Camaro muscles into Australia
Angry Chevy wakes senses from the get-go — with a little help from HSV
Mean things happen when you stomp the throttle of the Chevrolet Camaro, the latest two-door American muscle car to cater to the deep desire for V8 performance machines.
With a bark and a roar, big dollops of torque head to broad Goodyear back tyres in a flurry of revs, the low-profile rubber struggling to contain the raucous fury.
There’s a wonderful rawness to the (loud) exhaust note, the near-instant throttle response in tune with a car designed to turn heads as effortlessly as it could burn rubber — if you disengaged the traction control system.
It’s by no means out of control and isn’t about to startle nearby supercars but the Camaro has a welcome fiery side from its 6.2-litre V8, engine that belches out 339kW and 617Nm, the latter building to its crescendo at 4600rpm.
It’s a shame the eight-speed automatic fitted as standard isn’t as astute as the engine powering it.
Sure, the broad torque spread partially masks its occasional laziness, and full-blast upshifts are brisk enough.
But it’s not difficult to catch it in the wrong ratio, its tuning designed to lower the claimed 11.5L/100km fuel use. And when it fumbles for a lower gear there’s the occasional inelegant shunt as it loads things up.
Of course, that’s only part of the Camaro story, which begins in a Detroit factory and ends with a right-hand-drive conversion off the suburban Melbourne production line that would otherwise have still been churning out HSVs had it not been for the end of local Commodore production.
While HSV also keeps busy modifying Colorado utes, it’s been developing a solid business taking American machines and transferring the steering wheel from left to right, most to be sold through Holden dealerships. With the original batch of 550 Camaros, HSV is more closely speaking to its heartland of V8 lovers.
The conversion involves removing almost every bolt and bumper, with some heavy re-manufacturing to switch things such as the brake booster and pedals from one side to the other. It’s a topnotch job done to manufacturer standards, right down to the dashboard produced by the same Melbourne-based supplier that once made Camry parts. HSV even reshapes the driver’s floor to ensure no compromises.
From the driver’s seat the only hint of the big switcheroo is with the centre console that hasn’t been touched, its cup holders unnaturally close to the driver and the armrest servicing the passenger. The PRNDL gear selector readout is also partially blocked by the selector, though there’s a secondary readout in the instrument cluster.
It’s a minor oversight and one that doesn’t upset the chunky ambience, even if there’s an occasional cheapness to some of the plastic components.
Still, even sitting stationary in a Camaro is something special, the high-mounted slim windows creating a letterbox view of surrounding traffic. Thankfully, HSV has re-profiled the mirrors, helping overcome the substantial blind spot over your left shoulder.
The retro infusion in elements of the interior — the cowling over the instruments is one — is interspersed with technology, such as the customisable cluster that displays everything from g-forces and transmission temperature to a 0-100km/h timer.
But the Camaro is more big noise and big bang than slick sports car. This is no sharp instrument, its loveable bluntness on display with everything from the occasionally soupy steering (it’s soupier in Track mode, one of four driver-selectable settings that adjust various parameters, including steering and gear shifts) and Brembo brakes that are adequate rather than great.
At $85,990 it’s impossible to call the Camaro a bargain, especially when its prime rival, the V8 Mustang, starts at $66,259 when fitted with the auto transmission most owners opt for.
That it misses out on sat nav is a rare omission in an otherwise generous spread of gear, including Bose audio, customisable LED ambient lighting and dual-zone ventilation — select temperature by turning the vent surround.
Still, for a car that awakens the senses from the first push of the start button — and one that looks as menacing as it sounds — it mounts a solid muscle car case. All with a local connection.
The new Chevrolet Camaro has a welcome fiery side with its 6.2-litre V8 engine.