Review: Chevrolet Camaro (2012 – 2015)
Meaty looking retro American muscle car. 6.2-litre V8 sounds great. Coupe or convertible. Incredible value from £35,995.
Left hand drive only. Handling isn't sharp. Manual gearbox is hard work in traffic. Automatic is pretty awful.
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Chevrolet Camaro (2012 – 2015): At A Glance
- Insurance Groups are between 48–50
People don't make cars like the Camaro anymore. Or so you'd think. At a time when everything is about efficiency and fuel economy it's reassuring to know that you can still buy a V8 powered American 'muscle car' that sounds just as good as it looks. The Camaro is a car that's full of character and with a look that's just the right side of retro, it will always attract attention. It certainly gives the image of Chevrolet in the UK a real shot in the arm.
It's been a long time coming though. The Camaro has been on sale in the US since 2009 and it's taken two years to come to Europe with different rear light clusters the obvious change - they now have separate indicator lights instead of the US-spec brake lights which double as turn signals. However, it remains left-hand drive only.
The big 6.2-litre engine that powers the Camaro is typically American with a big noise and a relaxed nature. Not that it's slow - it has 432PS and can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 4.0 seconds (half a second slower for the lower powered automatic) plus it's an engine that's happy to be revved all the way up to the red line, where it sounds even better. Unfortunately, the handling is pretty American too which means it's not great in corners. The steering is responsive, but it lacks sharpness on more demanding roads.
However, that's not what the Camaro is about. It's a real feelgood car that always makes you smile when you get behind the wheel and is ideal for cruising around in. And then there's the price. The coupe with the standard manual gearbox is £34,995 which is incredible value given the power, style and standard equipment it offers. While it may not be perfect, the Camaro is an incredibly likeable car and there's pretty much nothing else out there with the same character.
All UK versions of the Camaro will be the top specification model, with 20-inch alloy wheels, Brembo performance brakes, full leather upholstery with a six-way power adjustable driver’s seat, a Boston Acoustics nine speaker audio system, Bluetooth and rear parking sensors. The instrument dials have been calibrated for Europe too. Options will include a choice of premium paint colours, bonnet stripes, interior trim accents, a sunroof, polished alloy wheels and an automatic transmission which is a £1500 extra. The Camaro comes to the UK in early 2012.
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Chevrolet Camaro (2012 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 328–364 litres
The majority of modern cars from the US have often been let down by poor quality interiors (think Dodge Caliber, or don't as the case may be) but fortunately the Camaro is not one of them. The finish is impressive and the materials used throughout have a good quality feel to them. It may lack the sophistication of premium cars but makes up for it with some unique touches and design features.
The deep-set instrument dials, with their blue backlighting, look neat in the retro squared off surround and the air conditioning buttons are incorporated in a nice circular design, again harking back to Camaro models from the past. In front of the gear lever are four extra dials adding to the old-school 'muscle car' look of the 1969 Camaro. The gloss black plastic sections on the inside of the doors co-ordinates with the strip across the dashboard and both are nice touches. The colour changes depending on the paint choice.
From behind the wheel the Camaro feels refined and the driving position is very good too thanks to plenty of adjustment in the steering column. Despite the low roofline of the coupe bodystyle, there's still plenty of headroom, even for tall drivers. The leather sports seats have extra bolstering at the sides and sculpted 'shoulders' to keep you in place in corners.
While it's 'retro' in style, the Camaro has plenty of very modern features including a head-up display - something which you'd usually associate with premium makes like BMW and Audi. It's a proper head-up display that appears on the windscreen (rather than the Peugeot one) with key information such as speed and the stereo selection. It's a really useful feature and means you always know how fast you are going. Other equipment includes rear parking sensors with a reversing camera along with a premium Boston Acoustics nine-speaker stereo system complete with USB ports and Bluetooth.
The Convertible version has an electric folding roof (there is a handle that you need to unlatch) that folds down smoothly. With the roof down you get to enjoy that lovely V8 engine sound even more, however, there's is quite a lot of wind buffetting even with all the side windows up.
Standard equipment from launch (Spring 2012):
The UK version of the Camaro comes wiith 20-inch alloy wheels, Brembo performance brakes, full leather upholstery with a six-way power adjustable driver’s seat, a Boston Acoustics nine speaker audio system. Bluetooth and rear parking sensors.
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What's the Chevrolet Camaro (2012 – 2015) like to drive?
- Engines range from Convertible Automatic to Coupe
The centrepiece of the Camaro is most definitely its monster 6.2-litre engine. It's certainly not a subtle engine and from the moment you start it, accompanied by a delightfully deep rumble, there's no mistaking that this is a V8. Thanks to those two big exhausts neatly incorporated in the rear diffuser, you always get to enjoy the great sound it makes. Sonorous is definitely a good way to describe it. Bloomin' loud is another.
It's the kind of big engine you'd expect from an American muscle car with a relaxed nature that suits the Camaro perfectly. It's very different in character compared to a V8 engine from a brand like BMW. It doesn't feel instantly powerful at low speeds, but wind it up and the huge reserves of power come into their own. On paper it has 420PS and a huge 570Nm of torque which should make for strong in-gear acceleration, however both peak quite high up the rev range so it's an engine that does need to be worked in order to get the best from it.
If you catch it at low revs, it takes a little while to get to a point where the power really comes on song. Much of this is down to the gearbox though. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual with quite a heavy change which means driving quickly and smoothly isn't especially easy. It's happier when you're driving with a bit more enthusiasm but it's definitely a gearbox which requires a gentle touch and is happier when it's not being rushed.
There's an optional six-speed automatic which uses a lower powered 6.2-litre V8 engine with 405PS and 556Nm. This makes progress smoother but it's not the quickest shifting auto around. It's a more relaxing drive, but is a bit lazy when it comes to kickdown and can sometimes get caught out in the wrong gear, for instance when you're accelerating hard out of a slow corner. We certainly prefer the more involving manual gearbox and it also gives faster acceleration times too (if you're counting) thanks to the extra power with the 0-62mph standard coming up in just 4.0 seconds.
Despite being a high performance machine, the Camaro is very comfortable to travel in thanks to an impressively forgiving ride. It deals well with uneven and bumpy roads meaning it's actually pretty refined. It's not as impressive in corners when you start to press on though. While the steering is responsive and accurate, the Chevrolet doesn't deal particularly well with tight corners where it feels quite heavy. There's decent grip but the rear-wheel drive Camaro lacks the agility of other coupes this size.
Chevrolet has worked hard to make the Convertible version as stiff as the coupe with reinforcements in the body structure and according to the firm it has better torsional stiffness than the BMW 3 Series Convertible - an impressive claim. It certainly doesn't feel like it loses any rigidity with the roof down and copes with potholes and bumps just as well as the coupe.
While fuel economy is unlikely to be a big priority if you own a Camaro, it's interesting to see that it comes with an Active Fuel Management system on the engine that's fitted with the automatic gearbox. This automatically shuts down four of the eight cylinders when they're not needed, helping to reduce fuel consumption. The manual gearbox Camaro averages a claimed 20mpg while the automatic is slightly more efficient with a claimed figure of 21.6mpg.
|Convertible||20 mpg||5.4 s||329 g/km|
|Convertible Automatic||22 mpg||5.6 s||304 g/km|
|Coupe||20 mpg||5.2 s||329 g/km|
|Coupe Automatic||22 mpg||5.4 s||304 g/km|
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