General Motors was banking heavily on baby-boomer nostalgia with this, the fifth-generation version of the Camaro.
Aside from the fact that it delivered better fuel economy than its predecessors, had better handling and braking, and was more environmentally correct, the driving experience was much the same as previous generations.
This generation of the Camaro, manufactured in Oshawa, Ont., was based on the same platform as the defunct Pontiac G8 and took much of its engineering from the Holden Commodore, which is sold in Australia.
There are no less than 11 trim levels, with your choice of a V6 engine or three V8s. The pavement-scalder of the bunch is the supercharged ZL1 with a blown 6.2-litre V8 taken from the Corvette, mated to a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. This engine develops a whopping 580 horsepower and can take the SS from zero to 60 km/h in under five seconds.
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The six-speed manual transmission/V8 combo has an intriguing feature in the form of a gearshift override. During low engine revs, it automatically shifts from first to fourth in an effort to cut down on gas consumption. Given the substantial torque output of this engine, the transition is handled effortlessly by the drivetrain, and this feature only comes into play below 30 km/h.
It’s similar to a system found in some models of the Corvette. The automatic six-speed, meanwhile, features GM’s Active Fuel Management system, which shuts off half the cylinders under light load for improved fuel economy. Again, it’s an almost seamless transition.
The styling of this iteration of the Camaro definitely got people talking. Some felt it was too angular and rough around the edges, but it did convey the requisite muscularity and bad-boy persona, with a dash of nostalgia thrown in for good measure. The ZL1 model, in particular, is an unapologetic high-performance automobile aimed at buyers who like to drive with enthusiasm and want everyone to know it.
Because of its low roofline and small windows, rear visibility while backing up is restrictive. It is possibly one of the most challenging vehicles on the market to parallel park. The manual transmission also features a long throw between gears, with a heavy linkage action. Indeed, the whole driving experience of this Camaro is pure ’60s pony car.
There is just one safety recall to report. Apparently, with some of the V8 models, the positive cable from the battery can chafe against the starting motor, eventually short out and possibly cause an engine stall or, worse, a fire. The issue is easily fixed, though, by simply rerouting the cable.
On the other hand, more than 70 technical service bulletins are on file with the U.S.-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They cover just about everything, from possibly leaky automatic transmissions to shifting problems with the manual gearbox, to a glitchy fuel gauge, to a “slight engine misfire.”
There are mixed grades from Consumer Reports here. While there are no glaring problem spots, and most areas of the car received above-average marks, CR nonetheless gives this generation of the Camaro an “average” used car predictability rating.
Lots of comments from owners, including:
- “Consumer Reports got this one wrong”;
- “trunk opening too small”;
- “MP3 player quit working on first major road trip”;
- “gauges could have been nicer.”
Lack of backseat elbow room and poor peripheral visibility were common gripes. Issues with the transmissions and software gremlins seem to be prevalent as well, with complaints about fuel economy.
From just under $28,000 to start, the 2012 Camaro has held its value reasonably well, with prices ranging from the high teens for the base V6 up to around $35,000 for a loaded ZL1. The convertible seems to be selling now for approximately $5,000 more than the hardtop models.
2012 Chev Camaro
Original base price: $27,965 to $58,000
Engine: 3.6-litre V6 or 6.2-litre V8
Horsepower: 304, 426 or 580
Torque: 273, 420 or 556 foot pounds
Transmission: six-speed automatic or six-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.2 city and 6.6 highway, with V6 with automatic transmission and regular or premium gas
Drive: rear wheel
Alternatives: Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
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