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April 21, 2011 • Autos, Reviews

2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS: Headbangers’ Paradise

A little over a year ago I had written how impressed I was with the new Chevy Camaro RS and its new V-6 with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Fast forward and GM sends a V-8-laden SS model of almost the exact same color scheme and, well, perhaps my expectations were a bit too high for their “beast.”

For me, the new Camaro still wins out were I only judging styling. Slip behind the wheel and my concerns quickly repeat those of my auto press brethren: Limited sightlines, funky steering wheel and a mismatched dash panel.

First though, let’s explore the heart of this beauty. For the SS model with manual transmission, Chevrolet gives the Camaro the 426hp 6.2-liter LS3 motor. Automatic cars with a V-8 get the lesser-powered L99 6.2-liter engine (400 ponies). Ford, if you remember from several weeks back, hits smack in the middle of this with one engine for either manual or automatic GT Mustang.

I wish Chevy would follow Ford’s lead and give the Camaro a new set of rear gears when ordering the manual tranny as the car needs a bit more wind up at the bottom of each new gear selection.

To be fair, the Camaro SS does feature a sportier suspension setup along with limited slip rear differential and Chevy does give its Stabilitrak system a competition mode similar to that in the Corvette for those wishing to step on it a bit.

And should you eventually wear out the rear tires faster than the front ones, forget about rotating them. Chevy uses a one-inch wider wheel under the rear than in front. Great for looks and grip but …

I really like the instrument panel and center floor console gauges in the Camaro but the center dash that houses the entertainment system appears a bit out-of-place – not as bad as filling your period 19th century farmhouse with Ikea furniture but getting there.

Driving the SS Camaro still offers the opportunity for fun, although not quite as much fun for me as in the Pony GT. And trying to perform a transaction at the bank drive-thru? Forget about it. Headache-city (I have the lumps to prove it.)

I appreciated the rearview camera in the Mustang and would like to see the Camaro incorporate it somehow given its bad blind spots. Chevy does boast ultrasonic park assist though.

The exhaust pitch in the SS Camaro is lower than that of the Mustang (think pure bass versus baritone). I equate this grunt to that in the Dodge Challenger R/T we last tested (surprisingly in the SAME color).

Pricing for the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS begins at $34,295 with our 2SS loaded tester coming in at $37,640. Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway and yes, this Chevy with the manual gearbox still has the annoying 1-to-4-shift mode for EPA ratings. Yuck.

The vehicle is loaded and looks amazing. Some are not quite ready for the Inferno Orange but it grows on you. And the Boston Acoustics audio system rocks. I love being able to make the stereo compete with the exhaust in a “crank-it-up” contest.

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