Sting in the Tail

The Chevrolet Camaro gained much notoriety ‘playing’ the Bumblebee in the Transformer movies and I for one was keen to see how this American icon stacked up now that HSV are converting the Camaro to right hand drive in their Clayton South facility in Victoria.

The Chevy Camaro 2SS is a 2+2 coupe with a whopping 6.2 litre naturally aspirated V8 engine that produces 339kW (same as the 5.0 litre V8 Mustang) and 617Nm of torque (61Nm more than the Mustang). The official combined fuel economy is 13l/100km for the automatic 2SS and for my week of running this modern muscle car I averaged 15l/100km, slightly less than my as tested figures for the Mustang (15.3l/100km).

When you plant your right foot hard there is decent straight line acceleration thanks to that monster V8, but the tyres struggle to put the power down. In ‘manual’ gearbox mode the Camaro will hold your chosen gear, but in auto mode it quickly moves up the 10-speed gear box. So if you arrive at a corner at speed and go to change down with the wheel-mounted gear shifters you will discover you are in a higher gear than expected and have a few more cogs to pull down through before you can attack the corner.

The Camaro has four drive modes; Tour, Sport, Track and Snow/Ice. I spent most of my time in Sport mode as the ride was OK and you also got more noise out of the exhaust system, but this is even louder in Track mode! The engine note is a really nice V8 growl and there are amusing burbles and pops on downshifting to make you smile.

The steering is weighted nicely, but leather wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel feels a bit small in diameter to me. It is heated though for cold winter morning driving like what we have been having in Sydney lately.

The driver’s dash is a combination of digital and analogue dials; analogue for taco and speedo and digital for engine temps, fuel and battery. Don’t be alarmed when you look at the engine temps though, they are displayed in Fahrenheit not Celsius. Between the two analogue dials is a configurable digital readout which gives fuel economy info, tyre pressure levels, remaining oil life and trip info. It also shows the total engine hours (my car was 135 hours) with the total hours at idle (my car was 52 hours). I was told when I collected the Camaro that it needs to be warmed up before use otherwise the engine can be a bit lumpy.

I diligently did this each morning before heading off and discovered that there is no ‘quiet start’ option on the exhaust, meaning that you may not be very popular with your neighbours if you were starting up the Camaro at 5.30am so you could warm it up before you headed off.

There are no ‘toys’ to use like those available on the Mustang like drag racing start countdown etc. But the driver does get adjustable head-up display that can be configured with just speedo, speedo and device info or speedo with rpm and G meter.

The one apprehension I had about the Camaro before I drove it was the quality of the interior finish thanks to the need for the conversion; I shouldn’t have because the cabin design is really nice and a bit classier than the Mustang, I think.

The leather-trimmed front seats are heated and cooled, and have 8-way power adjustment with two memory positions for the driver and none for the passenger. The seats are comfortable, but do not offer much lateral support to really hold you tightly into place.

The infotainment system does not have sat nav, but relies on Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, which comes standard. You do get a nine speaker BOSE sound system to listen to your music via Bluetooth or AM/FM radio. For connecting/charging your devices there are two USB ports under the arm rest and one 12V outlet at the front of the centre console. There are ambient lighting strips in the cabin and you get 16 solid colour choices, eight dual colour options or the colour can be linked to your drive mode selected.

There is minimal cabin storage with only a shallow/small door cubby and not much space under arm rest that barely fitted my sunglasses. You will notice the arm rest is on the wrong side for the driver to access, which is the only obvious sign that a conversion has been done.

The rear seat has two ISOFIX/two rear tether child seat restraint points, I use a booster seat for my daughter and that fitted OK, but fitting a full sized child seat would be a challenge. It would also be hard lifting a small child into the back as you have to step over the front seat belt to get into the back. There are no cup holders or air vents for back seat passengers and like the Mustang there is not enough room for adults to sit back there. On the upside though, at least your children’s head is under the roof rather than the rear screen like in the Mustang.

The boot is a good size and would fit the weekly shop and a stroller, but the design is awkward. The boot is deep and the opening is narrow, so it is hard the manoeuvre shopping bags/large items into it. Like the Jag F-TYPE SVR the boot has an emergency release latch in the boot and I still wonder why this is something that is fitted to cars?

To be honest, I didn’t like the look of the Camaro in pictures, but in the flesh the angular nature of the styling was very appealing, especially in black! I really liked the “flow-tie” open bow-tie grille emblem, the way the Camaro lettering lit up on the door sill and the air extractor in the centre of the bonnet, which pulls under-hood air from the engine compartment to assist with cooling and aerodynamics.

The Rear Camera Mirror is an innovative enhancement to the 2SS Camaro offering the driver a less obstructed view of the world behind them. When activated, the mirror provides a wide view without the obstruction of headrests, C-pillars, rear seat passengers or cargo. Other safety features on the Camaro include blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, forward collision warning, rear park assist with a standard rear view camera. You get eight airbags including front, side, curtain and knee, but the Camaro does not have an ANCAP safety rating. The Camaro comes with a three year / 100,000 km warranty and three years roadside assistance. The service intervals are every nine months or 12,000km whichever comes first.

For most Australians the combination of a V8 and a car with brutish looks is enough to make us happy, so why then is the popularity of the Camaro so much less than its Ford rival? One reason is the price; as tested my Camaro was $90,040 for the automatic with metallic paint and that’s $23,000 more than the equivalent Ford Mustang I drove a few months ago and that is the sting in the tail of this bumblebee. But there is much to like about the Camaro and it’s worth a visit your preferred HSV dealer to test drive the Camaro 2SS or the more powerful ZL1 for yourself.   

Pros Cons
The charismatic V8 engine It’s more than $20k more expensive than the Ford Mustang
The interior finish No ‘toys’ like drag race starting graphics
The American muscle car design features Engine needs to be warmed up before use

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.