New to Wheels Car of the Year?
Read the COTY 101.
THE VERY first time you have a crack in the Chevrolet Camaro, it all comes flooding back. All the goodness we miss about home-grown muscle cars; the crisp throttle response from the 6.2-litre LT1 V8 and a visceral noise that crescendos into a bellow of impeccably blended exhaust and induction.
With its big cylinders and modern direct injection, the brawn-to-be-wild approach – one that’s increasingly lost in a turbo-fixated world – is at its most compelling.
Some eyes welled at the absence of a stick-shifter – just one 2SS specification is offered, and the only choice you get is paint colour – but as the proving ground highlighted, the eight-speed auto does a fine job of harnessing all 617Nm. The fact that it so easily taps into its 339kW peak affirms the engineering nous inbuilt in the Corvette-sourced small block.
Less impressive are aspects of the dynamics, hampered by occasionally sloppy, mute-feeling steering that dulls the appeal at lower speeds.
The Camaro’s senses awaken as the pace is stepped up, its 20-inch run-flat rubber helping it sweep through bends with sports-car intent. There are lashings of tail-wagging fun on offer, too, although you should avoid the inconsistent ESC interventions in Track driving mode. Yet what it lacks in finesse, Camaro makes up for in chuckable fun.
Of course, the made-in-America Camaro has little connection with Australia, at least in its fresh-from-Detroit form. The bowtie badge – the first seen in 56 years of COTY – is pure apple pie and ‘gas’ stations.
Yet there’s an Aussie twang courtesy of an extensive (and excellent) RHD conversion by Holden Special Vehicles.
It’s a superb engineering effort, trouncing any previous local undertaking.
The core product dishes up a near-perfect blend of modern design and materials that sing of 1960s style and simplicity, delivering a character that earned it COTY favour. There’s a purposeful butchness to its exterior, with its brawny lines and slim glasshouse cementing the interplay between old and new. While the Camaro has been facelifted stateside, the consensus was that we’ve got the looker.
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There’s also an endearing old-school functionality, with the exception of the 7.0-inch infotainment screen, which points at your crotch. Clever circular temperature dials surround the central vents while twin semi-hexagonal covers on the cowling shroud traditional instruments and a customisable digital screen.
While there’s an infusion of tech, the Camaro isn’t pretending to be anything but a loud and proud statement of its owner’s personality. Clawing the lovable two-door back to the COTY criteria is where clouds start to form over the muscle-car fairy tale. There’s no ignoring the $85,990 price tag, some $20K more than its sole local rival, the Ford Mustang. Active safety gear is light-on, too, and for anything but a two-person thrash it’s less than convincing.
None of which dilutes its copious emotional appeal, a trait amplified by local engineering input. The Camaro is purist simplicity, with added muscle, but it’s no COTY contender.