2010 Chevrolet Camaro Long Term Road Test - Audio & Technology
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2010 Chevrolet Camaro Long Term Road Test

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: Audio Review

September 21, 2010

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Maybe it's the retro styling of the 2010 Chevy Camaro SS, but each time I drive it and crank up the stereo, I flash back to a certain Friday night after a high school football game in the '70s (think Dazed and Confused comes alive). A bunch of teen-age longhairs --myself include, when I still had lots left -- are hanging out in a burger joint parking lot around an older kid named Kenny Guillotte's '68 Camaro. (Like D&C's David Wooderson, he had already graduated and also had long blonde hair). The Camaro's doors and trunk are open and Kenny's blasting Aerosmith's Rocks. I remember it clearly 'cause it was my 8-track tape playing, which I thought for sure earned me some cool points with the posse.

I also distinctly recall the Craig PowerPlay "surface-mount" speakers kicking out the jams from the back deck of Kenny's Camaro (or maybe he even moved them to the roof ... that part is lost in the haze), and how that was about as bitchin' as it got for car audio back in those days. I wish I could go back and compare it to the sound of the Boston Acoustics system in our long-term 2010 Camaro SS. Almost as much as I wish I had even half as much hair on my head as I had then.

The Setup
The Boston Acoustics sound system that comes standard in the 2010 Camaro 2SS Coupe consists of nine speakers powered by 245 watts. The speakers include a 6.5-inch midrange low in each door, a 1-inch tweeter in the "sail panel" in the lower-forward corner of each front window, a 3.5-inch midrange/tweeter in the center of the dash and a pair of 6x9 two-way coaxials in the rear deck. The packaging is low-key, with only a small logo on each door speaker to announce the presence of the system.

The Sound
Per usual, I subjected the Camaro's Boston Acoustics system to our standard audio evaluation process. This entails sound-checking it with jazz, rock, folk, pop and rap music tracks I've listened to in hundreds of cars to gauge clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy, soundstaging, imaging and dynamics. And I test for staging/imaging, linearity and absence of noise using non-musical test tracks. (For details on our testing procedure, check out the Edmunds.com article Sound Advice.)

Besides bringing back memories of my misspent youth, the sound of the system in the Camaro also reminded me of similar Boston Acoustics setups in other modern-day muscle cars, specifically the Dodge Charger. While it can't compete with premium systems in even some lower-priced cars, like the Bose setup in our long-term Mazdaspeed 3, it's hard to complain about the Camaro's system performance relative to its price.

Without a dedicated subwoofer, the Camaro system suffered from not being able to provide solid low end, although the 6x9s in the rear deck and 6.5s in the front doors did a valiant job of pumping out decent if not very detailed bass. For example, on the Outkast track "Ain't No Thing," the system produced impressive low-frequency energy -- and also an annoying amount of interior-panel rattles. But on other tracks the low bass and midbass were mostly boomy and distorted.

The system has a center speaker in the dash, although it didn't help much with soundstaging and particularly imaging. The soundstage was narrow and imaging severely side-biased, with vocals and other elements that should be front and center pulled down toward the door speakers. Unsurprisingly, the system failed our non-audio staging and imaging tests.

But sometimes a system like the one in the Camaro can be pleasing even if it doesn't pass technical tests with flying colors. Even given the deficiencies described above, the Boston system was capable of bringing out nuances in the music and had above average tonality, good stereo separation and decent dynamics. One musical test track, Red House Painters' "San Geronimo," is a rock song with a dense, midbass-heavy mix that many systems render as a mass of indistinct sounds rather than individual instruments. But with the Camaro system, the music held together fairly well. And with the jazzy instrumental "The Blues Walk" that kicks off the Lyle Lovett and His Large Band LP, I found I'd stopped listening for testing purposes but instead just for pleasure.

The Sources
Our 2010 Camaro SS comes with a single CD head unit that also offers AM, FM and Sirius radio. It features an aux-in jack and USB port in the center console storage bin, and the USB cable that comes with an iPod can be used to connect the device. The head unit's iPod interface is pretty straightforward and painless. As our Director of Testing Dan Edmunds pointed out, it includes audiobooks and podcasts as separate menu categories and has an "Alpha Accelerator" quick-scroll mode that makes finding music in a large music library much easier. The same menu structure is also used for tunes loaded on a USB drive and plugged into the USB port. I found that the system in the Camaro got mixed up and listed artists on my iPod/iPhone as albums, and albums as artists. But this could have more to do with a recent update of the software on my iPhone to iOS 4 before I tested the car, and which also caused problems in our long-term GMC Terrain. (I've heard reports that an iOS 4.1 upgrade solves the problem.)

What We Say
The Boston Acoustics system in the 2010 Camaro SS may not be the ultimate in auto sound from an audiophile perspective. In fact, it's far from it and I found plenty of nits to pick. But considering it's standard on this trim level -- and that at full throttle the guttural growl of the car's 426-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 tends to make it a mute point -- the system is a great road trip companion in the Camaro, especially when cranking rock 'n' roll. I'm sure Kenny Guillotte would agree.

The Scores
Sound: B-
Source Selection: B+
iPod Integration: B+
Cost: A+

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

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2010 Chevy Camaro: Form Over Function

September 16, 2010

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Other folks have complained about the Camaro's center stack being too busy and an unfortunate example of form over function. I am not one of those people.

Oh sure, the climate controls have tiny buttons that are difficult to operate at a glance. You need to have dainty little fingers to operate them, so forget about using them with gloves (for those in California, imagine the latex gloves your Botox injectionist uses but filled with toasty padding and covered in either leather or a water-proof tech fabric. It's quite the invention).

Where the hell was I? Ah yes, the Camaro center stack. The stereo isn't the simplest thing on Earth either, but in general I'm OK with a little form over function once in a while. Just compare the Camaro's dash design to those in the Mustang and Challenger. Those cars utilize cookie-cutter parts bin controls, which are easier to use than the Camaro's (OK, so the Challenger's Chrysler/Ferrari California navi unit stinks. Yes, a Ferrari uses that turkey and before the Fiat purchase), but they look really dull. GM actually took the time to create bespoke controls, which is a rarity for it to be sure, and I think it deserves credit for doing so. Just as I tolerate a Jag XF or XJ's ergonomic foibles because the interior looks so damn cool, I can do the same for the Camaro.

I can't do that for the ridiculous steering wheel since I hold that all the time and it helps me do important things like steer the car. Turning on the heated seat and going to preset 3 is less important.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 21,422 miles

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: iPod Integration Mix Up

August 27, 2010

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While I don't disagree with Karl Brauer's assessment of the Boston Acoustics audio system in the Camaro SS (and probably wouldn't argue anyway with an audiophile rockin' classic DMC TimeWindow speakers in his home stereo setup), I can't abide by his statement that the car's iPod integration "just works, everytime."

As evidence I present the picture above, which I snapped while my iPhone 3GS was attached to the USB port in the center console. Ever hear of an album titled Al Green, Alejandro Escovedo or Alice Cooper? Me neither.

For some reason the Camaro's system showed Artists as Albums, and Albums as Artists, as in the pic below.

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: Sounds Good, Real Good!

August 26, 2010

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I was driving our 2010 Long-Term Chevrolet Camaro SS yesterday and noticed something that hadn't previously occurred to me. The car's audio system sounds quite good!

I was probably about one-third of the way into my 50-mile commute, summer beach traffic had finally broken up north of Malibu, and a good song was playing (Cheap Trick's "Reach Out" from the Heavy Metal soundtrack). There's a fair amount of dynamic range going on in the song, and it's got solid production quality that you can appreciate if you listen on a high-quality system. Which means a system lacking in both power and accuracy will falter when dealing with it.

The Camaro's 245-watt, nine-speaker Boston Acoustics audio system has both. Once I focused on the sound I realized someone had gone a little nuts with the mid-range and bass settings (maybe Magrath was trying to get his gangsta goin' on), but with some tweaking the song's overall dynamic sound reproduction was nearly faultless.

Low's could be a tad tighter, though power certainly isn't an issue (my left pant leg was literally being blow around by the door speaker before I settled the bass down). This is in addition to the Camaro's (and most modern GM's) brainless iPod integration that literally requires plugging in a USB cable and...nothing else! It just works, everytime. I wish all "iPod capable" audio systems were this easy to use (because trust me, they aren't).

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor at Large at 20,984 miles

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2010 Chevy Camaro: iPod Interface Video

August 05, 2010

I describe how the Camaro's iPod interface works in this (HD!) video. Dan Edmunds also touched on another benefit of this interface almost a year ago (my how time flies).

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 19,794 miles

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2010 Chevy Camaro SS: Digital Speedometer?

March 29, 2010

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Somebody that helped design the interior of the 2010 Chevy Camaro SS has driven a Porsche Boxster, Cayman or recent 911.

How do I know?

Simple. They decided to compromise the readability of the Camaro's analog speedometer in the name of style (Packed full of numbers with a thick needle that covers more than 5 mph at any one time.). Then they added a digital speed readout so you can see how fast you're going.

Hey, if it's good enough for the folks in Stuttgart...

Personally, I applaud the GM guys for recognizing the need for the digital speedo and addressing it, but I'd also rather just have an analog speedometer I can read.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 14,697 miles

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro: Competitive Driving Mode

February 18, 2010

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Maybe you already knew this, but the 2010 Camaro SS comes with a competitive driving mode. When activated, it relaxes the car's stability control system to allow a bit more of a slide than normal before corrective action is taken. It's activated by pushing the traction/stability control button twice. (Launch control is also activated via this way.)

Of course, holding the button down for about five seconds turns it all off. But the competitive driving mode could be useful for someone taking his or her Camaro to an autocross or high performance driving event for the first time as it allows you to learn the car's limits and still have a safety net.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: Silver Linings

January 22, 2010

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You know, I really want to like our Camaro. But it seems like every time I come across a positive attribute, something gets in the way. I've got some examples. For one, our Camaro has got a pretty good stereo. The nine-speaker Boston Acoustics system is quite impressive, with hefty and clear bass and clean tones in the upper registers. It ably got things bumpin' and thumpin' with L.L. Cool J's "Goin' Back to Cali" and revealed all of the complexity of a Thomas Newman film score (his mischevious use of pizzicotto amazes me). But, there's a rattle in the passenger door somewhere that bugs me when the bass hits. Rats!

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: Source...of Frustration

January 19, 2010

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The steering wheel in our long-term Camaro SS has been the source of much frustration over the past 6 months. Most people don't like the shape of the rim, and the location and thickness of the spokes further complicates how and where you grab it.

But more frustrating than either of those traits is the combination source/track advance button on the right spoke. To move forward or backward in station presents or CD tracks you're supposed to move the button up and down. To switch between media sources (CD, radio, iPod, etc.) you push the button straight in. And to keep from screaming at the button I just use the primary audio controls in the center stack.

It's a sloppy design, really, and one that makes using the button difficult even at a dead stop. With a weak spring underneath the button you're as likely to jump from satellite radio to iPod playlists as you are to switch tracks/stations -- regardless of which action you're truly seeking. Any interaction with the button while in motion is a complete roll of the dice.

A vehicle's steering wheel is the primary touchpoint between car and driver. Like a computer's keyboard or a motorcycle's handgrips. It's unfortunate the Camaro's is so poorly executed, as it makes it tougher to enjoy the Chevy's relatively nimble handling and willing engine.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief @ 10,940 miles

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2010 Chevy Camaro: Kudos to New GM Key

November 11, 2009

Chevy Keys

The New GM has a new key design -- it's about freakin' time. That old separate key and fob set-up was so very 1996, while the writing on those gray rubber buttons would wear off substantially faster than other key fobs. Our long-term's Silverado's unlock button was barely visible after a year. Most of the GM fleet continues to use the old keys, but the latest models (Camaro, Equinox and LaCrosse) utilize a switchblade design almost identical in concept to the one Volkswagen came up with back in the late 1990s.

I say better late than ever because the new key is a quality item. The switchblade snaps up and down with a solid, mechanical action. The button icons are raised so that you can identify them by touch alone. The key ring connection at the bottom seems very robust. In total, it seems to me like the highest quality switchblade key currently around.

There are other GM key designs. One is used for models with keyless ignition/entry, like the CTS and Corvette, just to name two. The Aussie G8 also had a switchblade, but it wasn't as nice as this one.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 6,700 miles

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: My humps

October 29, 2009

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The radio suppliers to our long-term 2010 Chevy Camaro SS went all-out in designing the radio tone setting/graphic equalizer in the car, sparing no expense.

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2010 Camaro SS: Ergonomic Fail? Almost...

October 22, 2009

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Our Long-Term 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS is equipped with the 2SS package, and that includes the cool console-mounted gauge cluster. If you're a fan of the 1967-1969 models you probably recall the original version of these gauges. I remember seeing them for the first time during a cruising event in the late 1980s (inside a mint silver 1969 Z/28).

I'm glad GM decided to offer them on the latest 'Maro, but depending on your seating position they aren't easy to see. Actually, they're never easy to see because of how low they sit, but that much I'll forgive in the name of reto cool.

However, the new Camaro's protruding climate controls can block these gauges if you sit close enough and or high enough in the driver's seat. When I adjust the seat for my comfort/control position the fan-speed dial just brushes the top of the oil pressure gauge.

I suspect the center stack designer and the console/optional-gauge-cluster designer didn't talk much before the design of both items was set (not sure how else this could happen).

Regardless, I'll give Chevy a pass on this potential ergonomic fail. But I can't speak for people who adjust the seat to a different position than mine...

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2010 Chevy Camaro SS: Tire Pressure

October 14, 2009

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Today I've got good news and bad news about our long-term 2010 Chevy Camaro SS.

The good news is that it has this tire pressure readout on its instrument cluster. Actually its very good news since it's raining today and checking the tire pressures old school would not have been fun.

The bad news is that all four of the Camaro's 20-inch Pirellis is low. Spec is 36 psi cold.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 5,404 miles

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2010 Chevy Camaro SS: Track Ready Temp Gauge

October 09, 2009

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The other day I noticed a cool feature on the Camaro's instrument panel. With the push of a button you can put a large numerical engine tempurature gauge directly in front of the driver.

Anyone that has driven a car on a racetrack knows this is cool, and it's one of those small details that tells you that the Camaro development team at GM actually had some real gearheads on it. Gearheads that knew the Camaro's small temp gauge (seen on the left) with its simple H and C range just wouldn't cut it when the car is driven hard.

You know the more I drive our long-term Camaro the more I like it.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

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2010 Camaro SS: "Pair Device (GPS)" Setting a Dead End?

September 23, 2009

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After hopping in the Camaro SS last night, I started to pair my phone and came across this perplexing option in the Bluetooth menu: "Pair Device (GPS)."

I've used several portable GPS devices with built-in Bluetooth. But why would you need a separate setting for GPS when portable nav systems and cell phones share the same Bluetooth device-pairing profile?

A call to Chevy PR didn't provide an answer (at least not as of post-time), but a quick Google search got us one from the fanatics at camaro5.com.

According to a thread in a post by Codeman71, who claims to be a GM employee who designed the interface for the Camaro's Bluetooth interface, the mysterious "Pair Device (GPS)" setting is a dead end.

He writes, "It was initially intended to basically allow you to pair up a laptop or phone and get GPS coordinates from the OnStar module. You could then run a navigation program like Streets & Trips on your laptop. This functionality was eventually disabled, but wasn't removed from the radio for some reason."

I was hoping it was for what my colleague Al Austria guessed: So that voice instructions from a portable nav system could be played over the vehicle's speakers.

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology, Edmunds.com

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: No Remote Start

September 21, 2009

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We can debate all we want about things like the Camaro's look, likely buyers, funky steering wheel - frankly, once the smoke clears, this is a pretty freaking great car. It makes the right sounds, looks cool on the INSIDE too (glaring right at the Challenger) and is a blast to drive. A well sorted car at a decent price - end of story.

Our 2SS model with the RS package is missing one feature I'd really like to have, remote start. It looks like that feature is only offered on cars with an automatic transmission. I really like remote start but I'm not sure I'd be able to give up the manual trans to get it - anybody prefer a Camaro SS with an A/T and remote start over a manual?

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor.

PS - those halo light rings are tough looking so RS package - probably worth it.

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: Bitchin' iPod Interface

September 10, 2009

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Our 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS has one of the best iPod interfaces going.

I'm not saying that because you can connect your iPod to a simple USB port in the center console with the standard white iPod cord you use to synch-up with your computer.

And I'm not just saying that because you get full menu control, with podcasts and audiobooks broken out in their own top-level menu categories alongside song, artist, album, etc.

Neither am I saying that because you get easy access to all of that with the above standard display instead of having to fork over major bank for a navigation system and a touch screen.

These things are indeed true, but the real reason I am giddy about this interface is that GM has also provided an elegant solution to one of the most vexing in-car iPod control problems that I encounter on a daily basis.

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2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS: Is OnStar a Suitable Cell Phone Alternative?

September 08, 2009

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I didn't even know our Camaro had OnStar's hands-free calling service until a number popped up on the screen asking me if I wanted to "answer" or "decline." At the time I was driving through rural Utah, so I was both curious and bored enough to I hit "answer" just to see what happened.

A woman came over the speakers and asked for Stephanie something-or-other. Since my name is not Stephanie I politely told the caller she had the wrong number.

She persisted, "Is there a Stephanie there?"

I responded, "This is my car ma'am, unless Stephanie is stowed away in the trunk, I'm pretty sure she's not around."

That was enough to convince her and she hung up. I then proceeded to play around with the system to see how well it worked as a Bluetooth alternative.

It's quite useful, sort of.

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