Last week I reluctantly handed over the keys to the 2011 Camaro LS with the RS appearance package Chevy gave me to drive for a week. (Pictured above.) To say that thing is fun to drive is like saying Charlie Sheen likes winning.
Now, it’s not nearly as much fun as the 8-Cylander SS I got some wheel time in a couple of months ago, but it definitely beats the hell outta driving your average six-banger. And the car definitely turns heads. I took it to the Daytona 500, and race fans actually saluted and waved at the car. That was a first for any car I’ve test driven.
Besides the sheer fun of driving it, my two favorite things about the car were the heads-up display (annoying at first, then heavily relied upon), and the graphic on the interior trunk release, instructing you what to do, should you find yourself locked in a Camaro trunk. (that pic, and more, after the jump.)
Here’s what else I thought:
The car turns heads like its much more expensive cousin, the Corvette, or a six-figure Italian sports car. Everyone wanted to see it. And women wanted to ride in it. It’s got a low, sleek look coupled with a seriously aggressive front end, and a rear end wider and firmer than JLo’s.
Add in the RS package (20-inch front and rear wheels, special head- and tail-lamps, rear spoiler) and the twin black stripes running down the middle of the Inferno Orange metallic paint job, and, like one guy said to me when I parked next to him, “That is the only color for that car. That’s the one.”
The Camaro comes in three trim lines: The 6-cylinder LS and LT, and the 8-cylinder SS. The LS and LT direct injection 3.6L V-6 will put out 304hp at 6400 RPM. (The 2012 model will get an increase to 312hp.) But keep in mind the car weighs in at a hefty 3,700 lbs. So each of those horses has a lot of pounds to push.
The SS, while only a couple of hundred pounds heavier, gets a 426hp 6.2L V-8. And like I said earlier, the difference in driving the two is dramatic. Even the engine note of the LST didn’t have the deep, throaty “Get the f*ck outta my way” attitude of the SS. But here’s the trade off: for the LS and LT you’ll save about $7,000-$8,000 off the sticker, and you won’t get bent over the barrel by your insurance company.
The Camaro is a muscle car, not a sports car. It’s made to go very fast in a very straight line. You want speed and agility? Buy a Mazda MX-5. This is for smoking fools off the line. But I will say, that with its ridiculous 75.5-inch width, and 112.3-inch wheelbase, the Camaro eats up corners better than you’d expect. With little to no body roll. My old Camaro? The back end fishtailed more than a mermaid on 4Loko. But the 20’s on the 2011 stayed firmly planted.
Forget the muscle cars of yesteryear, this new version was, dare I say, comfortable. We took it for the 3 1/2 hour drive to Daytona from Fort Lauderdale, and not once did either of us start having to squirm. (The standard heated seats will help too.) The car’s width also gives plenty of shoulder room, and the fact that the back seat is more for show than for function, gives you a ton of legroom.
Now, I had heard from several people that the Camaro is notorious for blind spots. The shaved roof line and wide C-pillar can make you feel like you’re driving in a bath tub with a lid on it. And they’re right. I look over my left shoulder when changing lanes, and in the Camaro all I could see was
the seat belt anchor. But you get used to using the side mirrors quickly.
Another nice add on is the heads-up display Corvette drivers have loved for years. You can get your speed, RPM, compass direction, navigation and even the song that’s playing, without having to take your eyes off the road. And when you’re doing over-the-limit MPH, that’s a good thing.
Overall the LT is plenty of thrill for the bill, especially if you can’t shell out the extra $7K+ for the SS. (And if you aren’t asked by several hotties for rides, you’re doing something wrong.) Would I buy one? Only if I wanted to spend every moment behind the wheel smiling like some demented fool.