CLICK, CLACK. The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS’s gear paddles still make an awful sound when you pluck one. But while the gearbox used to hesitate before an upshift, it now engages more swiftly, like pulling a gun’s trigger. And rightfully so.
Chevrolet has armed its V8 invader with a new 10-speed transmission for its mid-cycle update. It’s also added more equipment and restyled the exterior. Yet we don’t blame you if it feels like the previous version launched yesterday.
Only six months have lapsed since HSV sold its first Camaro. The latest one comes after it proved so skilled at converting them to right-hand drive, GM’s granted us almost immediate access to the updated version and a much-needed change to the local build process.
At $89,190 the Camaro’s ticket has risen to $3200. Clayton still plays the middle-man, importing core vehicles and then basically re-manufacturing them, but it now receives American Camaros instead of Argentinian ones, handing it more control over what’s included for the slightly inflated price.
That sunroof disappears from the standard equipment list and is replaced by a heads-up display, forward-collision and rear cross-traffic alert system along with a reversing camera mirror. Oh, and there’s that striking front-end with a new vented bonnet and ‘Flowtie’ grille. Be prepared for attention.
With those new ‘dual element’ LED headlights peering out from what looks like a huge gaping maw, the new look Camaro mesmerises bystanders with more menace. And that’s not all, there’s something different about the exhaust note, too.
Shorter gears wind that 6.2-litre V8 on to its meaty mid-range more often. We’ve asked HSV whether engineers saw the new transmission as an opportunity to fiddle with fuel maps so the LT1 is more aural on over-run, and will update you with an answer, but that’s what it certainly sounds like.
It repeatedly burbles and crackles once you step off the throttle. It’s addictive, and smooth, but you’ll need to drive around in manual mode to stay in low gears. The new ’box is just as frugal-focused as before when left to its own devices, even in Track Mode.
It rushes through gears to keep the V8’s thirst under control. Outputs are carried over, with HSV promising power junkies relief instead from the supercharged Camaro ZL1 that’s awaiting certification. But do more ratios make better use of the SS’s 339kW and 617Nm? In short, yes.
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Chevrolet says acceleration figures are unchanged, but we’ve confirmed it’s faster to 100km/h from rest and over 400m through testing of our own. You’re going to have to wait for our full road test in MOTOR’s June issue to read the figures, though, sorry. Instead, we can discuss the toys that should have drag-strip junkies salivating.
Engineers have loaded it with launch control and a tyre-shredding line lock feature. The latter is basically burnouts for dummies, artificially holding the front brakes while you stomp the gas. However, there is one trick to it.
Engage Track Mode and ESP’s Stabili-Trak setting and navigate through the cluster’s menu to find the Line Lock program. It’ll instruct you on what to do, like how much brake pressure it’ll need (or 80psi) and when to get into the throttle. But if you floor the loud pedal it’ll disengage.
Instead, you need to tickle it, slowly building the revs and wheel speed until the rear axle is sitting and spinning. Once you’re hovering around 6500rpm, tap the Cruise Control button under your left thumb and ‘Select’ under your right one.
This walks the car forward, laying black strips of rubbery glue that you’ll try trace later when launching the car. It works so easily, so smoothly, you suspect nothing’s worked until you spot the mushroom cloud in your mirrors, suggesting you might have burnt through some expensive tyres. Luckily that’s not the case.
Chevrolet’s left the suspension package alone, carrying over 245/40 and 275/35 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3s run flats. They still offer an annoyingly firm ride underneath GM’s FE3 fixed suspension and until the ZL1’s magnetic dampers are made available the setup remains handling focused.
That’s no bad thing, it’s still the better handling muscle car on sale even if its iffy steering weight spoils its front-end’s tactility. Pair its engine’s thick mid-range with the gearbox’s shorter ratios and it’s a fraction faster along curvy roads, even if it’s missing the crispness of the Mustang’s 10-speed automatic (which the two companies, ironically, co-developed).
Inside everything feels more solidly built than before, and the material mix ooze a semi-premium vibe. Those cylindrical indicator stalks channel VF Commodore, too. It’s almost faultless, save for one thing.
The steering column developed a squeak that we’re told comes from a faulty seal. But that’s it. The rest of its build quality is great. The new Heads-Up Display, crisper menu graphics both in the infotainment and cluster, help the cabin feel like it’s made a huge leap forward in technology.
And that’s the best way to sum up the 2019 Camaro. It’s a collection of thoughtful upgrades that enhance its emotional appeal, technology and driveability. Chevrolet might still need to change those paddles and smooth its ride, but we think it’s worth the extra $3200, and perhaps the six-speed could be better for $86,990. Stay tuned for that review, and this car’s full road test with performance figures, soon.
All about the drive on MOTOR car reviews
2019 CHEVROLET CAMARO 2SS SPECS
Engine: 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v
Power: 317kW @ 5700rpm
Torque: 617Nm @ 4600rpm
Weight: 1697kg (US)
0-97km/h: 4.0sec (claimed)