General Motors started producing the Chevrolet Camaro in 1967 and it continued for the next thirty-five years, until 2002. After a hiatus for several years, General Motors began production of the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro on March 16, 2009. Camaro sales began in April 2009 for the 2010 model year.
The return of the Camaro name has been anticipated by enthusiasts since fourth generation production ended in 2002. On January 6, 2006, the first official word regarding a fifth generation Camaro from General Motors came at the 2006 North American International Auto Show, where the 2006 Camaro Concept was released.
The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro LT earns its highest points for design, showing an excellent modern take on an older body style that excites onlookers. That design extends into the cabin, which, despite some cheap materials, still looks good. Chevrolet also managed to fit complex music management into a small screen.
The placement of the shifter buttons is the only notably bad thing about the design. For cabin tech, we have to dock it for no onboard navigation system, as OnStar isn’t quite as good as a full-fledged GPS device. And in general the car scores about average for cabin tech.
Bluetooth and iPod integration are very useful features, but it doesn’t reach beyond those basics. On the performance side, we weren’t big fans of the automatic gearbox, but fortunately that is only an option. The 3.6-liter engine seems a good choice for this car, providing plenty of power, yet offering decent fuel economy at the same time.
The Camaro’s engine puts out a more than adequate 304 horsepower at 6,400rpm and 273 pound-feet of torque at 5,200rpm, while getting an EPA fuel economy of 18 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. We never hit that highway rating, instead averaging 23.6 mpg, not bad considering the available power.
The 2010 Camaro can also be had in SS trim with a 6.2-liter V-8 LS3 engine, the same as used in the base model Corvette. That engine makes 420 horsepower, for some serious drag strip bragging rights.
In the past, muscle cars weren’t noted for their handling, yet the 2010 Camaro, with its standard sport-tuned independent suspension and stabilizer bars front and rear, keeps very steady in the corners. It leans just a bit when inertial forces are pulling at it in a corner, but that suspension keeps it from getting out of control.
Its fairly short wheelbase also helps it pivot in a turn. With a weight distribution of 52 percent to the front and 48 percent to the back, the Camaro isn’t perfectly balanced. During one emergency braking maneuver, the back end started to come out, but the car’s traction control systems reigned it back in.
The Camaro LT uses the same power train as the Cadillac CTS, a 3.6-liter direct injected V-6 with the optional Hydra-Matic 6L50 automatic transmission, with a six-speed manual standard. The automatic transmission has a manual mode, but we didn’t find that gear shifts were particularly quick.
Manual mode really suffers from the ergonomics of the shifter buttons. Paddles peek up over the tops of the steering wheel spokes, but they are fixed, merely showing which side upshifts and which side downshifts. Buttons on the backs of the spokes are used for shifting, and they are very poorly placed, impossible to touch with a finger with hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel.
Moving the console shifter into the manual mode position, without touching the shift buttons, puts the transmission into sport mode, which is a bit more satisfying. In this mode, it will aggressively downshift, but only if you are really pounding it. We braked to about 30 mph before entering a curve, and the transmission stayed in fourth gear.
On subsequent turns, we braked harder, bringing the car’s speed down substantially, and the transmission downshifted to a good power gear, and held it until we got the tachometer close to redline on a straightaway. It can be a good transmission if you learn to modulate it, but the manual mode is virtually unusable.
The Bluetooth phone system comes as part of a reasonably priced, at $655, Convenience and Connectivity package, which also includes audio controls on the steering wheel, remote start capability, and a USB port for the audio system, the latter useful for iPod integration and playing MP3 tracks off a thumb drive. In May, a Microsoft engineer published photos of the Camaro’s stereo integrating with a Zune MP3 player, but when we plugged a Zune into the USB port it wasn’t supported.
The iPod integration works well, although the Camaro’s radio display only shows three lines, which would make music browsing tedious except for the interface tricks the system employs. Pushing the right-hand dial activates a menu function, which lets you drill down through artist and album lists.
Turning it quickly begins scrolling through letters, making for an alphabetical search, a good trick for digging through extensive listings. The stereo also has satellite radio and an in-dash single CD player that can read MP3s. Browsing MP3 CDs and USB drives merely shows music by folder.
With six speakers, the base audio system in the Camaro is mediocre. The sound quality is generally muddy, and sometimes it highlights odd frequencies.
While testing with one track, the system highlighted a particular percussion instrument so much that it overwhelmed all the other instruments. Fortunately, you can upgrade to a Boston Acoustics system with nine speakers and a 245-watt amp, which would have to be an improvement over the stock system.