I might be just a little biased in favor of the new Chevrolet Camaro. After all, it's the car that won me a hundred bucks.
No, I didn't win an outlaw street race. In fact I won the money long before my week-long test drive of the 2010 Camaro SS.
I actually won the money from a bet with my dad. After being teased with the concept version of the Camaro for years, my dad doubted the car would ever make it to showrooms, especially given GM's financial troubles over the past year or so.
Fast forward a year. Not only am I hundred dollars richer, but I have an Inferno Orange Camaro SS to drive for a week.
Dino wrote about his experiences with a nearly identical car in Japan, so for this story I'll focus on cruising the Camaro around California.
Jumping into the car, my first impression was the serious lack of visibility. For sure this is the biggest drawback of the new Camaro, along with its size and weight. After a few days behind the wheel I began to get used to it, but it's still a little disconcerting not knowing where the front of the car is.
Once I adjusted myself to the Camaro's proportions though, I could see that the car was a very capable and comfortable performance machine – and not a bad value either. Then there's the styling. Let's just say that a new orange Camaro isn't a car for introverts.
The Camaro has been on the streets of the USA for nearly a year now, and still I couldn't drive more than a hundred yards without out getting a long stare, a thumbs up, or an approving nod from a pedestrian or fellow motorist.
It may not be for everyone, but the 'Maro is no doubt overflowing with personality.
One glance into the side mirrors and you can see the car's sculpted rear quarters dominating the view.
I haven't spent a lot of time in luxury cars, but the quality of Camaro's interior didn't seem that bad to me. You won't mistake it for an Audi or a Benz, but it got the job done.
If I were buying a Camaro though, I'd do without the optional colored interior panels. For me it was just a little too much. I was however, a big fan of the Boston Acoustics audio system with iPod interface. Great for finding that perfect Whitesnake song to blast down the highway to….
And the open highway is one of the areas where the Camaro really shines. Here's the drive through a rather green-looking Sepulveda Pass on the 405 Freeway. Here in California we only have a limited time to enjoy this greenery before the usual brown of summer and winter returns.
As I made my way to Bakersfield for the March Meet, I fell in love with the Camaro's highway manners. The 6.2 liter L99 V8 (my car had the optional six-speed auto) makes a solid 400hp and 410 ftlbs of torque making passing maneuvers instantaneous. You also have to love being able to pull up the steep grapevine hill doing 75mph at a modest 2000rpm.
After descending the grapevine, it's into the flat expanse of California's Central Valley.
It's not the most exciting route…
…but the big leather seats made the time spent in the Camaro painless. The same can't be said for occupants of the back seat. Once again, I had trouble convincing my tall friends to try it out. For all practical purposes, this is a two-seater.
At one point as I made my way through Bakersfield I came upon the Camaro's arch rival, a Dodge Challenger SRT8 wearing the same orange and black color scheme. There was far too much traffic to "see how they run", but it was fun cruising together for several miles.
As I headed back to LA after the March Meet, I spotted this cool hot rod project going the same direction. Couldn't find a buyer I guess? By the way don't worry, I didn't take these pics while driving. My wife took them from the shotgun seat…
As my time with the Camaro drew to a close, I had become quite attached to the big orange machine.
For a little over 30 grand, you get a 426hp V8 (with the standard 6-speed manual), fully independent suspension, Brembo Brakes, and a well-appointed if not luxurious interior.
Even the gas mileage wasn't terrible. The automatic version is rated at 16 mpg in the city 25 mpg on the highway. Not any worse than the Mazda RX8 I drove a few weeks ago!
So, if you can live with Camaro's large size and are a fan of the bold styling, you get tremendous bang for the buck here. That bang for the buck is something that's been a muscle car tradition since the '60s, and something that has me considering going big, loud, and American for my next vehicle purchase…