For most of the past four decades, the Chevrolet Camaro has been the poster car of young (and not so young) speed freaks and boulevardiers alike. You know, the type of folks who value the rumble and thrust of a small-block V8 and sleek styling as much as would-be Hollywood starlets value a photo op.
Starting out in the late 1960s as an answer to Ford's Mustang, the original Chevrolet Camaro could be had in coupe or convertible form and with six-cylinder or V8 power. Forty years and five generations later, the concept really hasn't changed, as the current Chevrolet Camaro also can be had in coupe or convertible form with six-cylinder or V8 power. It even looks similar and carries the classic Camaro qualities of tire-spinning performance and a reasonable base price. But this is a thoroughly modern car that makes for a decent everyday driver, despite some significant practical drawbacks.
Current Chevrolet Camaro
The Chevrolet Camaro is available as a two-door coupe or convertible and in five trim levels: base LS, midgrade LT, high-performance SS and hyper-performance ZL1 and Z/28. The LS comes standard with niceties like alloy wheels and air-conditioning, to which the LT adds power seats and a touchscreen with smartphone integration. The V8-powered SS includes a limited-slip differential and a sport-tuned suspension. The ZL1 boasts a variety of performance parts like Brembo brakes and adaptive suspension dampers, plus standard leather upholstery and Boston Acoustics audio. The hard-core, coupe-only Z/28, on the other hand, has a race-ready suspension and modifications for reduced weight.
The Camaro LS and LT pack a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 323 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with the V6, and a six-speed automatic is available. The Camaro SS is equipped with a powerful 6.2-liter V8 matched to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The manual-gearbox SS cranks out 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, with the automatic version tuned to "just" 400 hp and 410 lb-ft. Offering the same transmission choices, the Camaro ZL1 gets a supercharged version of the 6.2-liter V8 good for 580 hp and 556 lb-ft of torque. The Z/28, which is 300 pounds lighter than the ZL1, employs a 505-hp 7.0-liter V8 and comes only with the six-speed manual.
On the road, any of these Camaros will provide brisk performance, a reasonably compliant ride (though the Z/28 is significantly firmer) and respectable handling, while the V8-powered versions should satisfy the most ardent acceleration addicts. The ZL1 and especially the Z/28 are astoundingly capable on a racetrack with their special suspensions. However, in day-to-day driving, the poor outward visibility, mediocre cabin trim, cramped backseat and tiny, oddly shaped trunk opening could be deal-breakers. As such, we'd advise potential buyers to also consider the Camaro's equally classic competitors, the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang.
Used Chevrolet Camaro Models
After a seven-year hiatus, the Camaro returned for 2010. In that first year, the Camaro was offered as a coupe only, and the V6 engine produced 304 hp. The next year saw the convertible's introduction and a bump up to 312 horses for the V6. It reached its current output for 2012, which also saw the introduction of the ZL1 and a number of noteworthy changes to the cabin. Camaros produced prior to this suffered from an oddly shaped steering wheel and gauges that were hard to read. For 2014 the Camaro introduced revised styling (including one-piece taillights that replaced the original double-rectangle design) and the debut of the Z/28.
Running from 1993-2002, the previous Camaro generation continued the age-old tradition of performance and style above all else. Initially just a coupe body style was offered in base and Z28 trims, the former coming with a 3.4-liter V6 (160 hp) and the latter with an LT1 5.7-liter V8 (275 hp). Transmission choices included a five-speed manual (V6), a six-speed manual (V8) and a four-speed automatic.
The following year saw the return of the ragtop, while 1995 brought a 3.8-liter, 200-hp V6 for the base Camaro. For 1996 the Z28 had 285 hp and the SS trim was reincarnated, complete with a 305-hp version of the 5.7-liter V8. A midcycle refresh took place for 1998 with a new front-end look and powerful new LS1 5.7 V8s for the Z28 (305 hp) and SS (320 hp). Apart from minor trim differences and a bump in power for the Z28 in 2001 to 310 hp, the Camaro soldiered through 2002 mostly unchanged. That last year also marked the Camaro's 35th birthday, which was celebrated with a 35th-anniversary SS.
Although fast, stylish and affordable, this Chevy Camaro was lacking in terms of refinement, particularly in regards to the interior. The clunky steering wheel design was about as sporty as a taxicab's and there was an abundance of low-grade plastic trim. Furthermore, the seats were rather plain and short on lumbar and lateral support. On the upside were the large gauges, decent cargo capacity and buttoned-down handling (though midcorner bumps could upset the solid rear axle suspended out back).
Consumer feedback is mostly favorable toward Camaros from this era. Praises center on the strong performance (even with the V6) for the money, relatively good fuel economy, mechanical reliability, cargo capacity, handling and styling. Chief complaints concern cheap interior construction, a smallish interior considering the body size and occasionally leaky T-tops.
For more information on these and even older Chevrolet Camaros, go to our Chevrolet Camaro history page.
For more on past Chevrolet Camaro models, view our Chevrolet Camaro history page.