When a car gets a starring role in a Hollywood blockbuster, its future is pretty much secure; but when it becomes ‘Bumblebee’ in Michael Bay’s Transformers, you’re then assured that your attempt at an iconic 21st century variant of the old muscle car has worked out just fine. It doesn’t always work, though. There’s been a recent trend from manufacturers to create up-to-date versions of ’60s classics in hope of recapturing the sales boom that the muscle car scene saw during the days of the hippies and drugs. There’s been Ford’s attempt with the Mustang, Dodge got in on the act with the Charger and Challenger and now Chevrolet has had a dig with the Camaro.
Did they manage to pull it off, though? Well, in short, yes. Chevrolet may have secured the spot on the aforementioned film, but it only got that because the fifth generation Camaro looks about as sexual as Jennifer Garner rubbing J Lo’s back with oil and fruit… lots of fruit. So, yeah, the looks were crucial. The Camaro looked snorty, well-proportioned and almost European; which helped the little powerhouse to cause enough buzz to ensure it was a sales success for Chevrolet in the U.S.
More good news was to come, as the Camaro was granted a ships passage to the UK, meaning the Brits could get their hands on the 6.2-litre V8 SS version and experience over 400bhp wrapped in an all-American shell.
Now, though, Chevrolet has tweaked the original idea and, like so many manufacturers, amended certain elements of the Camaro – but have they ruined it in doing so? Well, the 2012 Camaro has been gifted with a new ‘class-leading’ 3.6-litre V6 engine that should keep the environmental lovers happy. The new V6 boasts a power output of over 300bhp and improved economy. And that isn’t it; along with the greener, smaller unit, Chevrolet has announced a ZL1 variant that will put the Camaro into a whole new weight class. The ZL1 badge means that the little coupe has been blessed with more power and racing technology to put that power on the road. “The Camaro ZL1 is a complete high performance car, not just a Camaro with more power,” claimed a representative from GM. So, what does that actually mean? Well, it gets a 6.2-litre V8 engine like the SS, but this time it’s fitted with a supercharger, which means a Zonda-rivalling 550hp.
To accommodate the power hike, Chevrolet has changed the exhaust system, aerodynamics and suspension set-up. The ZL1 variant has undoubtedly been made to battle it out with the Shelby GT500 Mustang, and with such an impressive headline power figure, it seems hard to think how the Shelby will compete. So, has Chevrolet created the perfect muscle car? Not quite.
The problem is the standard Camaro SS just doesn’t use its power properly. Unlike most European cars that can use 90% of their power whenever and the rest with throttle control and precision driving, the Camaro understeers and leans so much that you can’t utilise even 75% of its power – except on straights. So it’s a typical muscle car then, but will this new ZL1 model finally turn the Camaro into a proper drivers’ car? Time will tell on that, but we all hope so.
There’s no doubting that the 2012 Camaro is the best of the breed; with improved interior materials, technology and innovations, and typical exterior updates that keep it looking as fresh as Jay-Z’s trainer collection, the Camaro is destined to sell well for the foreseeable future. Let’s just hope the ZL1 doesn’t disappoint.