Is it possible for a muscle car to be functional, too? Sure. The Dodge Challenger, based on the full-sized Charger sedan, certainly qualifies. And then there’s the Chevrolet Camaro. It looks big and feels big, but it’s not meant for big jobs. We basically stuffed the trunk with $56 worth of groceries at a discount supermarket in Danbury, Conn. And the one time we inserted a passenger – thankfully, an agile 8-year-old – in the back seat, it was a tight fit even with the front seat levered forward several inches.
The Camaro is a classic case of mixed-bag syndrome – great styling and exceptional performance flung into the mix with several annoying and frustrating traits. It can be said of many cars that they do everything reasonably well, but nothing really stands out. That cannot be said of the Camaro.
The standout quality of our 2015 Camaro 2SS convertible was, of course, its performance. A 400-horsepower V-8 bolted to a 6-speed automatic transmission delivered more than its share of thrills – and it delivered them with commendable efficiency, easily reaching 24 mpg on the highway. Not bad for a truly muscular muscle car.
We also heartily approved of the Camaro’s ride. The car does not try to be Lexus-smooth, but some sporty cars punish their occupants on rough roads, and the Camaro does not. Yet it’s nimble as can be, despite weighing in at more than two tons.
The last time we drove a General Motors convertible (a Pontiac Solstice) with the top down, the wind hit tall drivers and passengers with so much force, they couldn’t wear hats. Such was not the case with the Camaro, which does an excellent job of diverting the wind. Moreover, on hot days, the breeze swirls pleasantly around the cabin, cooling without buffeting.
Put the top up, however, and one of the Camaro’s deficiencies comes to the fore. Visibility to the rear quarters is substantially blocked by the soft top. A blind-spot warning system would help, but Chevrolet doesn’t offer one in the Camaro. With the top up or down, the long, high doors and narrow greenhouse limit visibility further. The power-operated top has a balky lock-down mechanism. And the interior’s design requires the use of acres of molded plastic, and not all of it is of the highest quality.
Camaros come in only two body styles – 2-door coupe and 2-door convertible – but an assortment of engines, as well as 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions, are available. For the economy-minded, a 323-horsepower V-6 with a manual transmission starts at $23,705 and can reach 30 mpg. Also available are V-8s ranging from 400 to 580 horsepower. New for 2016 is a 2.0-liter turbocharged Four the produces 275 horsepower.
The Camaro has demonstrated average reliability in Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys, and has earned 5-star ratings in government crash tests.
Steven Macoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8, 400 horsepower, 410 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Weight: 4,197 lb.
Suspension: double ball-joint multi-link strut front; 4.5-link independent rear
Wheels: 20×8-in. front; 20×9-in. rear, painted aluminum
Tires: front, 245/45ZR20 103Y; rear, 275/40ZR20 106Y
0-60: 5.5 sec. (manual transmission)
Top track speed: 156 mph (manual transmission)
Seating capacity: 4
Luggage capacity: 10.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)