May 19, 2015
In honor of the unveiling of the Sixth Generation Chevrolet Camaro over the last weekend, I decided to give the fifth Generation a proper goodbye. I drove the top of line SS a few days back and the article on that one is here, but before we get into that almost masterpiece it is necessary to test the middle child of the fifth generation. I drove a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro after 3 years of life being thrown at it, everything from a major accident to cross country road trips. First off, the day before I drove the 2012 I took the top of the line V8 monster out for a spin; lush leather, big center console touch screen, the works, and that was juxtaposed with a base 2012 the next day. I didn’t feel like I was slumming with the peasants, no culture shock, nothing I missed from the 2SS. Everything important about the 2015 was still there, it only lacked the gravy. Off the bat, the 2012 was better looking, the separated rear lights had not yet mutated into giant conjoined rectangular brake lights. Granted that is a very shallow complaint, but that to me is a big deal. Aesthetics has everything to do with what car is chosen, it is usually the 2nd most influential factor on whether or not a person buys a car. The only determinant that takes precedence is price, because you can’t buy a car with hopes, dreams, and a winning smile (well, maybe Morgan Freeman can but his voice is like a roofie). But really, a car is an extension of a person’s soul. Assuming one is driving a car they chose, just riding with them you can get a sense of who they are. How happy-go-lucky are they, what they like to listen to, their sense of style, cleanliness, patience, attention to detail, how they address annoyances, consideration for others, did they watch the Fast and Furious franchise, do they like lavender, do they know how to drift, shifting smooth or to move, et cetera; all this information without ever having said a word to the driver. But that is neither here nor there, somewhere in the few minutes that passed I stepped onto the soapbox atop my desk, and my boss is looking at me funny, I should sit down. Let’s get on to the task at hand. Since I wasn’t testing the car as a potential buyer, I deviated slightly from my normal format and started of with a simple question: what do you not like about this car? The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro I drove belongs to a very good friend of mine, after owning it for 3 years and driving it in some of the most hectic driving conditions in the country (Houston and Los Angeles), she had no real complaints. She said that it was a big car, visibility was poor, her friends complain that it sounds like she is in her car when she uses hands free calling, the cruise control is on the left, there is no place for her change, and that backseat legroom was horrible. Other than legroom and visibility those few problems were irrelevant to me. Though even those were much better than I expected from the sports coupe, all the others I have driven in were far worse in that regard. The only real problem I saw was in maintenance. A broken axle repair that included repainting, ran her about 3,000 which my mechanic told me is a fair price. Therein lies the problem, the parts for the Camaro are far from cheap, especially since it is the only car on the current market that uses GM’s Zeta Architecture. Also, it doesn’t come with a spare, that’s extra, so if you are planning to have a few accidents maybe Honda is the brand for you. Beyond that semi-avoidable issue, the details I liked about the 2015 were all present and accounted for in the 2012. The only difference was the way one shifts into reverse. 2015 uses the German style of pushing the gear lever downwards before shifting into the first-ish area, whereas in the 2012 you push past an invisible wall at the far left then shift it up. I drive a Jetta, so the first technique is more comfortable for me due to habit forming and muscle memory, but the more I think about it the more I prefer the way her car accomplishes the same goal. The clutch in hers was also amazing, I just now realized I like even more than the one in my car (a first). Her clutch is like stepping on a cartoon cloud, just heavy enough for increased control in slow shifts, a soft silky touch sans effort in real world shifting (which the Jetta was also born with) but hers has 6 inch clutch to my footlong. The 2SS had a bell curve clutch pressure, which I am not a fan of, but many people like it. Both the V6 and the V8 were extraordinarily smooth in every way while driving, the acceleration was gentle not jumpy, the steering wheel was crisp, and the brakes were responsively light. Most people are going to love it, but my problem with it is that it’s accomplished with electronic police in the computer system, I like to feel fully in control. Though I normally drive without traction control, so maybe it is because I did not turn it off as I didn’t feel comfortable doing so with someone else in the car. The center console in both has the same space-age concept design which I am a fan of, but the 2SS had a touchy touch screen and wasn’t as user friendly as its older brother. Both cooled much faster than I am used to in the Jetta. If one compares a great car (baseline VW Jetta) with the Camaro the outcome is surprising, in that the Camaro is better in every way except visibility, interior space, and the common cupholder issue (cups aren't an option if you plan on shifting gears). Granted, the Camaro is much more expensive, it seems counter intuitive to compare cars with 10,000 in between them. However, most of that money is under the hood and in the styling, so the interior comparison is apt. After driving the Jetta for a good while I must say her, 3 year old Chevrolet Camaro is just as comfortable, and that is about as high a praise as I can give to a base trim anything.