What's New for 2011
For 2011, the V6-powered Chevy Camaro gets a bump in horsepower from 304 to 312. OnStar is now standard, while a head-up display is now included with the 2LT and 2SS trims. Later in the model year, the much-anticipated convertible version will debut.
The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro may officially be a muscle car, but in so many ways it seems more like an exotic sports car, albeit at a very unexotic price. Just like an exotic, the Camaro looks spectacular, with the sort of proportions and flourishes you used to doodle during Mr. Howard's fifth-grade math class. There's plenty of go to match the show, too, with potent acceleration and an inherent carefree attitude that'll make your fellow motorists envious.
Yet, just like an exotic, the Camaro is rife with compromises. It's hard to see out of and has an uncomfortable backseat, a not-so-useful trunk and quirky ergonomics. As such, the 2011 Camaro requires its driver to sacrifice much in return for its looks and tire-burning power. Compared to its Ford and Dodge rivals, the Camaro is simply a harder car to live with on a daily basis.
For 2011, it also has less of a performance advantage, as the Challenger and Mustang have gained new V6 and V8 engines. Chevy upped the output of the Camaro's V6 this year to remain king of the specification charts, but because the Ford weighs less, the two old rivals are nearly identical in straight-line acceleration. And just like last year, the Camaro remains the less enjoyable car to drive around corners.
On the positive side, a new convertible version debuts this year. Fitted with a power-operated top, the Camaro convertible is offered in the same V6 and V8 configurations as the coupe. GM says it wanted to keep the convertible's performance high, so rather than soften the suspension, it made many reinforcements to the body structure to keep body flex to a minimum.
If you like its looks, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro will deliver. And it's not totally one-dimensional. You also get a refined ride, comfortable front seats, ample feature content, a low price and impressive performance out of the deal. But for us, the extensive compromises are just too hard to ignore. If you're looking for the most compelling muscle car to drive, our pick is the Mustang. And if you're looking for the most personable and livable muscle car, that's the Dodge Challenger.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Chevy Camaro is a four-seat coupe or convertible available in V6-powered LS (coupe only), 1LT and 2LT trim levels, and V8-powered 1SS and 2SS trim levels.
Standard equipment on the LS includes black 18-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, cruise control, keyless entry, air-conditioning, four-way manual front seats with power recline, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, OnStar and a six-speaker stereo with CD player, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The 1LT adds 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps and eight-way power seats. The Convenience and Connectivity package adds to the 1LT rear park assist, remote ignition (automatic only), Bluetooth, an iPod interface and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The 2LT includes those items plus 19-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors (driver-side auto-dimming), extra gauges, a head-up display, heated front seats, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics stereo (available separately on 1LT).
The 1SS is equipped similarly to the 1LT but adds a V8, 20-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a rear lip spoiler and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The 2SS essentially features the 1SS's performance bits with the 2LT's convenience and luxury features.
The RS package (available on all trims but the LS) adds 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights and a unique taillight design. A sunroof is optional on all coupes but the LS, while a variety of exterior stripes and trim items are available across the board.
In addition to a soft top that powers down in about 20 seconds, all convertible versions also come standard with rear park assist.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro LS and LT come with a 3.6-liter V6 good for 312 hp and 278 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. In our performance testing of last year's slightly less powerful model, a manual V6 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined with the manual, and 18/29/22 mpg with the automatic.
The Camaro SS gets a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque with the standard six-speed manual and 400 hp and 410 lb-ft with the six-speed automatic. With the manual, the SS hits 60 mph in 5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16/24/19 with the manual, and despite featuring cylinder-deactivation technology and less power, the automatic achieves only a slight 1 mpg improvement on the highway.
Every 2011 Chevy Camaro comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and OnStar. In Edmunds brake testing, both Camaro V6 and V8 coupes with 20-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 111 feet.
The Camaro coupe has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. However, the coupe's 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to the new methodology) were four out of five stars for frontal crash protection (driver and passenger) and five stars for front-occupant side protection. The convertible has not yet been tested.
Interior Design and Special Features
Muscle cars have traditionally had bland interiors, but the Camaro laudably mixes retro touches like square gauge hoods and the available four-pack of auxiliary gauges with a modern dash design. However, this style comes with notable drawbacks. Most surfaces consist of hard, cheap plastic, and those retro gauges look as if they're from a plastic toy. Worse, however, is the overstyled steering wheel that is seemingly not designed for human hands.
Visibility is also a significant issue, as the Camaro's low-profile windows make it difficult to park and place in corners. The backseat, meanwhile, is the smallest in its class and doesn't fold down to expand trunk space (though there is a pass-through). The 11.3-cubic-foot trunk (10.2 cubes in the convertible) itself is of a reasonable size, but its opening is so comically small that loading elongated items is an exercise in futility -- golfers be warned.
Whether you choose the rapid V6 or tire-shredding V8, no one will ever accuse your 2011 Chevrolet Camaro of being slow. The Camaro also displays impressive amounts of grip, communicative steering and a refined suspension that make it exponentially more talented around corners than any Camaro that came before it.
We just wish the experience were less like driving a really agile tank, as the Camaro's poor outward visibility makes it hard to get a real feel for the car's dimensions when cornering. Around town and on the highway, the Camaro is actually quite civil, with a comfortable ride and minimal wind and road noise.