Next Generation Camaro RS hits LA

Stunning, Traffic Stopping, Whiplash Double Takes…”WHATIZZAT”? 

For folks of all ages the new Camaro had the same effect where it was parked on 3rd Avenue in Santa Monica Monday evening.  It drew more onlookers than the Bentley Continental GT Convertible parked behind it at one point in the evening.  That is a car with stopping power.  That is the result of stunning design.

I got invited to attend the Chevrolet Camaro “Reveal Night” and grabbed the chance to see the car many believe will unseat the Mustang.   What I got to sit in was the Camaro RS which is the entry level model that will account for 2/3 the models production.  For an entry level model it certainly is going to raise the bar considerably for its competition – Ford’s Mustang and the soon to be released Challenger from Dodge. 

Mustang, this is your fair warning, on its on-sale date next spring you are a gelding.  A teaser…the entry car is the Camaro RS with a V6 rated at 300 Bhp standard vs Mustang’s base V6 of 210.  To get the same power in the Mustang you have to uprate to the GT’s V8.  Opening price for the base Camaro will be around the same 20,000ish as a Mustang.  The embarrassment to Ford continues in that the Camaro has a fully independent rear suspension vs the ancient live rear axle of the Ford.  Enough of the gear head stuff.

I had to ask how they expect it to do in a tough car market, especially with unstable fuel prices.  Of course it is a “relevant concern”.  No fuel numbers yet on the RS, they anticipate “26 highway”.  With a curb weight of 3800 and essentially the same power train as seen currently in the Cadillac CTS you are looking at  EPA mileage numbers of 17 city (our real world driving during a commute).    For the hard core LA commuter this may be the number that sways the average guy out here crawling on the 405 over the hill away from it.  For those that buy the car because they love it, well rarely does cost of ownership become a concern anyway.

With all the hype so far I was just a little jaded going in.  The car was far better than I expected.  Yes, it does a pretty remarkable job of bringing back styling themes from the 1st generation so you know it is a Camaro.  It however is a very modern version of the lineage.  I was really impressed with multitude of fine edges creating different reflection planes that butched up the cars aggressive factor.  Think of it as ultra bright reflections creating a lightning-like halo on the key lines of the car.  It is not a cookie cutter car, it is sculpture staged for the road.  I liked it.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tom Peters, director of exterior design on the Camaro.  It was really interesting to hear how this was the first car in a while where design purity and consistency was maintained throughout the process.  A stark change from the Aztec which was a lot of good ideas from a committee that were benchmarked in based on market research.  Yup, Tom Peters had his hand in the Aztec but design was not the priority as it is now under Lutz.   The Camaro wins as a result. 

Interesting too, was talking with John Zelenak, the platform engineer on the Camaro.  He spent 2 years in Australia working with the GM Holden group who use the “zeta platform” for 2 of its large wheel base rear-wheel drive cars there.  The “zeta” is a modular platform that has parts that can be swapped to create different platforms for different needs.  We also already know the zeta from the current Pontiac GTO.  The Camaro is a unique form of the zeta creating a car 20 inches shorter than the Pontiac with an entirely different set of characteristics. 

All that modular uses of the zeta made me ask if there was truth that a future Impala SS based on the large rear wheel drive is in the works as a lot of the car fan boards talk about it.   Peters let me know not an Impala, but there is discussions with Buick for such a car in China.  (In case you didn’t know Buick is the best selling import in China and a key market for that GM Brand).

There is one more version of the Camaro that goes on sale this spring.  It wasn’t there to see in Santa Monica.  It is the Camaro SS.  That car was back east for its simultaneous “Reveal Party”.  The SS will be the car for the all out performance guy who really doesn’t care about the cost to keep it running. It is pure hedonism and excitement in driving, or so I have been told.

I had to ask what sort of halo cars similar to the Ford Saleen/Shelby connection.  They opined that the Mustang is their halo car the one that showcases the cars various strengths and do it to keep the car exciting for Ford.  Other than work on some special projects for the coming SEMA shows featuring the Camaro that is something that will be looked at when timing is appropriate later in the product cycle. 

My wish list for the Camaro?  Have Gale Banks take a V6 RS, do his supercharger magic on it.  Paint it metallic black with a matte black “la petit mort” ala Coop and I’m in.  Sometimes its just fun to be a kid and have fun with a car.  Certainly more fun than worrying about practical point to point getting there all of the time.

The  Camaro RS is a great car.  The perfect car when you want high impact style to get between points A & B without breaking the bank.  Would I get it?  Yes, if I didn’t still need a Dad car.  I am grateful I am past the 3 child safety seats in the back, but I still need the back seat.  The back seat in the Camaro RS is totally impractical for anyone with legs.  (Thalidomide or turn buckles anyone?)

Now the Blue Oval Fans and the Bow Tie Crowd have something argue hard over. 

Nice job Team Camaro.

Pic by me.  Shot bracketed, HDR and tone mapping via Photomatix.  Final image washed with Virtual Photographer.  More in my flickr “2010 Camaro” set.

8 Replies to “Next Generation Camaro RS hits LA”

  1. Ditto. Here’s what I wrote on my blog after seeing the Camaro at the L.A. Auto Show last November: “The best-looking American car at the show was the new Chevy Camaro, scheduled to go on sale in 2009. Look out, Mustang!”

  2. Bitchin’ Camaro.

    I’ve always had a soft spot for the Camaro because my father had one when I was a kid. I wouldn’t buy one but it would be fun to drive one. Especially if it had an 8 track player and nothing but Bob Seger albums. hat would be just like riding with my dad.

  3. I work with Ford (they’re a client of mine) and I could probably “pony up” a Mustang (Bullitt or the Shelby GT500KR, maybe?) test drive for you, Frazgo, if you’re interested. The Camaro is definitely cool (I don’t know too many who would argue that point) but I think you might underestimate the Mustang by calling it a ‘gelding’ in comparison. :)

  4. frazgo – I’ll see what I can do. I’ll get back to you in a few days. I’m out of town for a bit.

  5. Frazgo – GT500KR isn’t available right now, according to the fleet manager, but the Bullitt might be. If you want to work on it with me, let me know if you want my e-mail or how it’s easiest to work with you.

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