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DRIVEN: 2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS is a great bit of fun

The 2018 Chevy Camaro SS is powered its 455-horsepower, 6.2-litre, V8, direct-injection engine.
The 2018 Chevy Camaro SS is powered its 455-horsepower, 6.2-litre, V8, direct-injection engine. - Justin Pritchard

Now in its sixth-generation, the Chevrolet Camaro is more advanced than ever, which contributes, in no small part, to its position as one of the top-selling performance cars in Canada.

My tester was the Camaro 2SS, complete with the direct-injected 6.2-litre V8, good for horsepower and torque output pegged at 455. Included were a set of mighty Brembo brakes, GM’s magical Magnetic Ride Control suspension, and the Sports Exhaust kit, which allows for finer control of when and how much of the sound of the engine’s sound you’ll share with the world around you.

In its loudest mode, the sports exhaust sounds pure Nascar. You can literally hear the air being ripped to shreds by the potent pulsations from the tailpipes. The sound makes me need an adult, and whoever calibrated it in deserves a raise (or a straight-jacket, not sure). Like loud? The full-throttle roar positively soaks the Camaro’s cabin and everything nearby; it’s dialled in perfectly.

Ditto the steering. Sportier drive modes see it feel heavy and precise, enabling a change in direction with little more than a tightening of the muscles in one side of your hand. Here, the ratio is quick and aggressive, and you grin at the sensation of directing the car with such small inputs. I usually expect steering this eager and precise in much pricier machines.

It’s a perfectly paired with the Magnetic Ride Control suspension. Using trick technology in the shocks, this system actively neutralizes unwanted body motions in real time. Hit a bump or a dip and its “up, down, done” — no rebound, no shock wave through the chassis.

The Camaro feels much tidier, and even driven hard, spends more time settled on its wheels. This leads to improved comfort and driver confidence in hard driving.

You’ll appreciate how good it is, every time you drive. Magnetic Ride Control might be the most valuable item in Camaro’s performance toolkit.

- Justin Pritchard
- Justin Pritchard

 

The great big Brembo brakes lack much meaningful precision at the pedal until they’re applied hard and hot. Here, the stopping power is fierce and consistent. This performance braking kit flaunts its best stuff when you work it hard.

I’ll get salty emails for saying this, but the automatic transmission is also really good. It’s missing that third pedal, and enthusiasts will go with the (slower and thirstier) six-speed stick. Go the automatic route, you’ve got a transmission that’s as nicely dialled in as the rest of the car. There are eight gears, it’s smooth and invisible in gentle driving, and offers up fast, nicely rev-matched shifts when driven with intent. At high revs and heavy throttle, the engine even cuts out for a split-second to help the transmission shift more smoothly, and more quickly. That’s the GM engineering team’s way of saying that they care.

Acceleration is fierce. Expect nicely-controlled wheel spin in first and second gear on anything less than a clean surface and a potent plow into your seatback.

The big push-rod engine breathes surprisingly well at higher revs, power piles on as the tachometer closes in on redline, and generous torque means every throttle prod is met with an instant leap ahead. Be careful though: the provocative engine sound makes it easy to get carried away with this one, and nearby radar-cops will hear you coming.

She’ll play nice and quiet, too. Just click the “tour” setting from the drive mode selector, and Camaro is quieter, softer, and more easygoing. Now, you’re in a comfy muscle-cruiser, instead of a rocket-propelled plaything. You get an experience as mild, or wild, as you like.

In all aspects of putting on a hell of a show for the driver, this machine impresses. Note that the Mustang GT has a sweeter, more free-revving engine and feels a little lighter and friskier, and the Dodge Challenger is a more comfortable highway cruiser, though a less precise and dialled in at the controls in hard driving.

But Camaro isn’t perfect. The cabin is a significant upgrade over older models, with far-improved materials, instrumentation and trimmings.

The central touch-screen interface is lovely, and some sophisticated looking design elements, including the full deployment of after-dark mood lighting, help set things off.

But, it’s very short on at-hand storage, with limited space available for smaller items beyond the two cupholders.

Visibility may also be an issue. In Camaro SS you sit virtually on the floor, the window belt-line rests at neck height, and the instrument cluster cowl rests at chin height. In all, it feels like sitting in a deep hole, surrounded by very thin windows.

Sometimes, design and functionality don’t always play together nicely and that’s the price to be paid for a car that’s this much fun.

And the Camaro SS is a whole lot of fun.

- Justin Pritchard
- Justin Pritchard

 

The specs

  • Model: 2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS
  • Engine: 6.2-litre V8, direct injection, 455 horsepower
  • Drivetrain: rear-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle-shift
  • Features: heated leather, push-button start, cabin ambient mood lighting, BOSE audio system, memory seats, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, wireless smartphone charging
  • What’s hot: Killer engine and soundtrack, nicely dialled in performance, exceptional handling and steering, good brakes
  • What’s not: Hard to see out of, lack of storage space on board, may get you in trouble
  • Price as tested (Camaro 2SS): $61,000

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