. That’s fine for them, however it means that the bolsters are about two inches too far out for my frame. The drive to Sonoma was where I began to notice some of what makes the Camaro SS a proper muscle car. As we drove out of Sonoma and into some small town, I became more aware of just how much attention this car was draws, particularly because it’s yellow. Every time we passed a group of young boys, their jaws would hang open and they’d gawk at the car—it’s a great feeling for a gearhead, knowing that you were once that little boy gawking at hot cars (some of us still are) and now you’re the one driving the hot car. This is something that I have to say that the Mustang just doesn’t do. That, and the fact that the Mustang wasn’t one of the main characters in the new Transformers films may have something to do with it. Through my 1500+ miles in the Camaro, I probably saw well over 100 2010+ Mustangs, but saw fewer than 10 other Generation Five Camaros on the road—and each time the driver of the other Camaro would flash a thumbs up or flash their highbeams in acknowledgement. That’s not something that happens to you in a Mustang.
Part 2 will run on Monday
Photos by Nick Gregson, color correction Mike Inman