Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan
Despite harbouring a mammoth push-rod V8 under its perky nose, the Chevrolet Camaro was never built to howl down the streets boasting about it's grandiose exhaust like an F-Type or a Maserati. Instead of an overly rambunctious exhaust note, it commands the streets with an assertive presence that reflects a muscle car heritage stretching back more than 45 years. The Camaro is a car that doesn't need flared fenders or a planetary spoiler to show that it's fast, nor does it look outlandish or overly dramatic. It is what it is: a bewilderingly quick, yet affordable modern-day muscle car.
I've always had a special place in my heart for muscle cars. Catching a glimpse of a 1970's Pontiac Firebird on the road will always tug on my heart strings, but none does it better than the Camaro. The 1967 Chevrolet Camaro will always be my favourite pony, it had such character and poise, and spawned one of America's greatest car rivalries with the Ford Mustang. So you can only imagine my excitement when I was handed the keys to the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible - palpitations and an incredibly itchy right foot. Frankly, I must be one of the only Asians driving a Camaro in Toronto. I can't seem to shake off all the raised eyebrows and "car-doesn't-match-driver" glares, with the roof down especially - almost the same surprise as seeing a right-hand-drive car in Canada. I'm just glad the car wasn't painted in yellow or I'd be adding "Bumblebee" to my list of nicknames. But public opinion aside, I must say, this topless pony couldn't have arrived in my garage at a better time - beautiful autumn scenery and uncommonly low gas prices. Over the course of a week, I explore the Camaro's usability as an everyday driver and it's unparalleled muscle car performance.
Motor Trend just named the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 their Best Driver's Car of the Year, but don't mistake that for the car we're testing here today. Ours instead is the 2SS model that preps up the Camaro with GM's L99 6.2-litre SFI V8 engine that carries 400 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque on tap. We have at our disposal a 6-speed automatic transmission that is somewhat archaic in today's standards. The gear shifts are far from velvety and would highly benefit from a dual-clutch setup or more gears to improve fuel economy. Paddle shifters are mounted behind the wheel for quick and easy shifts, but don't get confused with the "M" gear on the center shifter, it actually means Sport mode.
Alternatively, if you opt for the 6-speed manual the Camaro receives the LS3 engine instead of the L99 and delivers 26 more horsepower and 10 lb-ft more torque. One can never have too much power, but one feature not found in the LS3 is Active Fuel Management, a function that shuts off half the engine cylinders under light-load conditions to save fuel.
At low speeds the Camaro actually feels civilized, quiet, and won't wake up the neighbours in the middle of the night - a factor that some buyers actually look for. Low end torque is bountiful, and though it's not as instantaneous as I'd like it to be, the Camaro manages to cover the ground at a disarming pace. When you've had enough of being a good civilian, explore the bottom half of the gas pedal and experience the power build and swell until it's ready to explode with a deep baritone roar that echoes throughout the lightly insulated cabin. The exhaust starts to come alive once your needle passes the 3500 RPM marker, and the torque will peak around 4300, meaning you really have to milk this push-rod to fully exploit its capabilities.
The bald truth is that I'm actually quite disappointed with the Camaro's exhaust note. The L99 engine has a decent growl and the exhaust emits a satisfying crackle when lifting off the throttle. It builds a linear soundtrack right up to 6000 RPM, but I wanted more grittiness and Michael Bay theatrics at the red-line crescendo. Dare I say it, but at times the SS sounded like a V6, not a V8. Luckily for those of us that prefer more noisy bangs for our buck, there is an optional performance exhaust that can be equipped onto the Camaro SS. Unfortunately our tester doesn't come with it.
Beyond the lack of noise complaints, I have no other criticisms about the Camaro's powertrain or chassis. Though the car feels big and brawly, it still feels accurate and composed thanks to a new electric power steering setup taken from the ZL1. In fact, at low RPMs the Camaro starts to mimic a grand touring car. It's silent, comfortable, versatile and has excellent directional stability. The pedals have a usable and tactile essence and the large Brembo brakes are smooth and linear. Sometimes I forget I'm even sitting in a muscle car.
But take the Camaro to the limits and you'll witness how easily it transforms from a graceful GT car to a thoroughbred pony. The Camaro lays down power like a judge with a gavel, and acquires so much traction that it's hard to get the car sideways without turning stability systems off, probably due to those massive 20-inch Pirelli P-Zeros it's wearing in four corners. The stereotype is that muscle cars are only good in a straight line, but the SS strives to prove that wrong with a brilliant chassis that sports 52/48 front and rear weight distribution, giving the Camaro amazing balance and finesse in the turns. It denies my every attempt to fling the tail outward, yet manages to dig into corners and power out even when pulling a few lateral G's. The Camaro SS even managed to lap the Nurburgring in 8 minutes and 20 seconds, putting it up there with the BMW E46 M3 and Porsche Cayman S.
Though the Camaro eludes the stereotype of straight-line only performance, it doesn't stand so tall when we're looking at its fuel economy. We're getting an average of 16.3 L/100km with a mix of both city and highway driving. Chevrolet's numbers estimate 15.3 L/100km in the city and 9.8 on the highway - the large gap between the numbers is explained by cylinder deactivation on the highway. Heavy-footed driving will easily bump the averages up to 18. The Camaro is a thirsty one and like I said, it was a fortuitous week with low gas prices.
One of the main drawbacks of driving a convertible is that the chassis is not as stiff as the coupe variant. With the interior exposed to the heavens and the lack of B pillar support, the result is a somewhat bumpy ride. You can really feel the car jittering around like a can of loose parts when running over potholes or speedbumps. Another disadvantage is the lack of noise insulation. Whilst sitting inside the Camaro you can easily eavesdrop on the tire noise and hear all the wind rattling across it's rectangular-shaped body and sadly, it masks some of that V8 clamor from the dual exhausts behind you.
The sheetmetal of the Camaro SS has carried over mainly unchanged from the 2014 model. It's aggressive stance is emphasized by a wide grill, a high belt-line and a conservative rear-end that sports revised LED tail lamps. The RS badge that was once a trim of the Camaro has been reduced to an optional cosmetic package that is currently equipped on our tester. For $1380 it includes 20-inch aluminum wheels, a unique rear spoiler, and the most beautiful high intensity discharge headlamps I have ever seen, in my opinion it justifies every penny. The dual hood and trunk lid racing stripes ($585) are also well worth it and recommended. The contrasting colour gives the Camaro a pinch of the racing spirit and it just looks bad-ass alongside the black hood vents.
Housing a massive V8 engine means the Camaro needs a long front nose. Add on a cramped windshield and narrow slit windows, and you've got the recipe for atrocious visibility, almost like looking through the handle slit from inside a cardboard box. Blind spots are hardly conspicuous, making right-side lane changes a bit of a Hail Mary. The Camaro would greatly benefit from a blind-spot detector or camera, but of course taking the roof down remedies these concerns.
The fabric roof uses hydraulic pumps and an old-school latch to open and close, meaning you'll need some decent strength to pull the clamp down and secure it. Putting the top up takes nearly 20 seconds, and you can't close the roof unless you're moving at precisely 0 km/h - keep that roof up if you see dark clouds. Your long-haired female passengers will also be happy to know there is a detachable windscreen that makes a huge difference in stopping wind turbulence from reaching the cabin. It can be attached and folded down with ease, you won't even need an instructions manual.
One thing I've always loved about GM vehicles is the remote engine start feature that comes standard with the automatic transmission model. Press the lock button, hold the start button on the key fob, and watch the beautiful LED lights radiate and the V8 engine rumble. The air vents will automatically turn on as well - a blessing during chilly autumn mornings.
The Camaro retains it's thoughtfully designed interior from the 2014 model. Plastic and dull-looking materials run rampant in this cabin, but you certainly cannot expect German opulence in an American muscle car. Yet, it never ceases to surprise me when I seat myself in a Chevrolet and spot a customizable heads-up display lit up in the old-fashioned GM hue of blue. A keen eye would also notice the frameless rear-view mirror borrowed over from the Cadillacs, but the blue ONSTAR and red SOS buttons situated on the mirror are rather distracting at night. Albeit, these brightly lit siren-mimicking buttons keep me incredibly alert, as every time I look up and catch a glimpse of the red and blue, I start to think I'm being chased by the police. It actually makes me drive a bit slower - a subliminal speeding ticket deterrent, well done GM.
The bland and chunky phallic gear shifter is back and stitched in blue, and the four auxiliary gauges on the center stack also make a welcome return. Though fairly redundant (who actually monitors their coolant temperature on a daily basis?), the gauges let you sleep better at night knowing you still got 12 volts of battery, and they look pretty damn cool too. I miss the 2010 Camaro steering wheel which featured the "CAMARO" logo instead of the Chevrolet one you see here. I miss the look, but not the feel. This 2015 wheel feels much cozier in my hands and features well-placed buttons to control audio and driving functions. Note that the optional 1LE performance package alternatively wraps the wheel in alcantara, a must-have if you enjoy the grippy feel of suede on your palms.
The Camaro receives a light dose of standard features: air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius XM Radio, a limited-slip differential and a 4-wheel independent sport suspension. Our tester was fitted with the 2SS package that beefs up the Camaro with techy gimmicks such as the aforementioned heads-up display and auxiliary gauges on the center stack, heated leather sport bucket seats, heated exterior and auto-dimming mirrors, and a Boston Acoustics 8-speaker audio system with a 245-watt amplifier.
Rear legroom is surprisingly generous. A 5'8 adult will have no problem being seated in the rear and with the roof pulled down, the limits are only as high as the sky. I wish I could say the same about the Camaro's cargo space. Pop open the trunk lid and you'll be greeted by a small opening that looks like a pothole you'd hide your controlled substances in. Cargo volume is further hindered from 289L to 221L when the roof is put down - it takes up a good chunk of surface area hiding away. Compare this with the coupe variant that can house 40L more than the convertible, nabbing a total of 320L.
The 2015 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Convertible stickers at $58,165 which is nothing to sneer at. It sure ain't cheap, even when considering this is a fully-loaded model. If you're on the bargain, consider a base Camaro 1LT convertible that starts at $38,430. The 2SS can only be seen as a steal when comparing it with other 400-horsepowered hardware like the $75,000 BMW M4 or $82,900 Audi RS5.
Over the past week I've grown to admire this giant. It's muscular physique and pony-car traits give me the shivers that haunt back to the classic 1967 Camaro. Would I buy one? Sure. But I know it'd only sit in my garage and be used for special occasions. Reasons being the costly fuel consumption, compromising storage capacity, a dangerous lack of visibility, and the obvious disadvantages of a rear-wheel drive setup in the Canadian winter. Nevertheless, I'd love to own one. Spending $50k on a convertible would normally divert me to the path of a BMW 428i convertible, but this Camaro has got me thinking twice. It's got me hooked, but will it be enough to tackle Ford's new iteration on the 2015 Mustang? Stay tuned for our review on that racehorse in the future.
型号 Model: 2015 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Convertible
顏色 Paint Type: Silver Ice Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $50,225
試車售價 Price as Tested: $58,165
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2852
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4841 / 1918 / 1389
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1903
引擎 Engine: 6.2L SFI V8 (L99)
最大馬力 Horsepower: 400 hp @ 5900 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 410 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: Multi-link strut, stabilizer bar, coil springs
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Independent, coil springs over shocks, stabilizer bar
煞制-前後 Brakes: Four-piston fixed Brembo aluminum front and rear calipers
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway)- L/100 km: 15.3 / 9.8
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Pirelli P-Zero Front: 245/45ZR20 - Rear: 275/40ZR20