Chevrolet Camaro SS vs... what?

Mopar fans have been demanding for years a true rear wheel drive sports car. Yes, the Daytona and Spirit R/T were impressive, but neither is still made. The Viper is the king of muscle, but few can afford it, and fewer still can both afford it and drive it safely. Why doesn't Chrysler make a rear wheel drive, V-8 powered sports car? Maybe because of the Camaro.

The Camaro easily outperforms the Mustang, but doesn't sell as well. It's hard to admit it, but it would be hard for Chrysler to match Chevrolet's years of experience in building cars like this. The Camaro uses the Corvette LS1 engine, producing 325 horses - considerably more than the 4.7 V8, maybe not as much as the Hemi would. It has outstanding handling, with a dry-or-wet traction control that prevents burnouts on takeoff. The result is outstanding but easily controlled acceleration (0 to 60 in well under 6 seconds), without torque steer - indeed, with more control than the all-wheel-drive Audi TT Coupe. (Which, by the way, is not as fast).

Brakes are equally capable. The transmission shifts firmly, but is up to the task of dealing with 325 horsepower. Gas mileage is acceptable considering the acceleration, with city traffic yielding in the high teens and highway driving bringing mileage in the mid-20s.

Yes, the Camaro has some insane features, including the old and illogical 1970s keys - one for the ignition, one for the doors! - the crazy GM cruise-turn signal-washer-wiper stalk that cannot do any of those tasks well - and the big heavy doors. Visibility is hampered by the convertible top, especially on the sides and in the rear. However, it is still an almost unbelievable performer, providing even inexperienced drivers with excellent control. And, as long as drivers understand the limits of traction - especially on wet roads - the Camaro will do its best to keep them out of the ditch. Those who remember older Camaros will be amazed by the difference. (The SS has a tweaked suspension and special wheels and tires).

The interior is well designed for the most part, with a very good stereo boasting actual audio control knobs. Well placed demisters quickly defog the windshield and side windows. The convertible top works well and is easily to take down and put up. The rear seat is usable, though either the front or rear passenger must be relatively trim, and the passenger seat floor is raised. In the convertible, there is almost no trunk space, though.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Camaro is its ability to provide full throttle acceleration with total traction, no spinning tires or burnouts required. It makes the Camaro easy to drive quickly, much more so than older muscle cars or, from what we hear, the Viper.

In short, the Camaro is an excellent muscle car, providing a livable interior and blistering performance, along with enough control to keep the car (and its driver) in one piece. Yet, GM is set to cancel the series - which has survived in an unbroken line since the 1960s - due to low sales.

As far as we can see - if a car as good as the Camaro, albeit handicapped by poor styling, cannot survive, a Dodge muscle car is probably toast as well. In the meantime, it might be worth a trip to the local Chevrolet or Pontiac dealer to test drive the Camaro or Trans Am - while you can still get them.

(Note - rumor has it that there may be another generation of Camaro coming up).

For more details, visit our Spirit R/T section.

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