DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Much like its crosstown rival, the Chevy Camaro really offers two distinct types of performance cars in one body shell. No longer is there a six-cylinder base model for “wannabes” and the V8 for the real enthusiast -- now the V6 is more the sports car and the V8 is the in-your-face muscle car. With more than 300 hp and a mechanical, cammy nature, the V6 Camaro isn't a compromise, and that's smart for Chevy because this SS is not for everyone.
With our tester's dual-mode exhaust, the Camaro SS is about as subtle as a 12-gauge; it makes no attempt to hide its intentions whether you're at idle or ripping up a freeway on-ramp, and there's even a burbling pop-pop on the overrun when you're slowing down for a light. Yes, it's fun at times (especially when the hand of God is released on the aforementioned freeway on-ramps), but it's just as often overkill. The same can be said for the engine's lumpy idle, sending shivers through the car as it bounces around in its motor mounts. Obviously modern computer controls could make the LS3 as smooth as a Cadillac without sacrificing power, so the whole operation is a programmed sideshow -- again, a helluva lot of fun at times but exhausting at others.
Those same modern EFI tricks mean the Camaro's big 6.2-liter V8 is perfectly content puttering along in traffic, and huge torque reserves allow the car to be left in fourth gear for just about any driving over 15 mph; at the same time, a sixth gear means the SS cruises at 80 mph on the highway turning fewer than 2,000 rpm, so there's a tremendous amount of flexibility in the powertrain. That's helped by a firm-shifting but very satisfying manual transmission, and a clutch whose smooth, light pedal feel never indicates it's channeling 426 hp. Simply put, the stick-shift SS is an easy car to drive even in rush hour, bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Raucous engine and exhaust aside, the interior of our Camaro SS was a step up from the last model I tested. Leather and soft-touch surfaces covered the dash, and though the large plastic door-panel trim was still present it seemed better integrated. Chevy's excellent MyLink system provided all the infotainment options today's buyers demand (despite the fact we're pretty sure most have no idea how to use 90 percent of the features), and an old-fashioned manually controlled HVAC system made quick work of heating and cooling the small cockpit.
About that space: While a two-door coupe isn't ideal for families with multiple kids, the Camaro does provide excellent rear seating for kids in boosters. The child seats fit well in the pseudo-buckets, which are wide enough to not obscure the seat belt buckle when a booster is in place. It may seem like a small detail, but I've been in station wagons that don't accommodate booster seats as well as this Camaro SS does. There's also a surprisingly large (though shallow) trunk that can easily accommodate several large bags.
All in all there's a lot of performance car here for $43,000, and if your idea of a proper daily driver involves tons of tire smoke and a bellowing pushrod V8 engine, the Camaro SS will put a smile on your face every time you turn the key.
The touchpads on either side of the display screen seem a tad clunky for out taste.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Yeah, this Camaro SS is a hoon-mobile. The dual-mode exhaust is sweet, though it gets loud pretty early in the rev range, and a quick double tap on the traction control button will allow short drifts before yanking you back in place.
Despite the extra weight, this SS feels faster than my similarly powered Ford Mustang GT. I think it has to do with all that vibration and noise. I kind of wish my 'Stang sounded like this. And like Andy says, it burbles and shakes at idle, which is cool, but it may get annoying. In my two days with the car, it did not.
I love these Recaro seats. They're comfortable and supportive in all the right areas. But if they fit my skinny frame, they might not be right for an average or above average-sized guy. The shifter is a little notchy, but clutch pedal action is smooth and easy.
As far as the new exterior goes, I like the ZL1 hood on the SS -- it's a great look. The headlights are a little narrower, but that's hard to notice unless two models are side-by-side. I don't like what they did with the taillights; I wish they would have left them how they were. Like all Camaros, visibility is terrible. Of course, if you're blowing by traffic all day, there's no need to see out of those rear quarter windows.
I do find that with popular, common muscle/sports/pony cars, people just want to race all the time. Even when someone is lollygagging in the left lane, and they get out of the way and you pass them, they want to drive super fast all of the sudden. I hate that.
All of the options on this car are pretty important and I'd probably stick with all of them. That puts this car in the $40K area, which seems a bit much for a run-of-the-mill pony car. But like the Mustang, I'm sure there are discounts all over the place. Mine started at $37K and I walked out of the dealership at $29K plus tax.
Buyers in the market for a real V8 Camaro won't be disappointed with this car.
The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Coupe comes in at a base price of $37,850 with our tester topping off at $42,885.
SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: The Detroit Muscle Gods conspired during their monthly roundtable meeting to drop three different versions of the Camaro SS -- convertible, 2SS and 1LE -- on my head almost back-to-back-to-back.
This 2SS coupe featured the dual-mode exhaust, which produced mixed feelings on my end. Its aggressive spitting and popping on the overrun brings a smile, but while it seems many Camaro enthusiasts are pulling the trunk-located fuse that allows the exhaust's butterfly valves to close at lower RPM (they want them open permanently for ultimate aural assault at all times), I'd welcome a dashboard control to allow me to choose which mode to operate in.
I'm all about performance, unnecessary obnoxious noise and experience as much as anyone, but the SS is such a cammy, shimmying, clutch throwout-bearing noise-making throwback (relatively speaking, in modern terms) that I found myself -- depending on my mood, time of day and tide level -- sometimes growing tired of the whole production it makes out of plain ol' point-to-point driving. There are situations where I imagine most drivers would appreciate an ability to tone down at least one of these traits.
This SS's interior is clean and no-nonsense, though I wonder about ease of cleaning when it comes to the cloth trim inserts in the door panels and wrapping around the dashboard should they become stained by a liquid or similar substance that you would likely ban anyone from bringing into your car in the first place, so perhaps that is the answer. I don't agree with Andy entirely about MyLink being “excellent.” The caveat is that I find the touch-sensitive “buttons” (for example, the music track skip or rewind ones) maddening. I touch them and it's a crapshoot whether or not they recognize my digits' input. Not a big deal, considering there are redundant steering-wheel controls, but more irritating for your passenger if they are trying to operate them. Really, I never complained about true buttons, you clever engineers.
Driving the SS, however, is always a hoot. Not because its 4,000 pounds makes it a nimble little minx, but front-end bite feels positive, and the rear is eager to rotate with just a stab of throttle, even in hot and grippy conditions.
These Recaro seats work nicely for both cruising and hard driving with a very nice driving position. It has a docile cruising character, but the SS's inherent liveliness helped to keep me amused when behind the wheel.
The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Coupe is equipped with a 6.2-liter V8 coupled with a six-speed manual gearbox.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: My first impression of this 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS coupe was that it was just a big, heavy, powerful muscle car, something best reserved for stop-light drag races in small Midwestern towns. And while its wide body is maybe the best-looking of the modern-day muscle cars, it is a tad too big for easing into today's smaller, tighter parking garages and for city living in general. The rear pillars are stylish enough but block a lot of vision you could really use when changing lanes or just keeping an eye on surrounding traffic. Inside, the two Recaro Performance front seats are comfortable to sit in and no doubt sportier than the stock seats, but I wouldn't mind if they were a bit snugger. The shifter for the six-speed manual is heavy, but finding gears is easy to do and quick. The clutch takeup and engagement is surprisingly light and direct -- the massive low-end torque of the 6.2-liter LS3 V8 allows you to smoosh those clutch plates together at relatively low rpm without stalling or lugging. Stop-and-go traffic is not anywhere near as hard as I thought it'd be in this car, which is a bit surprising for a big bruiser with our test car's manual transmission. It's not like the old muscle cars, which took a lot of leg power to get the clutch pedal down and some deft shifter flipping to get into gear and get going. This powertrain is surprisingly light and easy for so big a bruiser.
It's fun to launch in a straight line and fun to drift out of a corner.
On my first real twisting road, I came away thinking that it's a little less fun going into a corner or, really, cornering in general, though it is among the best-handling of muscle cars ever.
The problem, I thought then, is that it felt like there was a lot of unsprung weight moving around down there. I couldn't figure out how this Camaro's Z28 cousin lapped the Nurburgring in 7:34. This one had trouble on Mulholland, though not too much trouble. It wobbled around more than I'd have preferred over the crumbling, potholed, patched road, and never transcended its muscle-car heritage to feel anything like a supercar or even a sports car. Which doesn't necessarily mean anything. It's a muscle car, I told myself, about the definitive muscle car of all time, along with the Dodge Challenger and the Ford Mustang.
Well the problem, it turned out, was not so much the car as the road. So I got a different road. You don't need to know which road, just that this one had been paved in the last decade or so and was smooth, twisty and regularly seduces drivers into having way more fun than they ever intended to have. Also, there were no houses anywhere on it, and in the middle of the week, there were almost no cars. So I took it onto this road and had at it. The result? Lovely! Splendid! Perfectly fun! Here the Camaro SS came alive. Here the shifter shifted, the electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering was weighted just about perfectly and the engine power, especially the low-end torque, meant that I could stay in third gear almost the whole time. Even when I occasionally had to downshift to second as the road dug into and out of little side canyons, it was easy as pie to grab the lever and pull it over and back for a blast of Vitamin 2.
And the brakes -- lawd the brakes -- the 14-inch Brembo Performance front brakes and GM rears on this SS test car never, ever faded, despite what was 27 miles of hard usage on a somewhat warm day slowing this 3,900-pound behemoth beauty every 100 or 200 feet. There wasn't even any smell of hot brakes. They just slowed the car fine with every pedal application.
It was still bigger than a sports car should be in my view, and therefore inefficient, and I would still prefer a Lotus Evora, Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren anything or any number of Porsche products up here on this road. Or maybe a BMW S1000RR? But the thing I learned is that this big muscle car can provide a good time even when taken somewhat outside its comfort zone.
And so, it appears, can I.
The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Coupe receives an EPA-estimated 19 mpg combined fuel economy.
2014 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Coupe
ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: The Chevy Camaro SS is the vehicular equivalent of the Hooters slogan, “delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.”
I drove the near-diametric opposite of the Camaro lineup, having driven the V6 with an automatic in Minnesota for a recent story, and then this V8 equipped with a six-speed around Los Angeles using my best Axl Rose impression. Yes, the automatic V6 was a rental car. Frankly, it drove like a truck -- it bounced and crashed over damn near everything, its power delivery was reluctant, its steering hopelessly vague. Its general demeanor was soul-crushing -- “you paid for Camaro looks, and now you'll suffer,” it seemed to say, and that was before I hit my head on the headliner. Imagine that! Me, the shortest guy on staff, hitting my head on something that wasn't a Peel product!
Yet, add two cylinders and the requisite horsepower with it, and the Camaro becomes a respectable piece of automotive entertainment.
The 6.2-liter V8 sounds great, but never deafening; at lower rpm it's nicely subdued, and even with our optional dual-mode performance exhaust it sounds like it's coming from three cars away. I drove it across Los Angeles traffic expecting to be some sort of masochistic adventurer, braving the waves and waves of commuters -- but no, the Camaro and its six-speed didn't beat me up. The clutch is springy, rather than outright firm; it's got great, even feel throughout. The six is equally springy and feels like a BMW's manual, though not as precise. Steering is still just as vague as on the V6, but it's a lot less burdensome when the rear end snaps to your right foot. Scare the neighbors! Menace pedestrians! Los Angeles welcomes you to the jungle -- they got fun and games!
For a moment, I even stopped griping about the visibility.
Some random observations: the center console is overwrought, full of bulging shapes and bizarre cross-shaped buttons, and the circular dials for fan speed and temperature never feel precise. The irritating touchpads at both sides of the screen have the stupidest arrangement of functions: RPT? DEST? SOURCE, which is already on the steering wheel? Why not a dedicated HOME button to switch between audio and navigation? The Recaro seats are comfortable but look massive. Hopefully the next Camaro will have a more efficient center vent layout. These things matter, people.
Maybe Hooters is too déclassé for our tastes. This car feels just slightly more sophisticated than the Mustang, and it also looks the part -- because the Camaro has found a way to look confident without silly tape stripes and window louvers to make itself feel pretty. In the Camaro you get the impression that it was designed by guys who spent a lot of time goofing off and adding horsepower, chopping the roof, sticking on those goofy gauges in the center console that are blocked by the ugly twin HVAC knobs, anyway -- and at the last minute, the boss was heard storming down the halls and the Camaro engineers said, “oh crap, we gotta finish this thing!” and scraped off the hood stripes, put on some big-boy five-spoke wheels, and generally jammed in as much refinement as they could. The result is the Chevrolet Camaro.
There was another team that kept goofing off, right until their finished product hit the showrooms. That product is known as the Dodge Challenger.
Base Price: $37,850
As-Tested Price: $42,885
Drivetrain: 6.2-liter V8; RWD, six-speed manual
Output: 426 hp @ 5,900 rpm, 420 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,908 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 16/24/19 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 17.8 mpg
Options: Recaro performance seats ($1,995); RS package including HID headlamps with LED halo rings ($1,350); dual mode exhaust ($895); navigation system ($795)
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