There’s nothing about the Camaro that’s 21st century – this is classic muscle car entertainment, and it’s all the better for it
I’ve got to get through this review of the Chevrolet Camaro 6.2 V8 without mentioning two words in conjunction – one of them is the antonym of ‘young’, and the other is a place where children go to learn. You know which phrase I’m on about; hackneyed in review writer terminology, it generally means something that’s substandard but the reviewer is trying to present it as a foible that’s endearingly cool.
I don’t think this Chevy is substandard, though, far from it – it’s an engaging machine, if you accept that it’s not the sharpest knife in the block. No, with an oversquare 6162cc V8 codenamed LS3, there’s no edge to this machine; it’s one hell of a sledgehammer, though, with which to pound roads into submission. And that makes it properly old sch… oops, nearly.
A quick look at the mighty LS3’s stats shows that, actually, by American standards it’s quite a rev-happy thing. Peak power of 426bhp is just shy of 6000rpm and peak torque comes at 4600rpm, thanks to a bore/stroke ratio of 1.122:1. And don’t scoff – remember, the C63 AMG had a 6.2 V8 when it first appeared which made only 451bhp. Where the Camaro is more o** s****l is in its consumption and emissions; there’s no black magic here, only a frightening combined figure (which, when it comes to manufacturer’s claims, is normally never repeatable by us mere mortals) of 20mpg and CO2 that will see you shelling out £1,065 for your first tax disc. Yikes!
By the time I get in LR62 TWF for our test drive, there’s the all-pervading aroma of lightly grilled clutch. Clearly, some people forget that the flywheel and clutch on a manual ‘box that’s capable of putting 420lbf.ft to the ground in safety are not things to be hurried – this isn’t dual-clutch time, this is OS. So, bearing in mind I’m deliberately taking time over my shifts, what’s the performance like? Pretty good, is the answer, especially the soundtrack. I’m not one of those people who is easily impressed by pseudo-green credentials, and although I’ve already mentioned mpg and CO2, in reality these figures are irrelevant when dealing with a muscle car. And so, unfettered by turbos or a supercharger in some demented effort to try and mask its environmental destructiveness, what you get is a proper, baritone V8 bawl, progressive power build-up and decent throttle response. Fantastic.
It’s a bit obvious to say that dynamically, the Chevy isn’t quite as polished as you might expect of, say, an RS5 or BMW M3. But it’s not hopeless. Pitch and dive are limited well, as is body roll, while the steering is meaty if overly-assisted. Trying to place it on the road feels less natural to the driver because the car is left-hand drive, while – as part of the modernisation of the original Camaro’s design – the 2013 version has a relatively small glasshouse, limiting visibility. Coupled with an interior that’s largely black with some flashes of silver, the effect when out and about is that you’re in a giant helmet, with reduced peripheral vision. As I was nursing its gears, it meant the Camaro didn’t feel massively rapid, despite its prodigious thump. It also might have something to do with the 34.8cwt (3900lb) kerb weight – certainly, one mid-range diesel Audi A6 was hard to drop along a clear stretch of the A168.
But generally, the Camaro came across as a pleasing companion. The brakes were particularly good, hauling the big car down dependably and coupled to a pedal that had a bit of squidge at the top of travel but which weighted up nicely the harder you pressed it. The gearbox was heavy-duty, necessarily for that torque, yet not horrendous. And the interior, while once again somewhat vieille ecole in comparison with anything Germanic, had an appeal of its own, most notably in the square dials in the dash which are a throwback to the original machine.
However, the real appeal of this car comes from the outside and its value. Say what you like about Yank cars over the decades, but muscle cars from the States normally looked good and the Camaro shape has updated to the 21st century very well. Its bulging haunches and mean lights front and rear give it a presence that any fast Audi can only dream about, and in eye-catching yellow and black Transformers livery the massive power dome in the bonnet is evident. I don’t think there’s a bad angle to it, and I’d be more than happy to have one of these old… er, sorry, retro monsters on my driveway.
Which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, because for this 6.2-litre slice of brawn, you’d have to pay £35,320 (excluding that grand for VED). This is nothing short of phenomenal. Even a cursory glance at the websites of BMW, Audi and Merc shows you’ll get into nothing more exciting than a basic 242bhp 428i, a 222bhp A5 2.0 TFSI Quattro or (God forbid) a E220 CDI Coupe with 168bhp of diesel drudgery. None of these match the Camaro for visual or aural drama, and even if they beat it on emissions, technology and residual values, you’re not going to win any admirers for your massive cojones with any of them. And, even better, there’s very little in terms of cash-draining optional extras on the Camaro. As far as I can see from the price list, only a sunroof (£800), the stripes (£400) and a smattering of exterior colours (£550-£960) are available to you, although there appears to be no option for factory-fit nav. As if that would bother you, with that V8 up front.
I think the Camaro dynamically has the edge on a Ford Mustang, and even on something like a Vauxhall Monaro (although perhaps not the VXR8, its biggest natural rival here in the UK), and it’s not a car where you’re laughing at Yank build quality either. I liked it… a lot. So the Chevy Camaro is a proper piece of Americana: big-hearted, perhaps a bit simple but fundamentally likeable and absolutely great value. There’s no doubt about it, this is a proper old-school performance car…. AAARGH!
Tech Spec Chevrolet Camaro 6.2 V8
- Body Front-engined two-door coupe
- Engine 6162cc 16v V8
- Transmission RWD, six-speed manual
- 0-62mph 5.2 seconds
- Top speed 155mph
- Max power 426bhp at 5900rpm
- Max torque 420lbf.ft at 4600rpm
- Fuel consumption 20mpg (claimed combined)
- CO2 emissions 199g/km
- Price from £35,320 (our car £36,680, £960 for Rally Yellow and £400 for Black stripes)
The Truth & Nothing But…
Chevrolet Camaro 6.2 V8
+ Great looks, especially in ‘Bumblebee’ trim, charismatic LS3 V8, ridiculously cheap price tag
– In terms of overall performance cars it’s still a bit too rough around the edges compared to many Europeans
∴ One of the best American cars we’ve encountered – hugely charismatic