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2010 Chevrolet Camaro

Looks good from almost any angle, whether V6 or V8.
Looks good from almost any angle, whether V6 or V8.

High expectations often mean a greater level of disappointment, but fortunately that’s not the case with the all-new Camaro. To start with, its design is an unqualified success, appealing to a large swath of the public, not just those waiting for the mullet to make its comeback. Particularly nice is the way it reinterprets classic cues using contemporary surfacing and stance.

The interior isn’t quite so successful. Present are the concept Camaro’s great squared-off instrument surrounds and unique center stack controls. But the ole’ GM habits of letting the bean counters run roughshod mean materials look and feel cheap. As the driver, I was pretty happy, but no one who came along for a ride had anything good to say about the cliff-face of hollow plastic they faced or the hard center console molding. The tight rear quarters are particularly mean spirited. Enough of the bad stuff; in most other respects this is the kind of car Chevy needs to build more of.

That’s because it’s just so decent to drive—even in basic V6-powered form (unlike its pony car rivals). Using a direct-injected 3.6-liter engine that cranks out 310hp, it rips through its six gears (whether manual or auto) with a tunefully incongruous high-tech snarl from its twin pipes on the way to a 6.1-second rendezvous with 60. As an added bonus, this cutting edge powertrain routinely delivers mid-20’s mpg.

Traditionalists will demand a small block, though, and one of two 6.2-liter pushrods (a 426hp LS3 with the manual or a 400hp L99 with the auto) does duty here, allowing the Camaro to crack into the 4-second 0-60 bracket, and haul up with equal ferocity thanks to a set of stupendously stop-worthy Brembo fixed-caliper brakes.

Either configuration handles with surprising grace; the Chevy’s girth turns out to be the limiting factor on twisty roads, as body control is completely contemporary. There’s a wonderful absence of pitch and roll, and if the steering’s not the last word in detailed feedback, it’s accurate and precise enough. And whether the suspension is FE2 (V6) or stiffer FE3, the Camaro still rides well, even on the visually mandatory 20” five-spoke wheels. By and large Chevrolet has succeeded admirably in updating the pony car formula of cheap speed and arresting visuals to the modern automotive landscape.

THE BROKER’S VIEW: When the ‘Ro launched, there was such pent up demand that dealers couldn’t keep even keep SS demos around; even the V6 sold very well. While things have cooled somewhat since, the Chevy has outsold its pony car rivals every month. But that may change soon: Ford has a new V6 coming for the ‘Stang, with 305hp (the ancient motor it replaced had only210); since it weighs in several hundred pounds light of the Camaro, the Ford’s likely to be both quicker and more frugal. And a new 400hp ‘Coyote’ V8 for its GT version debuts in January, which will keep the ponycar wars hot for some time to come. And, despite continual upgrades in power, the Mustang has always held a decent percentage of its value for an American car long term; three-year old models often sell for about 50% of new. It will be interesting to see if the Camaro can beat that.

Price range: $23,040-40,790

GM’s official Camaro page is here.