September 30, 2010
We limped our 15,000-mile Camaro to Santa Monica Chevrolet early that April morning.
"I don't care how hard you drive; this tranny should be able to take it. That's what the Camaro SS is made for. This just should not happen," proclaimed our Chevrolet service advisor, having witnessed the defeated condition of our new Camaro's transmission. We left our 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS with him. Not 30 minutes passed before he called with an update. "GM doesn't want us touching your tranny. They're sending out a replacement under warranty. I will call you in a few days when parts arrive."
Our test of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS was not without hiccups.
Why We Bought It
The Mustang was back. The Challenger was back. When Chevy announced that the Camaro was also back, we had to have one. Just in case the all-new 2010 Chevy Camaro nameplate wasn't motivation enough, Chevy threw in two letters of encouragement: SS.
Chevrolet bolted the 6.2-liter LS3 engine from the Corvette into the Camaro SS. The result was 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque for 35 grand. Pass the tissues. This was enough to bring a tear to a grown man's eye. A Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual gearbox would manage the torque and 20-inch Pirelli P Zero summer tires would put it to the ground. The table was set. We needed just to sit down and dig in.
So we bought a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS and promised to wring it within an inch of its life for the next 12 months and 20,000 miles. All the while, we'd track our progress on the long-term blog pages.
We found the Camaro's driving manners polarizing. Some found the burnout capability of its V8, the comfortable driver seat and reasonable highway ride were enough to forgive the size and heft of the SS. Others felt this Camaro missed the mark. Executive Editor Michael Jordan voiced this opinion: "The American GT car is my favorite ride, a perfect mix of power, weight and handling. But the guys who put the new Camaro together seem never to have driven any kind of car at all, much less any Camaro or Firebird. This car is a kind of stunt, a strange kind of genetic experiment gone horribly wrong. The right guys had this project to start with, but it seems to have fallen into the wrong hands somewhere along the line."
Once we focused on the cabin, we could finally agree. Both the steering wheel and the shift knob were so ergonomically challenged that they compromised our driving experience. (Several of us noted that they were made for people with "Lego hands.") Although everyone acclaimed the retro authenticity of the instruments, we found them flawed functionally. These issues and others explained the Camaro's quick decline in popularity among the staff.
And we agreed on at least one redeeming quality, a kickass stereo. Associate Editor Mark Takahashi echoed our sentiment: "This is a good stereo. The nine-speaker Boston Acoustics system is quite impressive. Hefty, clear bass and clean tones in the upper registers had me looking forward to 'Goin' Back to Cali.'" The Camaro's iPod interface was another positive and thankfully left us with more options than Cool James.
Our trip down Camaro Lane wasn't without speed bumps. The warranty covered items like tightening the loose rear spoiler, addressing an intermittent airbag warning light and soldering the loose wires that rendered its center gauge cluster inoperable.
But there was one more item. Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt recounted, "With the radio up, it's possible I wouldn't have heard the chatter coming from the driveline. It may have even masked the characteristic racket of an aged throw-out bearing. But even with the speakers at full capacity I couldn't miss the massive clunk into 2nd gear. No matter how slow or deliberate the shift. CLUNK. Something was wrong." That's when we first feared the transmission in our 2010 Chevrolet Camaro was toast. After 22 days on the operating table and a new 2nd gear, the Chevy was back on the road. We experienced no further transmission problems following the rebuild. It was as strong as ever.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $73.70
Additional Maintenance Costs: $49 to install the front license plate and bracket
Warranty Repairs: Transmission rebuild, remedy intermittent airbag warning light, tighten loose rear spoiler, remedy inoperable center gauge cluster lights
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1, for a transmission rebuild
Days Out of Service: 22, all for transmission repair
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
When we first track tested the Camaro at 1,000 miles it left a positive impression. When we retested at 20,000 miles its mold was permanently cast in our minds. Performance had improved across the board by the conclusion of our test.
Skeptics within our ranks vocalized their doubts that the transmission rebuild would survive another round of instrumented testing. But they soon recanted such Camaro blasphemy. Its 20,000-mile test showed the 6.2-liter LS3 was faster than ever. Acceleration to 60 mph from a standstill was almost a half-second quicker, at 4.7 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout). Trap speed was up and quarter-mile time down, to the tune of 13.1 seconds at 110.8 mph. Even the stopping distance from 60 mph shortened to 109 feet. Slalom speed matched its 66 mph baseline, while lateral-g production around the skid pad grew ever so slightly, to 0.86g.
In addition to stout performance on the track, the LS3 delivered decent fuel economy. Our best single tank was over 23 mpg, though our average dipped to 16 mpg over the lifetime of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. What did you expect? With 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque at our disposal we didn't spend much time in the EPA-friendly ranges of the tach. Our worst tank dipped into the single-digit range, securing the Camaro's muscle car respectability. Don't forget. All of these figures came on the cheap sauce, 87-octane.
Best Fuel Economy: 23.1 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 9.4 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 16.5 mpg
We expected a slam dunk when it came time to sell the Camaro. Our closest point of reference was our long-term Challenger which sold at an incredible 79 percent of its original value. MSRP on the Camaro was $35,425 when we bought it a year ago. And according to Edmunds TMV® Calculator it was still worth $32,442, or 92 percent of MSRP when the time came to sell. But we didn't buy at MSRP. After paying homage to the dealer, government and capitalism, we had spent $42,192 for our SS. We also didn't sell for TMV.
When the dust settled our 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS sold for $28,000. This price reflected depreciation of 34 percent over 18 months of ownership. Our SS retained just 66 percent of its original purchase value. Advantage goes to the Mopar in this category.
True Market Value at service end: $32,442
What it sold for: $28,000
Depreciation: $14,192 or 34% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 22,746
But performance figures don't offer the complete story. In an effort to maximize retro styling this Camaro lost some of the fun-to-drive character of generations past. The design also challenged the balance between form and function. It was an aesthetic success but as such suffered certain ergonomic lapses in the cabin. Still, we learned a lot from 18 months of Camaro ownership.
If you want to be the first kid on your block with the new Camaro SS, it won't be cheap. We were the first. We paid a premium for the designation knowing full well that it promised substantial depreciation by test-end. When you're the first with a new Camaro you're also first to experience the recalls and repairs. We did those, too. And though it took some time to replace, once the tranny was back together the Camaro went right back to punishing pavement.
There is something to be said for the resilience of this Camaro. It was not without its problems. But once repaired the Camaro was back to its original form. We hope the next owner experiences the same level of durability, and fun, as we did.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.