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ATTENTION-GETTER

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, Oct 23, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Words and pictures by John Grafman

A late night dinner on the Sunset Strip at the Saddle Ranch Chop House is quite the experience. Those who aren't familiar with the restaurant and bar are missing out on a slice of life. At the front of the western-themed eatery is a corral with a mechanical bull at its center. After watching countless riders of both sexes getting tossed from the artificial animal, I had a moment of clarity. This mechanical bull riding might be childish, crazy, silly, and even stupid, but it's about as much fun as one can have without the need to wear protection (you know, a cowboy hat). Leaving the Chop House in the new 2010 Camaro SS, I had the very same feelings. Maybe this isn't the most user-friendly vehicle, or utilitarian product on the market, or most fuel-efficient. But just try to find a car that can deliver this much fun. However, we do suggest the protection of a seatbelt or two.

One can argue that among the neo-muscle cars, the Camaro comes off as the most titillating to the eye. Mustang and Challenger are nice enough executions of the original theme, given the new regulations that cars need to conform to. However, the Chevy just looks more animated, aggressive, and dynamic. Also, while being late to the game, the Camaro comes off like a new, fresh product whereas the Ford and Chrysler counterpart are beginning to look all too common. The exaggerated theme from the 'sixties Camaro is strong and this feels very close to the concept models. While watching the Transformers movie the first time, even the naysayers admitted the Camaro (as Bumblebee) looks incredibly cool. But they were quick to retort there's no way Chevy can ever make anything like that. Surprise! It isn't all cherry pie with Chevy's long awaited entry. The exterior styling dictates some compromises on the interior, namely annoying blind spots, minimal rear seating and headroom, and a confining cabin feel, due to the chopped roofline. Additionally, the height of the side glass is as short as can be, producing a very low-slung design, and all the outward viability of a mailbox slot. As a matter of fact, there are a few deficiencies that can mess with a driver's good time. The most obviously problematic is the huge blind spots both forward and rearward due to the pillars. I could argue how could anyone not see this car coming, so who cares about blind spots. Nevertheless, how cool can one be if backing out of a parking spot results in jeers from onlookers. The material quality is more on par with the Ford Mustang from five years ago, which has since been addressed in Mustang version 2.0 for 2010. The low brow, depressing plastic will be around long after the hip factor looses its luster. Other measures that look out of place are exposed wiring from the rear speakers that could be potentially snagged by loading items into the trunk, and the single pneumatic hood strut, instead of the standard pair. I'm sure the engineers know what they're doing, but a single lift seems both unnatural and too easy to tweak.

The thirty five thousand dollar price tag for a SS (with the RS package) might seem a tad high. But rest assured, one twist of the ignition key and all concerns of pricing, or material quality become secondary thoughts very fast. Sure, 35K can buy you a lot of car elsewhere, but how many can make you a bona-fide rock star? So what if I only know three cords! The motor is what muscle cars are all about and GM knows it. So, the people that brought you Mr. Goodwrench saw fit to stuff a 6.2-liter, 426 horsepower monster under the hood. And just to make sure the driver gets the most from this Chevy installed one of the best shifting six-speed manuals anyone could ask for. Aside from the unusual reverse placement (far right and forward) this snaps into gear every time without any fuss. This is a blast to drive if for no other reason than to play with the manual. During idle the car is remarkably quiet, almost too much so. However, open it up a little and the shyness routine fades quickly. This speaks up like it has a pair. The tough part is not letting it influence a nice safe drive. This already garners plenty of attention from most everyone out on this summer night. Fortunately, the police didn't have an interest in anything more than the doughnuts that accompany a hot cup of coffee. Working our way up some of the steepest hills that Hollywood has to offer street vehicles proved to be no challenge at all. The only difficult part is keeping to the speed limits. In fact, it's hard to maintain any speed limit anywhere. In a blink the car can hit highway speeds. And while the SS is well equipped, I still needed to bring along my own Escort radar detector just have peace of mind and a license, at least until the time we have to return this ride. SEMA will love this car. During normal driving around town this is competent, but for the hardcore enthusiast the SS doesn't off the slot car handling we thought it would. Then again, this isn't a lightweight car, and it feels like the center of gravity of this is higher than one would want. The aftermarket will no doubt offer suitable parts that will create zero roll for those enthusiasts. The traction control is switchable by the driver. Translation: the pilot can have a lot more excitement or trouble depending on the driver's skill and discretion. I suppose it should be noted too that in the performance mode with limited black box oversight the tires are apt to being smoked to dust much more frequently. Thus, owners with a heavy foot need to have a fat wallet, and had better start knowing the local tire dealer by his first name.

The Camaro SS does come with complete with the right stuff. Right out of the box this comes with a one year subscription to OnStar (with turn-by-turn navigation, and automatic crash response), XM satellite radio, four-wheel performance disc brakes from Brembo with ABS, limited slip differential, performance suspension, 20 inch tires and wheels, a tire pressure monitoring system, and the lost goes on and on. The interior is treated to a nine-speaker Boston Audio system that's loud, but could stand a little finishing school. Nice heated, leather sport bucket seats (six-way power on driver's side) are part of the package, as well as leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob. The knob on the shifter is a little unconventional in a good way. It is essentially a sphere with flat facets on the sides facing the driver and passenger. The telescoping and tilting steering wheel are also welcomed too. A few items that could be better executed are the Driver Information Center that resides (hides) in the small, recessed area that lies between the tach and speedo. No female can resist taking a jab at the sad excuse of a visor mirror. Along those lines, the visors also feel as cheap as the plastic looks. Offsetting some lackluster interior pieces, the RS package brings to the table added bling with aluminum wheels with midnight silver paint, and the eye-catching headlamps with high intensity discharge and the sensational Halo Ring. And the unique RS tail lamps are also good for some added eyeball appeal. What the Camaro SS comes down to is a semi-compromised car. It isn't a Vette or any one of a number of other products with sports car handling that cost significantly more dough. This does take into account the need for a few extra seats, and offers most of the comfort and convenience bells and whistles today's drivers want. It isn't a car that benefits from upscale material. In exchange the Camaro offers lickity-split power that defines the genre, and a look that's the definition of brute force. I can't avoid the notion that this car is really about image as much as anything else. As I look at the few other Camaros on the street and freeways around town I stop for a moment and look, just like everyone else does. And call me crazy, but as those other Camaros pass by I still can't help myself from thinking, man, that guy's having fun. And isn't that what it's all about?

SUMMARY JUDGMENT Not without its flaws, but still one of the best attention-getters around. No bull! More on Facebook at: Shamelessly gratuitous photos of the Camaro by John Grafman For more information about Chevrolet products, go to: gm.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Price: Base $ 33,430, as tested $ 35,100 (without destination charge) Engine type: 6.2-litre W12, OHC, 2 valves/cylinder, V8, sequential fuel injection, cast aluminum block w/ cast-in-place iron bore liners, aluminum heads EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 16/24 Horsepower: 426 @ 5900 (LS3) 
400 @ 5900 (L99) Torque: 420 / 569 @ 4600 (LS3)*, 
410 / 556 @ 4300 (L99)* Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive Transmission type: Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual (SS) Suspension: Front: Double-ball-joint, multi-link strut; direct-acting stabilizer bar; progressive-rate coil springs; fully adjustable camber, caster and toe Rear: 4.5-link independent; progressive-rate coil springs over shocks; stabilizer bar; fully adjustable camber and toe Wheels and tires: Front: 20" x 8" aluminum, 245/45ZR20 summer Rear: 20" x 9" aluminum, 275/40ZR20 summer Brakes: Front: Vented discs 14" diameter, 1.26" thickness Rear: Vented discs 14.4" diameter 1.1" thickness four-wheel disc w/ ABS; ventilated front and rear rotors, four-piston fixed Brembo aluminum front and rear calipers (SS) Overall length: 190.4" Overall width: 75.5" Overall height: 54.2" Curb weight (lbs): 3,849

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