When Chevrolet launched the 2010 Camaro last spring, it was the answer to the prayers of those who hold a special place in their hearts for “ponycars.” That’s an old-school term for a class of sporty coupes largely defined in the 1960s by the Camaro and its archrival, the Ford Mustang.
What might be a little more esoteric to most, however, is the distinction between ponycar and “musclecar.”
The new Camaro, with its standard 304-horsepower V-6 is a ponycar. The Camaro SS, when fitted with a 6-speed manual transmission, comes standard with Chevy’s 6.2-liter V-8 that generates a bodacious 426 horsepower. That’s when ponycar becomes musclecar.
For either camp, what’s under the hood doesn’t affect the 2010 Camaro’s dazzling, show-car styling that borrows broadly from the Camaro of yesteryear and amps it into modernized, hyper-tense shape to make jaws drop. There may be too much testosterone for some, but nobody could ever call the Camaro bland. And despite the overtness of it all, there’s some serious grace — and purpose — in the Camaro’s shape.
Like the ponycars of a previous era, the new Camaro isn’t without its faults, and one of the most egregious is caused by its low and flowing shape: seeing out of this thing must be similar to piloting a mini submarine. And the squashed-down roofline and high bodysides mean it’s dark in there — all the time.
All Camaros also weigh too much. The 3,849 pounds our SS tester lugs around ensures you never forget there’s a little more Clydesdale than “pony” in Chevy’s new-generation ponycar. The SS is more than 300 pounds heavier than a Mustang GT, nearly 600 pounds heavier than Nissan’s lithe 350Z, which is probably the Camaro SS’s closest Japanese competitor.
The 2010 Camaro has a wheelbase that’s a full foot longer than the 370Z and 5 inches longer than the Mustang’s wheelbase. You never totally escape the feeling the Camaro is a big car.
It all amounts to being sealed up inside what might be appropriately termed a 4-wheeled blunderbuss when determined to unleash all 426 horses. Acceleration in at least the first three gears is nothing short of vicious, the rocket-sled sensation augmented by the bawl from the big never-exactly-quiet twin mufflers and stainless-steel exhaust pipes.
Just like the Camaro’s shape, the all-aluminum 6.2-liter V-8 ain’t exactly subtle. Neither is the 6-speed manual transmission.