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2010 Camaro LT

Tim Odell August 16, 2010 Chevrolet Reviews, Reviews, Road Test Reviews 31 Comments

2010 Camaro Exterior (19)

There’s an advantage to being near the bottom end of the automotive media food chain. By the time most manufacturers let us at their press fleets, the big guys have long since established readers’ opinions for them. We’re not part of that crucial first round of reviews where manufacturers learn whether their latest products meet the grade. In the case of the 2010 Camaro LT (that’s V6 in Chevy-speak), that’s a very good thing.

Our Camaro in LT2 spec with the RS package came with all the exterior bits to make it look like an SS, save an SS badge. This means you get 20″ wheels (8″ wide in front, 9″ in the rear), halo HID headlights with LED running lights, a spoiler and an RS badge. It features a 3.6L DOHC direct-injected V6 making 304hp (the 2011 is rated at 312hp). To my formed-in-the-90s car brain, that’s an astounding amount of power for the base version of anything. Despite its hearty helping of horses, the 3.6L sports a woefully inadequate engine note for a sports car. It’s clear Chevy’s development team spent plenty of time tuning the exhaust note (which sounds great), but forgot that someone might care what the car sounded like from anywhere but behind. From all three other sides, you might as well be standing next to a generator.

2010 Camaro Exterior (26)

My tester came with a six speed auto controlled by wheel-mounted shifter buttons. The wheel features tab things marked with “+” and “-” that look like they’d be the tops of paddles, but the actual shifting is accomplished with disappointing plastic buttons mounted behind the spokes. The steering wheel’s transgressions continue as, with things dialed in for my rather average 5’11” height, it blocks the speedometer from 30 to 80mph. Furthermore, the only good way to grab it is an underhanded, bottom-of-the-wheel grab. Ok for cruising, but not so much for actual driving.

2010 Camaro Exterior (7)2010 Camaro Exterior (16)

Chevy calls this particular hue “Inferno Orange”. The color is so brash, “Asshole Orange” might’ve been a better name. Wherever you go, you’ll be “that asshole in the orange Camaro”. As in, “that asshole in the orange Camaro cut me off” or “that asshole in the orange Camaro bought me flowers”. For example, over a Sunday lunch I told a friend I’d taken the Camaro for a drive that morning, she asked “to where? Hooters?”

I didn’t go to Hooters, but instead went for a spirited drive through the mountains of the Angeles National Forest. In automotive media “spirited drive” is a euphemism for anything from a barely superlegal tour to a tail-out, brake scorching, tire melting, press fleet manager stressing-out affair.

I’ll come right out and say that I didn’t get anywhere near the Camaro’s limits. Actually, I can’t be too sure of that because the more you push it, the less the Camaro talks back. Last March, Jalopnik’s Wes Siler put it best when he said the Camaro confuses grip with handling.  And I believe he was talking about a stickshift SS when he said it. Removing over 100hp and the clutch doesn’t help. Between the wide stance and huge, grippy tires, there’s no sensation of speed, no feedback that you’re approaching the limits of grip. Maybe I just wasn’t going fast enough, not pushing it hard enough, but the fact is I didn’t want to.

2010 Camaro Exterior (21)

Unsure what the car would do if I overcooked it, I decided to keep things at medium-fast. At that speed—”fast” to people who don’t know what they’re doing behind the wheel—the Camaro’s quite pleasant. The brakes never fade or chatter and the ride’s neither too stiff nor too soft. The V6 has just enough power to get you going fast, but not so much that you can get yourself in trouble with your right foot. With the windows cracked on a pleasant summer morning it makes a decent touring car. Luckily the scenery of the recently scorched forest wasn’t too great, so my inability to see it through the gunslit windows wasn’t a drawback.

By now, it should be obvious I’m not a fan. Luckily for Chevy, I’m a terrible judge of a product’s mainstream commercial viability. Having raved about the 4Runner Trail and questioned the justification for the Limited’s existence, I’ve seen at least 8 times as many Limiteds as Trails since my review. With that in mind, rather than continue on a cranky diatribe, I’ll get on to what’s good about the Camaro and try to offer some constructive suggestions for improvement.

What’s Good:

  • I still absolutely love the shape. I spent an embarrassing amount of time just staring at how the roof transitions into those hips.
  • In gray powdercoat, these are among the best looking OEM wheels I’ve seen.
  • A couple of ergonomic issues aside, the interior’s not bad. Ours featured matching orange accents on the doors and seats which, while ridiculous, offered a great departure from the typical acres of black plastic.
  • The radio has a nifty feature: the presets are band-independent. #1 can be FM, #2 can be SiriusXm and #3  AM, or any combination thereof. While it takes a little getting used to, the ability to switch between presets without having to navigate an extra tier of menu is a nice touch when that damn Weezer song comes on again.
  • With this engine paired to these tires, it’s extremely unlikely Junior will manage to wrap it around a tree. While numb, the car always feels planted. No dive, no body roll. Just…flatness.
  • In keeping with the tires, the brakes felt up to spec for this engine and its likely buyers. They didn’t vibrate and barely smelled after my ham-footed foray through the forest.
  • Based on all of my griping, there may be hope for the mythical manual-equipped V6 with the bottom-spec 18″ steel wheels and lesser tires.

The To-Do List:

  • Keep everything the same, but scale it down by 20%. It’s unnecessarily big. I’m not suggesting that Chevy pull it down to a snug fit on my 150lb frame, but deciding not to comfortably accommodate the over-300 crowd might be an acceptable tradeoff. This doesn’t feel like a pony (compact) or muscle (midsize) car, it feels like the modern equivalent of a Personal Luxury Coupe, but without the usefully large back seat.
  • Add a glass roof option. The Mustang has this and probably doesn’t need it. The Camaro feels like a WWII pillbox. Letting some sky in would go far to alleviate this sensation. Obviously, the perpetually-rumored convertible would address this as well. T-tops are almost too obvious.
  • Work on that engine note. Add some headers, a different intake or one of those sound-tube things that over-insulated cars employ. Firing up a car like this (even with the V6) should excite the driver. As is, it’s remarkably disappointing.
  • The seats need rib and thigh bolsters and lumbar support. If my dad’s 1988 Mustang GT had these , there’s no excuse for their absence 22 years later.
  • Loan us an SS with a manual transmission, as I suspect 122hp and a third pedal might cause me to forget many of my complaints.

2010 Camaro Interior (2)2010 Camaro Interior (3)2010 Camaro Interior (8)

The biggest problem with the Camaro is that it’s not a proper pony or muscle car. By definition, both of those are still useful as cars in every day life. I could think of nothing more unpleasant than to drive a Camaro in LA’s worst traffic, the kind where seeing what’s going on down the road and engineering a quick lane change can make a big difference in forward progress. The terrible visibility makes preparing for lane changes an exercise in leaning one’s head all over the cabin, trying to see what’s over there. The high sills make avoiding parking lot curbs a challenge, to say nothing of parking within the lines. The back seat is basically useless and while the trunk isn’t short on space, its tiny opening will complicate the insertion of anything bigger than an overnight bag. Cross-shopped with anything around its $31,705 sticker price, this V6 Camaro would come off the most stylish, but the least livable.

In the end, my friend’s Hooters reference was a great choice. Alas, Hooters’ combination of mediocre grilled meats and tepidly scandalous outfits left over from a 1986 aerobics video has no appeal for me. If you want food, go to a good restaurant; if you want boobs, go to a strip joint where you can actually see them. Worst of all is dealing with others’ excitement at the idea that going there is some kind of naughty indulgence. And yet, they’ve built a thriving nationwide restaurant chain on this premise. The Camaro RS is the perfect car for the many Hooters customers who buy into the hype and don’t know what they’re missing. Who am I to judge if they’re happy?  Hell, the color even matches.

  • $31,705?

    Jesus.

    • SSurfer321

      Yeah but its got big shiny wheels, fancy headlights, a spoiler and a nifty little RS badge.

    • A 2011 stickshift V6 starts at like $23k and change, which…almost works for me. By far, the biggest dealbreaker on this thing is the size, which can't be fixed by options or the aftermarket.

      • unless you turn it into a convertible and open up the viewing area.

        • Nope, still too wide and long (don't say it)…with door sills that make it impossible to see the ground closer that 30 feet away.

          Seriously, I'd be elated to have like a shriner's version of this thing. It'd probably be just around right.

      • joshuman

        I was next to one this weekend and although I like the shape I agree that it is entirely too large. Our XC90 is 0.9 inches shorter and 0.8 inches narrower.

    • theeastbaykid

      Yikes. Just the other day I built out a new Mustang GT 5.0 using the online tool and came to $33k, which I semi-expected but still consider to be a big chunk of change. Sorry, but V6 automatic Camaro doesn't say $32k to me. Maybe $32 a day with a coupon from Hertz, but that shit better come in white.

      • Balestra

        Man, you guys in the US have it soooo CHEAP! Because of taxes and such, a Civic Si, sans HPE parts (not even an option) and only 3 colors to choose from STARTS at US$55,675! 55 thousand dollars! A Vette will set you back 125k before options, if you find a really nice importer, who's not trying to completely rip you off. I wish we had a Camaro here for 65K dollars. I'd totally rock it. It might not live up to the sporting expectations its voluptuous lines generate, but if a car makes me smile just by looking at it, just by knowing I am the one driving it, well… they've done their job haven't they? That's the whole point of a car like this. Just be happy we live in a world where such an option exists!

  • Mr_Biggles

    Entertaining review. An example of why I come here.

    I haven't sat in a Camaro for years, but many of the assumptions I've made based simply on exterior the size of the thing seem to be confirmed.

  • Number_Six

    You guys should call these reviews something like "What real people think", which is a very good thing.

    As for the car, I like a lot of new GM products (and I don't like GM), but I can't stand the new Camaro. The best thing about it is the awesome noise the V8 makes and the ridiculous eff-you audacity of the styling.

    • GM is starting to really pick up the pace with some of their offerings. I would happily drive any Cadillac and Buick product available right now. Chevy is coming around too…

      The Camaro is only really interesting with a V8 under the hood, or when tuned by an aftermarket company like the Hurst version I drove.

      • Number_Six

        I actually felt a twinge of excitement when I saw a new Regal on the road yesterday. Had I not been driving stick, drinking a coffee, texting, and verbally abusing my passenger, I'd have followed and got some snapshots. It looks great and I hope people get over the "Buick" thing.

        • I am eagerly anticipating a chance to spend time with the Regal.

  • "…it feels like the modern equivalent of a Personal Luxury Coupe, but without the usefully large back seat."

    Isn't it built on the same platform as the Holden Commodore and Statesman? That might explain the feel.

    You echoed my sentiments of the Camaro exactly. While it is a worthy challenger to the Mustang when you look at the power numbers (this example has nearly 100 hp over the anemic 4.0L in my 2008 V6 Mustang), it fails to inspire the same "fun factor". The suspension, while an IRS, is not well configured. The engine note, as you mentioned, is lacking. And the weight penalty combined with a difficult driving position and view make it less of a driver's car and more of a cruising car.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  • TurboBrick

    So ultimately, when considering between Camaro and Mustang, the difference is yet again that the Mustang is easier to live with?

    • ptschett

      I'm of the opinion that the Challenger is easier to live with yet, but I'm used to driving large cars after a dozen years in an MN12 T-bird.

  • Rust-MyEnemy

    I've never driven a Camaro, geography dictates I never will. But honestly I don't need to any more, thanks to Mad_Science. And unlike a Thunderbird SC or a Oldsmobile Trofeo, I never really had any desire to.

    I now know that this car drives pretty much exactly how it looks. Heavy, powerful and with an experience almost entirely tyre-flavoured. But with cars today being sold on image, where sinewy flanks that just about cover a gargantuan set of hoops are de rigeur, I'm not surprised.

    It's a major bugbear of mine. On the E-Class Coupe for example there is grip galore, the car will seemingly hang on in the corner until the wind and rain erode the road to nothing. But it's a hollow, digital sensation, there's either grip (State 1) or none (State 0), in which case you're royally screwed 'cos the steering ain't remotely interested in offering any preventative advice.

    If the General can gather the cojones to put out a steel-rimmed "Essence of Camaro" unicorn we can then get some idea how much talent that chassis has beyond all that rubber. And that's something I'll want to drive myself, not just read about.

    • The E-Class coupe is a muscle car…a fancy muscle car, but a muscle car nonetheless…

      • Or in E220CDi configuration, a muscle car with a severe case of asthma. The 500 sounds evil though, which makes up for a whole lot.

          • I first read that review before I sorted myself out with Hooniverse commenting privelages, and I always find it fascinating to see how a given model differs worldwide. The E550 in your test is equivalent of our E500, and we would call your test car a "weird spec" being that it was an SE with the handling package. I sell Mercs for a living over here, we've only taken one E500 order, a Sport Convertible (5.5 V8s aren't popular where petrol is £1.20 a litre.)

            The spec that everyone wants here is E350 CDi Sport, in obsidian black with alpaca grey leather. For a diesel it's remarkably refined, but for me more of a long-distance GT (or personal coupe) than luxury muscle car. I keep that term reserved for the CL600 or 65. They bathe you in soft leather before silently wupping a Ferarris' ass at the lights.

  • Slow Joe Crow

    Funny, the shape is still the thing I like the least, along with the mailslot sized trunk opening. To me the greenhouse seems ridiculously squashed and the rear fenders are grotesquely exaggerated, like a DUB caricature of a 69 Camaro. The beauty of the original Camaro's shape was the way it looked neat and balanced and compact, where the new Camaro looks overdone and bloated. The Challenger does a much better job of capturing the proportions of the original and the Mustang still beats both of them at capturing the look of a classic pony car while still being a useful daily driver. Of course I am unlikely to buy any of them, my Eurocentric youth will push me towards a WRX or something practical and a new motorcycle.

    • I've always thought the styling of the Camaro looked like it was just trying too hard. Even the behemoth of a Challenger has styling that isn't over-wrought and in your face. The Camaro, on the other hand, just looks like a 40-year-old guy hanging out at a college bar with a fauxhawk.

      • To me the Camaro's styling works, but only in that "subtlety be damned" over the top kind of way. Like an amply endowed woman going about her day in a low-cut shirt or a muscled-up dude in clothes he could rip by flexing. The problem comes when we're talking about the totally not fast V6 automatic, that can't even remotely live up to its looks.

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        "…a 40-year-old guy hanging out at a college bar with a fauxhawk."

        This is basically my ex's new boyfriend.

        No wonder I prefer the Mustang. That and the sequential rear turn signals.

  • Age_of_Aerostar

    You compared this "Inferno Orange" to a Hooters…. which is funny to me, because my (appropriately colored) Mustang has been compared to a Waffle House.

  • MrHowser

    My boss just bought a V6 Camaro, with the steelies, and I believe it's a stick. A co-worker just bought a 2011 Mustang, stick, with the performance pack. Both have received endless ribbing for their secretary's cars. I keep quiet about the fact that I think I would have happily chosen either of theirs over their $40k+ V8 brethren.

  • From_a_Buick_6

    $31,750 for a Camaro V6? I realize it's loaded and an automatic, but that's ridiculous. And I don't think the Chevy dealers are budging much on pricing.

    I just paid about $32k after rebates for a 2011 Mustang GT Premium stick-shift. And that's after my local Ford dealer did everything in their power to rip me off. Aside from the subjective matter of styling, the Mustang beats the pants of the Camaro in every possible way, V6 or V8.

    • ptschett

      Congrats on the new car! Sounds like a nice price.

  • Balestra

    Having already posted above I'm only gonna say that I absolutely love this car and yes it might be flawed and yes I'm a fool but I want one. Part for the middle-finger-factor, part for the rock and roll soundtrack the looks invoke in me, particularly in Cyber gray and Inferno orange. Bad to the Bone would certainly be amongst the first to play as would Stray Cat's Strut (the live version, with the pink panther theme). I'm rambling but you get the picture. If a car makes me feel this way, it already won its share, because passion for cars is what drives me and I believe it's ditto for you guys.

    • In a way, I envy your ability to maintain enthusiasm for such a car.

      With enough time and exposure, you'll eventually become bitter and jaded like the rest of us, so enjoy it while you can.

      Also: I owe you an email…