The Camaro was introduced in 1967 to compete with the Ford Mustang, and it ran for 35 years in four generations before being discontinued in 2002. After a 7-year hiatus, Chevrolet reintroduced its iconic coupe. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro coupe and convertible are mildly updated with a new steering wheel and instrument panel, more powerful V6 and available backup camera. Also, an exciting supercharged 580-hp ZL-1 model makes debuts for 2012. Independent rear suspension, precise steering, a solid structure and well-sorted shock damping help the fifth-generation Camaro deliver good handling without sacrificing ride quality. The 3.6-liter V6 is surprisingly lively and fuel efficient, but many buyers will be drawn to the SS model with the storied small-block V8. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro is a good used-car choice because parts and service are readily available, and evergreen popularity means good resale value down the road.
What We Like
Updated 1969 Camaro styling; choice of coupe or convertible body styles; independent rear suspension; awesome acceleration of ZL-1 model
What We Don't
Poor outward visibility; rear seat unsuitable for adults; tiny trunk opening; lack of navigation system
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro has four available engines. The base powerplant in LS and LT models is an all-aluminum 3.6-liter DOHC V6 with direct injection. Its output is upped to 323 horsepower for 2012 (torque stays at 278 lb-ft), it burns regular unleaded and has an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rating of 17 miles per gallon city/28 mpg hwy with the standard 6-speed manual transmission and 18-19 mpg city/29-30 mpg hwy with the optional 6-speed automatic. Standard in the Camaro SS is an aluminum-block 6.2-liter OHV small-block Chevy V8. SS models with the standard 6-speed manual gearbox come with the LS3 version of the 6.2-liter V8, which produces 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. The engine is EPA-rated at 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy. SS Camaros running the optional 6-speed automatic transmission get a detuned L99 6.2-liter V8, producing 400 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque, and EPA-rated 15 mpg city/24 mpg hwy. The L99 has a cylinder deactivation system, Active Fuel Management, which idles four cylinders under low-load conditions. Premium fuel is recommended but not required for SS-model V8s. A new, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 debuts in the ZL-1. It produces a prodigious 580 hp and 556 lb-ft of torque. EPA ratings are 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy for the 6-speed manual version and just 12 mpg city/18 mpg hwy for the 6-speed automatic car. Premium fuel is required.
Standard Features & Options
Typical LS equipment includes A/C, cruise control, tilt/telescope steering wheel, remote keyless entry, XM satellite radio, OnStar communication system, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, auto headlamps, 18-inch steel wheels, stability and traction control, ABS brakes, V6 engine with 6-speed manual transmission, and power doors, windows and mirrors. Convertibles feature a power-operated soft-top, acoustic headliner and a glass back window with defogger. A rear spoiler is standard for 2012.
Moving up to LT typically adds front fog lamps, steering-wheel audio controls, a power driver's seat, upgraded 245-watt 9-speaker Boston Acoustics stereo, 19-in alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel and a reverse-sensing system. More importantly, it can be optioned with heated leather front seats and a power moonroof.
Opting for SS trim upgrades the engine to a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 and adds Brembo brakes, FE3 suspension with bigger anti-roll bars, adjustable traction- and stability-control settings and 20-in alloy wheels. New FE4 suspension for SS coupes has stiffer shocks and bigger anti-roll bars for crisper handling.
Available RS package adds a rear spoiler, 20-in alloy wheels, unique paint, HID headlamps with halo rings and special taillamps.
Aside from the awesome 580-hp supercharged V8, selecting a ZL-1 brings Magnetic Ride Shocks with sport, tour and track modes, brake cooling ducts, an aluminum hood with carbon-fiber insert, interior trim upgrades and super-wide 20-in summer tires.
A backup camera is newly available for 2012. Also new is a 45th Anniversary Edition, featuring hood stripes, RS taillamps and special black leather seats with red, white and blue stitching.
Camaros are usually front-row items on used-car lots. Expect to pay higher prices when the weather is warm and the urge to cruise is strong. Purists may prefer manual transmissions, but most of the higher-priced cars you'll see are well-optioned automatics. Because Camaros have limited interior space, they don't see a lot of long-distance driving, so odometer readings should be low.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following recall for the 2012 Camaro: A defective driver's side airbag may fail to deploy in a collision.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
NHTSA gave the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro coupe five stars for frontal or side impacts as well as rollover performance. It did not rate the crash performance of the 2012 convertible model.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did not evaluate the 2012 Camaro for crash performance.
General Motors covered the 2012 Camaro with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty with roadside assistance and a 6-year/100,000-mile corrosion perforation warranty.
Chevrolet certified pre-owned cars cannot have more than 75,000 miles on the odometer and must be five years old or less. Every CPO Camaro undergoes a 172-point inspection. Those that pass receive a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, plus whatever remains on the transferable original 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage. Also included is a 2-year/24,000-mile maintenance plan with roadside assistance.
Other Cars to Consider
2012 Ford Mustang -- It's smaller, lighter and more nimble, has higher EPA ratings, is easier to see out of than the Camaro and offers a nav system and rear camera the Camaro doesn?t. But it's also noisier and less stable, and it doesn't handle as well.
2012 Dodge Challenger -- The Challenger is more of a coupe version of the Dodge Charger, so it offers a decently sized rear seat and trunk. With HEMI V8 power, it's an exciting muscle car -- especially in the 470-hp SRT-8 model. Either with the base V6 or optional HEMI, however, handling doesn't come close to matching the precision of the Camaro.
If this Camaro will see everyday use, consider one with the 3.6-liter V6. The V6 gets decent gas mileage, has plenty of power, is easier to insure and has better-balanced handling than the V8s. However, if this is a long-term investment, the V8-powered SS and especially the limited-production ZL-1 are better choices. The V8 cars will always be in demand due to their unique heritage -- especially years from now, when we're all driving around in microcars. Go for a Chevrolet certified pre-owned car, when available. And check with the dealer to make sure the airbag recall had been performed on the 2012 Camaro you are considering.