Ca­maro mus­cles into Aus­tralia

An­gry Chevy wakes senses from the get-go — with a lit­tle help from HSV

The West Australian - - WESTWHEELS - Toby Hagon

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.

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