The Camaro was always my favourite classic muscle car. The lines of the 60s and 70s models were cleaner, more elegant than the Mustang, and down in Australia, we only got the Charger, not the Challenger, and it was more cumbersome and clumsy-looking than the Camaros of the time.
Fast forward a few decades and all three are back in vogue with retro styling, the same muscular philosophy and the same throaty growl. But while the Camaro of old was clean and beautiful, it’s the ugly duckling of the trio now.
In certain lighting the Camaro is an attractive car – but unfortunately it can’t always be night time. The yellow and black stripes are eye-catching but the rear haunches are overwrought and clumsy. Especially with the imitation vents carved into them. Even the taillights are awkward. For me, the modern Camaro hits all the wrong notes.
And now for a rare admission: I’m wrong. The Camaro is adored by so many for exactly the things I don’t like about it. It’s a polarizing car with fans who love it with a passion. A passion so intense it overwhelms detractors and forces them to admit they’re wrong. As I’ve just done.
My aesthetic opinion was further devalued as I drove – everyone under 25 took a good long look, as did every man over about 45, and a handful of people around my age. Kids loved it – as Mark Stevenson pointed out in his review of the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro convertible, it’s handy to have a hero car from a movie to market you. Incidentally, the Camaro convertible looks far worse than this hardtop edition. The convertible is just plain gross.
However, the black 20-inch rims are hot as hell as is the subtle front splitter and nicely sized rear wing. What a pity the cool, matte black hood is ruined by the fake louvres.
2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS wheel, engine bay, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Under that hood, however, is a thing of pure beauty. A 6.2L V8 capable of 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque all routed through a six-speed manual gearbox! Manual! Yay! That engine sounds, feels and even looks spectacular. It’s the heart and soul of the car. It’s like my wife always says, “a big heart can turn even the ugliest of brutes into a prince.”
And this engine – oh my. My daughter cackled with glee every time I mashed the loud pedal, and even tried to wind her own window down every time we went under a bridge or underpass – luckily this was a coupe, so her little ears were protected! From the moment I got in it I was a fan. The dual-mode exhaust (a $940 option) gives the Camaro a neighbour-friendly purr at low revs, and howls like a wounded bull when you wind it up.