SIX GEARS OR 10? That’s the question anyone walking into an HSV showroom for a Chevrolet Camaro will face from here on out.
Local conversion has expanded to include manual transmissions on all models, as Clayton promised when it pulled the wraps off the 2019 version earlier this year, and the 2SS is the first in the range to offer the six-speed manual alongside the 10-speed automatic.
With outputs of 339kW and 617Nm, we’re lucky the aspirated 6.2-litre V8 even gets the choice. It’s at this point some manufacturers would rule out the relevance of a manual, deeming circuit boards a better judge of clutch engagement with so much grunt.
But after Chevrolet proved the potential of the H-pattern by laying down a 7min 16.4sec flying lap at the Nurburgring Nordschleife in the ZL1 1LE, its 477kW track-spec monster, we were salivating over the self-shifting 2SS.
It scores the same Tremec-built 6060 six-speed gearbox as the ZL1 except with a different set of gear ratios, and a lower torque rating (760Nm instead of 880Nm). This is the same ’box as in the outgoing HSV Gen-F2 range, so that might go some way towards helping the 2SS manual feel familiar in hand. Yet we can’t recall a Holden or HSV ever shifting this smoothly.
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Sliding into the Camaro 2SS while it’s parked and playing around with the shifter reveals a buttery throw between each gate. The lever is thinner than the chunky stub found in HSV’s old Gen F2 models and it’s also more contoured than a Mustang’s ball knob.
The clutch feels special as well. It softly clunks at low speed if you’re slow on the release, but the Camaro’s Active Rev Match can hold revs on slow, lazy upshifts and blip them for downshifts. Yeah, we know only a numpty needs help doing that, but the clutch seems to bite twice on the release stroke and sometimes you fall out of sync. So it’s a welcome feature.
That might also be why there’s an anti-stall that blips the throttle when you’re too slow on the clutch release on a hill, helping subdue the massive forces at play on the rear wheels.
It’s a shame local Camaros miss out on its most entertaining tech. You’ll find instructions for line-lock and launch control in the owner’s manual, the latter of which can vary wheelspin and rpm, but they’re not where they should be found in the car’s digital cluster menu. So it’s all down to your left leg and arm.
Chevrolet claims manual Camaros accelerate about three-tenths slower than the 10-speed auto to 100km/h and lag two-tenths over the quarter-mile. We’ve proved it’s a little closer than that, with our manual’s best 0-100 time of 4.7sec being only two-tenths behind the 10-speed auto 2SS’s tested 4.57sec. It’s the same over the quarter-mile, where the manual’s 12.8sec trails the auto’s 12.59sec.
The manual’s longer spread between ratios feel better suited to the engine’s meaty torque band on the drag strip and in the corners than the auto. Cruising around town is nicer too, as you can keep revs in the mid-range and enjoy the delicious off-throttle crackle of the bi-modal exhaust.
On the subject of noise, we also love hearing the throttle-plate suck a gob full of air when you stab the right pedal, like it’s a race engine.
Icing on the cake is that HSV recognises the manual ’box as a simpler mechanical device and charges less for it. At $86,990, it’s $2200 cheaper than the 10-speed.
There are still some flaws in the 2SS whatever transmission you choose, like its firm ride and gluggy steering weight, but the manual helps the car feel more cohesive and authentic.
So, to answer the original question, we’ll take six. Thanks.
2019 CHEVROLET CAMARO SS MANUAL SPECS
Engine: 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v
Power: 339kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 617Nm @ 4400rpm
0-100km/h: 4.7sec (tested)
Like: Sweet drivetrain engine combo; more involving experience; good noise
Dislike: Inconsistent clutch pedal; slightly slower than the 10-speed auto
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
|Chevrolet Camaro SS|
|0-400m||12.8sec @ 182.1km/h|
|Speed in gears|
|1st||87km/h @ 6500rpm|
|2nd||129km/h @ 6500rpm|
|3rd||177km/h @ 6500rpm|
|4th||230km/h @ 6500rpm*|
|5th||290km/h @ 6060rpm*|
|6th||290km/h @ 4095rpm*|
Heathcote Dragway, 23˚C, dry. No rollout applied.
Driver: Scott Newman *Manufacturer’s claim