The obvious comparisons surrounding the all-new 2010 Chevrolet Camaro pit the reconstituted pony car against the Mustang and Challenger. Well duh. I submit, however, that the obvious overlooks something right before your eyes; a Camaro versus Camaro face off. Our premise is this: the most important decision regarding the purchase of a new Camaro does not pit the Chevy against Ford or Dodge, but against itself fitted with either the V-6 or the V-8. After spending hours behind the wheels of Camaros with each of the four available powertrains, this new car revealed two distinct personalities based solely on cylinder count.
Since General Motors first showed the Camaro Concept in January 2006, we’ve known something about which motors would power the reconstituted icon. At first, everybody focused on the V-8, and that only stands to reason because past V-6 Camaros tended to be eminently forgettable. At best, such cars were dismissed as mere “secretary cars.” (For younger readers, this was a blatantly derogatory descriptor with roots in a time when executives had low-wage earning female secretaries compared to today’s better-paid, gender-neutral, administrative assistants. In other words, V-6 Camaros used to be cheap chick cars).
This classification for the 2010 V-6 Camaro would be incorrect. New Camaro LS and LT editions use the 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6 first seen in the Cadillac CTS. But even though this all-aluminum V-6 produces V-8 levels of power (304 horsepower), its EPA highway fuel economy bests many four-cylinder cars; 29 mpg.
The V-6’s Personalities
The above numbers explain something of the new Camaro’s personality, but they don’t fully describe the dynamic differences between the V-6 and V-8 editions. Camaros running the V-6 and automatic come across as being an accessible sports car for people who think a clutch is a small purse. The engine’s lively response works well with the six-speed automatic. Enthusiasts may find the combination benign, but the Camaro chassis helps make the complete package enjoyable. The new suspension was developed by GM’s Australian Holden group, the same team that developed the Pontiac G8.
It’s buttoned up. While Ford has elevated the 2010 Mustang’s ride using a refined live rear axle, the Camaro’s independent rear suspension simply drives better, smoother, and with less twitchiness. Drivers who know what a third pedal is will vastly prefer the V-6/ six-speed manual combo.
The V-8 Attitude
Be warned, torque is an addictive drug, so use with caution. Under its influence you’ll be drawn to deserted cul de sacs to perform ruckus doughnuts that produce so much tire smoke that squirrels will be smoked out from surrounding trees.
The engine is so powerful that once the tires break loose, the tach swings toward the red faster than you can say, “We should leave now.” The power difference between the Camaro’s two 6.2-liter V-8s isn’t something most drivers will notice. Only the most experienced backsides can pick out a 26 horsepower increase when it accounts for only a six-percent increase, especially when a torque converter helps mask the difference.
Practically, there’s more to the Camaro that what’s under the hood. The total Camaro experience must recognize the car’s visual magnetism and the fact that it’s a 2+2. Those who have experienced the 2010 Mustang might find the Camaro’s interior lacking because the Ford’s offers more interesting style and detailing along with genuinely top-flight leathers with the premium interior package. Certain of Camaro’s cues, like the twin-pod gauges are interesting, but the door panels and the balance of the dash are dull. One could hypothesize that the interior design team ran out of budget after the gauge package was finished.
Overall, the examples we drove were higher quality than any production Camaro that’s ever turned a wheel.
Memories are a funny thing. They color life’s past, tending to make the good better or the bad even worse.