March 2009 Camaro News Roundup
By Chris Haak
The much-hyped 2010 Chevrolet Camaro pony car finally began production last week in its newly-refitted flexible manufacturing plant in Oshawa, Ontario. Sadly, what was to have been a plant that produced nearly all of a new generation of Zeta-based GM rear wheel drive vehicles (Camaro, Pontiac G8, Chevrolet Impala, future Buick, future Cadillac) will now build only the Camaro – which, in spite of its appeal, price, and performance, will not do much better than fill a niche in the Chevrolet lineup.
3.6 Liter V6’s Highway Fuel Economy is 29 Miles Per Gallon
The base Camaro is powered by a 304-horsepower 3.6 liter direct injection V6, and coupled to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Its 17 mpg city/29 mpg highway fuel economy figures are significantly better than the Mustang V6’s 17/26 or Challenger V6’s 16/25, despite offering significant power advantages over both cars (the Mustang V6 is rated at 210 horsepower and the Challenger V6 is rated at 250 horsepower). In the V8 trim levels, the Camaro again wins the fuel economy skirmish, with the automatic rated at 16/25 and the manual rated at 16/24. The Mustang GT is rated at 17/23 (automatic) and 17/24 (manual), but is down 111 horsepower relative to the Camaro SS with the manual transmission. The very fun, but gas guzzling 425-horsepower Challenger SRT8 isn’t even close in terms of fuel economy, with the manual rated 14/22 and the automatic rated 13/19. The more tame Challenger R/T model rated at the same 16/25 regardless of the transmission choice, but is down 54 horsepower.
Convertible Delayed, Not Cancelled
The expected Camaro convertible, in spite of rumors to the contrary, has not been cancelled. However, this time the economic climate is only indirectly to blame, with The Detroit Bureau reporting that the collapse of the German company (the company is not named in the article) that was to have supplied the top. The original plans were for convertible production to begin about a year after coupe production, but until a new supplier is selected and that company gets up to speed, an additional six-month delay is likely. While producing convertibles in March 2010 would have resulted in plenty of sale-able units in time for summer 2010, the delay means that production in September 2010 (or thereabouts) will cause GM to miss an entire convertible selling season, with ragtop sales understandably cool in winter months throughout most of the country.
High-Performance Supercharged Z28 Probably Cancelled
In a hierarchical change relative to the fourth-generation models (where the Camaro SS was the ultimate performance model, and the Z28 was the entry-level V8 model), the Z28 was to have been the ultimate fifth-generation Camaro. The Z28 was intended to offer a version of the Cadillac CTS-V’s LSA 6.2 liter supercharged V8, which produces 556 horsepower in the CTS-V. Unfortunately, GM is having a difficult time making a solid business case for such an expensive Camaro, and – with the government having more say in GM’s operations each day – it’s hard to make a practical/environmental case for such an over-the-top (and I’m sure delightful to drive) variant of the Camaro. The problem with the Z28 program is that it will cost about $50 million – money that GM just doesn’t have available at the moment, as it cuts back on everything from supplying pencils to employees to making employees dump their own garbage cans into central receptacles. It’s possible that the Z28 could be re-animated at some point in the future if it could be pared down, or money could be found, but for now, it’s dead. The buying public will either have to live with “just” 426 horsepower from the SS coupe six-speed, or turn to the aftermarket for the ultimate performance Camaros.
First Driving Impressions are Out
While some media outlets have had the opportunity to drive the Camaro, we have not yet had the chance. That being said, impressions are largely favorable. Most reviewers have pointed out that the steering is on the light side (the arch-rival Mustang is often the recipient of similar criticism), handling is generally good, the interior is full of cheap plastic and has poor exterior visibility, the car with the V8 is very fast, and the V6 is surprisingly capable for a base model. The car is also fairly hefty compared to the Mustang. Now you don’t have to read any other reviews of the car, right?
The only thing yet to happen with the new Camaro is for production to continue ramping up and satisfying pre-orders and meeting demand. After that point, we’ll be able to follow sales trends and learn the identity of the true winner of the latest battle in the pony car wars.
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