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2012 Chevrolet Camaro: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Shamit Choksey January 2012

Pros: Powerful engines; impressive handling and maneuverability; gorgeous design; a good overall performance value; efficient V6

Cons: Hard interior plastics; tight rear seat; bad rear visibility

It didn't take long for the present-day Camaro to become a modern icon - it practically happened overnight. And that's because there's no other vehicle that more effectively blends 21st century motoring with the sheer muscle and bravado of the classic car age that dominated America some forty years ago. The new Camaro - coupe and convertible - hearkens back to a time of "might makes right," but now it does so with a more forward-thinking approach that's aligned with the times.

For those looking for big off-the-line acceleration and burnout potential combined with sharp handling skills and respectable fuel economy, the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro delivers it all. It almost sounds too good to be true. Sure, the Camaro has its shortfalls, but overall, it's a dream car for enthusiasts young and old.

The greatest achievement of this, the fifth generation Camaro, might be that of the GM designers who came up with the new Camaro's exterior look. It's an artful masterpiece that perfectly balances 1960s brawn with the sexy lines of today's greatest sports cars. This coupe and convertible will be turning heads for years to come.

 For 2012, the Camaro enjoys a healthy dose of improvements and upgrades. On the performance front, the V6 engine gets 11 extra horsepower and the Camaro SS receives a re-tuned sport suspension. The interior benefits from a new steering wheel, and a newly offered back-up camera. Perhaps most notably, Chevy adds the supercharged Camaro ZL1 to the model range in early 2012.

Together, the Chevy Camaro, the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger make up the holy trinity of America's recent muscle car resurgence.   

Comfort & Utility

Within, the Camaro blends old-world muscle car elements with more modern styling. Gauges and instruments are decidedly retro, but the overall dash exhibits a progressive layout with an emphasis on ergonomics. Unfortunately, it also contends with its share of hard plastics, giving the Camaro interior a feel that's not very refined. Countering some of that is a new, more tactile steering wheel that grants a better grasp over the car. The shifter, too, is well positioned and has a good, solid feel.

The front seats are supportive and well bolstered for performance-oriented driving. However, the hunkered roofline and low-profile windows significantly inhibit rear visibility (the back-up camera is highly recommended).

Rear seats are quite cramped with a shortage of both head- and legroom. Even average-sized adults are not going to enjoy riding back there for long periods of time.  

To preserve the car's rigidity, the rear seats do not fold to expand the trunk. Still, cargo space is a usable 11 cubic feet for the coupe and 10 cubic feet for the convertible. The main challenge with the trunk is its very small opening. Even if there's room to store something, you might not be able to get it in.

The Camaro is available in six primary trims: 1LS, 2LS, 1LT, 2LT, 1SS and 2SS. Notable baseline convenience features include six-way manually adjustable front seats, power accessories, cruise control and a six-speaker stereo with satellite radio. Available higher-end amenities, depending on model, include leather seating, a sunroof, steering wheel controls and a premium nine-speaker 245-watt sound system.

In the case of the convertible, the fully automatic retractable soft top is able to go up or down in just 20 seconds.

Technology

The 2012 Chevy Camaro is not particularly innovative in terms of advanced user content, but it does provide a handful of the more widely seen technologies. These include Bluetooth connectivity, USB/iPod interface and a newly offered back-up camera with the viewing screen integrated into the rearview mirror. These features are either standard or optional depending on the individual trims.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The rear-drive Camaro has a choice of two engines. There's 3.6-liter V6 (uprated for 2012) producing 323 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. It mates to either a standard 6-speed manual gearbox or an optional 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy mileage ratings are 19 city/30 highway with the automatic and 17 city/28 highway with manual. Highway figures are better than expected.

The Camaro SS is powered by a massive 6.2-liter V8 mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. With the manual, output is 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. With the automatic, the SS produces 400 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque.

Safety

The Camaro is equipped with front, side and head-curtain airbags. It also offers OnStar, a communication system that alerts emergency services in the event of an accident.

To keep the Camaro on its intended path, it comes armed with ABS and stability control.

Driving Impressions

Both Camaro models, V6 and SS, are true muscle cars. They offer sublime off-the-line acceleration and huge power at the top-end of the rev band. And when the supercharged ZL1 arrives later in the model year, the performance equation will be even more potent.

But what makes the Camaro especially impressive is its ability to corner and handle like a smaller car. It belies it size by remaining extremely well composed in high-speed turns. It also displays gobs of grip thanks to its large 18-, 19- and 20-inch wheels. For these reasons, today's Camaro aptly tops those from decades past.

Although ride comfort is not plush by any means, it is more than adequate for the daily commute. The only real issue with the Camaro's road manners is the low visibility factor. This becomes an even larger issue in parking lots. Again, the rear-view camera is highly recommended.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Mustang - The Mustang is comparable to the Camaro in terms of power and performance. The two cars have huge followings: either you're a Mustang fan or a Camaro fan for life. Camaro, however, does appear to have an edge in the looks department. 

Dodge Challenger - The Challenger is for those who don't sway either Chevy or Ford. Plus, this big muscle car is perhaps the purest of the three in terms of touting its classic car heritage. It also offers a larger cabin and better interior materials.

AutoTrader Recommends

We highly recommend the Camaro V6 over its SS counterpart for a variety reasons. First off, it offers more-than-enough muscle car for most buyers. Secondly, the V6 is a near-perfect match for its chassis (as opposed to the overly powerful SS). For this reason the Camaro V6 is a better handling car. It's also more fuel efficient and affordable, making it one of the best performance values out there.

For 2012, buyers should enhance their Camaro V6 with a special edition 45th Anniversary Package, which brings eye-catching red and silver racing stripes; unique 20-inch wheels; HID headlamps; and specialized interior trim and badging. It's an unforgettable performance machine, indeed.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Chevrolet Camaro: New Car Review - Autotrader