It’s the sad reality of any contest that someone has to come last and at PCOTY 2019 that dubious honour goes to the Chevrolet Camaro. It’s unlikely to placate the disappointed folks at HSV, but we prefer to think of it as 11th – as Morley says, it beat everything that’s not here. The Chevy is also an enjoyable muscle car that’s unlikely to disappoint anyone in the market for such a thing.
PCOTY is not a comparison test per se, but given the similarity between the Camaro and Mustang in intended function, it’s inevitable comparisons will be drawn between the two. However, while the two are rear-drive V8 coupes tugging at emotional heartstrings, each delivers a remarkably different driving experience.
The Camaro is much more of a traditional muscle car. Its 6.2-litre LT1 V8 feels lazier, producing peak power at 5700rpm, but compensates with massive mid-range torque, not to mention a thunderous soundtrack.
There’s greater body roll in corners and less precision to the handling, yet the firm ride is a constant reminder of its sporting intentions. The steering is very heavy in its standard mode and only gets more so if you adjust it; thankfully, it can be adjusted independently of the powertrain.
There’s the sense HSV’s ride and handling team would love to get their hands on the Camaro – cushion the ride, lighten the steering, sharpen its responses – particularly as there is such an impressive base to work with.
While it feels big and heavy, the Chevy is benign and adjustable when driven hard; on track it was the pick of the muscle cars for me, purely because its softness gave it an adjustability the Mustang lacked. It also happily soaked up the abuse; even the brakes held up well.
Unfortunately, circuit work only exacerbated the Camaro’s biggest flaw – its transmission. This eight-speed auto is one of the most frustrating gearboxes ever encountered, more often than not ignoring seemingly reasonable downshift requests with the obstinacy of a surly teenager.
Even left to its own devices it would wait until throttle was applied on corner exit before picking the appropriate gear. Hopefully the MY19 Camaro’s new 10-speed is quicker-witted.
In the final reckoning, the Chevrolet proved itself a very good car, but not a great one. It scored well across most of the criteria without being a stand out in any area, but its ride and visibility hampered its liveability score and the value equation is a struggle.
When you see how much work goes into converting the Camaro, it’s remarkable HSV can offer it at $85,990, but when its abilities are so similar to a car costing up to $20K less, it’s always going to come off second best.
All about the drive on Performance Car of the Year 2019
2019 CHEVROLET CAMARO 2SS SPECS:
Engine: 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v
Power: 339kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 617Nm @ 4600rpm
0-400m: 12.72sec @ 186.35km/h
The Bend lap time: 1min 31.0sec
Dylan Campbell - 10th
"If your only desires are a thumping V8 in a svelte body, you’ll love the Camaro."
Louis Cordony - 11th
"A reincarnated coupe Commodore SS, with some working issues."
David Morley - 11th
"Wasn't my favourite, but those who 'get' it will buy it."
Scott Newman - 9th
"Great looks, grunty engine, fun chassis, just needs a gearbox."
Rick Kelly - 10th
"Great to look at, enjoyable to drive, old-school drivetrain."
PCOTY 2019 Scoring