When we went to Monterey, CA this summer for the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance we had quite a fiasco with delays on our flight out. Because of this, when we got to the car rental desk, we found the Ford Fusion we had reserved was no longer available. They were also out of lower level economy cars too, so we decided to pay a bit more money and have a Chevy Camaro with a 300hp V6. I had a few days with the car, and got to experience it in a variety of situations. Our hotel was about an hour drive from Monterey on the open highway, and there were plenty of nice twisty roads to drive once we got there. While the Camaro was obviously less of a thrill than some of the supercars we would be driving at the event, it managed to hold its own quite well, and I came away from the trip very impressed with it.
The Camaro has a modern retro look, one that is clearly a nod back to the good old days but also fits just fine in the 21st century. The interior has a modern look to it as well, with lots of ambient lighting in nifty colors. All of this style for style sake does create some issues with the ergonomics though. The view is very tight out of the cabin, and there are some decent blind spots in the way when you are merging. The steering wheel was a bit thin for my taste at first, but I got used to it in time. The trunk also has a small opening that could pose a problem for larger objects, but if you can get stuff into it there is a lot of space to work with. None of these issues were bad enough that I couldn’t live with them though, just worth mentioning briefly.
On the road the Camaro does not feel like a traditional American car, and I mean that in a good way. It is nice and sturdy on the road, with good response from the steering, chassis, and throttle, when called upon. It does not have that mushy feeling that has plagued so many cars from our country, in fact I would almost say that it feels European. In fact much of the car comes from Australia, so that may have something to do with it. The Camaro is a big car though, and you do feel its heft and large proportions in tighter areas, however it handles all of this very well.
On our daily highway stints between Monetery and the hotel the Camaro proved to be quite a decent machine with many aspects of a Grand Tourer. Its 3.6L V6 delivers 300hp and offers a lot of mid range grunt. This made merging quite easy, and flat out it was actually pretty quick despite its high weight. Cruising at 80-90mph the Camaro felt solid like a German car, its chassis inspiring confidence in the car’s ability at speed. Its seats were quite comfortable too with good posture, and there was plenty of room to stretch out in the cabin (on advantage of its large size). As a fast lane cruiser the Camaro delivers.
I also must praise the car’s transmission. Although it was automatic, there was an effective manual mode controlled by buttons behind the steering wheel. It was situated like a paddle shift car with up shift on the right and down shift on the left. Usually such transmissions are clumsy and take a few seconds to process a command, but this transmission was immediately responsive. This good response added greatly to the driving experience of the Camaro, especially on the more fun roads in the mountains.
Around the Monterey area there are a lot of mountains with epic, twisting roads. Pebble Beach itself is also filled with amazing twists of asphalt, so there were many times during our driving that handling would come into play. This is where the Camaro impressed me the most because it is extremely well composed through corners. Considering the car’s large proportions and weight as well, and it is clear that GM has outdone themselves a few times over from past cars. The Camaro inspires confidence when entering a corner, and lets you know exactly what it is doing as the g-forces rise. I left the traction control on for most of the hard stuff because I didn’t want to fly off of a mountain, but I can say that GM’s system does work pretty smoothly when regulating power delivery. On some of the winding mountain roads the Camaro was a blast to drive quickly. It felt right in its element, and we wound up having to stop and let slower cars ahead of us move up the road a ways before continuing the fun.
GM has done one hell of a job on the dynamics of the current Camaro and I am happy to say that it drives properly well in a variety of situations. There is a lot of style for style sake with it too, that can be a good or bad thing depending on your tastes, but it does mean a few ergonomic issues here and there. Overall though the Camaro was a way better car than I had expected it to be going in, and a way, way, better car than I had thought I would’ve been renting for that trip. I would surely rent another one, and I would recommend one for friends of mine to buy for sure. Personally though, while I liked it a lot, I could never buy a “Muscle Car” without a V8 under the hood. That is just a personal stigma of mine though, and for anyone else the V6 Camaro is a very solid option to consider in its class. It is more of a real sports car than it might seem on the surface.
Primary Function: Performance: 1……. performed well in all ways….. but just well.
Secondary Functions: Luxury (1), Practicality(1), MPG(2): 1.5
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 1
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 7.5/10