The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro is in its fifth-generation, last redesigned for the 2010 model year. For 2013, the Camaro remains relatively unchanged, but upper trim levels do get Chevrolet's MyLink touchscreen interface, with optional GPS navigation. A new race-inspired 1LE Performance Package on SS models equipped with the manual transmission includes a sportier suspension, high-performance summer tires and unique gearing.
2013 Camaro LS and Camaro LT models come with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 323 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. In terms of power, the V6 can pretty much pass for a V8, a bonus for the price. The V6 on 2013 models revs to 7200 rpm.
Engine modifications introduced for 2012 help with power and efficiency, and include a revised cylinder head design with integrated exhaust manifolds, improved intake ports, larger intake valves, longer-duration camshafts, a composite intake manifold, new fuel pump, optimized-flow fuel injectors, cylinder block enhancements, stronger and lighter connecting rods, and a cleaned up camshaft cap and throttle body.
A Camaro LS achieves a fair EPA fuel economy rating for its class, at 19/30 mpg City/Highway with the automatic transmission.
Camaro convertibles are equipped like the coupes but feature a power soft top fitted with acoustical foam in the headliner to minimize noise with the top up. This latest-generation Camaro was designed from the outset to include convertible models, and reinforcements were added in four key areas to increase rigidity.
Camaro SS uses the 6.2-liter V8 from the outgoing Corvette, good for 400 hp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque with a 6-speed automatic, or 426 hp and 420 lb.-ft. with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The SS uses firmer shocks, springs and anti-roll bars than the V6 models, but the ride doesn't suffer for it. A limited-slip rear differential is included to reduce wheel spin when trying to put all that power down.
The uber-high-performance Camaro ZL1 uses a supercharged version of the 6.2-liter V8 good for a whopping 580 hp and 556 lb.-ft. of torque. It can accelerate from zero to 60 in 3 seconds flat with a top speed of 184 mph. While testing at Germany's famed Nurburgring racetrack, Chevrolet factory drivers set a lap record with the ZL1, beating the Porsche 911 GT3. At $55k the ZL1 is cheap, given its supercar levels of performance. We drove a Camaro ZL1 at Virginia International Raceway and found it both thrilling and easy to drive fast. It's a fantastic performance car, great for track events or autocrossing. Yet it can cruise comfortably around town and on the highway as a daily driver. The suspension does not punish the driver on rough roads. It's a very impressive machine.
We found the handling, ride and brakes to be excellent in both the Camaro LT with the V6 and the Camaro SS with the big V8, although the SS suspension is stiffer and its 20-inch tires are firmer. Inside, the Camaro cabin is quiet, so 80 mph feels more like 70. Interior materials are good, but the instrumentation is disappointing, with GM still trying to be retro rather than clean with gauges.
Perhaps the Camaro's biggest drawback is its limited driver visibility, due it a high beltline and small windows. The view out front is compromised by the long hood and raked design. Rear visibility over the driver's shoulder is hampered by the low, slanted roofline.
Competitors to the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro include other American pony cars like the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang, each with its own high-performance versions. A refreshed Camaro is on the way for 2014, so there may be deals and offers on 2013s.
This generation Camaro captures the look of the original '67, though it's bigger in every dimension: longer, wider and taller.
Viewed head-on, classic 1969 Camaro headlights appear. Behind the shark nose with black mesh grille, up on the long aluminum hood, there is a suggestive power bulge for the V8 engine. It's the long hood and shark nose that catch your eye and trigger your longing. The SS has an additional wide and thin black simulated intake on the nose.
Slight twin humps on the roof are visible at the top of the steeply raked 67-degree windshield that helps produce a 0.37 Cd in the LS and LT, and 0.35 Cd in the SS.
Viewed from the rear, and especially from above, the lines suggest the 1963 fastback split-window Corvette. That classic Corvette made a strong impression on the Camaro's young designer, Sang Yup Lee, who came to the U.S. from Korea as a boy and grew up in the California car culture.
Styling gills located just forward of the rear wheels add a nice touch to the Camaro. Even though the power dome hood and cooling gills are not functional, they all work as touches of style and don't come across as phony.
The shapely strong hips stand out, like the long hood, an edgy element the designer is most proud of, because they took so much work. He said it took 113 tries to get the one-piece sheetmetal right, from the doors and pinched beltline rearward. There's no indifferent craftsmanship with this car, that's for sure.
The rigid B-pillar is blacked-out, thus creating a clean outline for the side glass, blending into a handsome hardtop roofline. The short rear deck climbs upward and looks hot. The twin taillights look like blinking red sunglasses in each corner, under the small lip of a rear spoiler.
The convertible chassis is reinforced to stiffen the body structure, with a cross brace under the hood to connect the front shock towers, a transmission brace, an underbody tunnel brace, and underbody V-shaped braces front and rear. This helps the convertible ride and handle more like the coupe. Chevrolet says the convertible chassis is rigid enough that the suspension didn't need to be changed from the coupe, and that the Camaro convertible has more torsional stiffness than the BMW 3 Series convertible.
Designers and engineers erased the appearance of ribs in the convertible top, by using composite rather than aluminum knuckles, extending the material below the beltline, and revising the stitch lines. The result is a top that appears smooth, taut and carefully tailored, while retaining the sleek roofline of the coupe.
The cabin of the Chevrolet Camaro is oriented more around style than function. The standard cloth bucket seats are good, although the bolstering isn't fully there for hard cornering. It's a tough compromise to make, given the spectrum of Camaro buyers. The low bolsters make getting in and out of the Camaro easier. Excellent leather upholstery is available in black, gray, beige and two-tone Inferno Orange, and interior materials are good.
The front seat slides 8.5 inches and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so drivers of all sizes will fit. The stitched leather wrap on the steering wheel is nice; the ZL1 uses a smaller, race-inspired flat-bottomed wheel.
A recessed speedometer and tachometer are set in square housings, a nod to the classic Camaro interior. Between those two big gauges is a driver information center controlled via a stalk on the steering column.
The climate control buttons on the center stack appear to have been designed for looks, and thus aren't as functional as they could or should be. An optional console-mounted gauge package includes oil pressure, oil temperature, volts and transmission fluid temperature. The information is good, although the location down by the driver's knee makes it difficult to see while driving.
The windows are small and the A-pillars are wide, so it makes the cabin feel a bit cave-like. Visibility through the windshield is compromised by the long hood and raked windshield, although careful location of the driver's seat helps. Rear visibility over the driver's shoulder isn't very good, but then it's impossible to make it good with a roofline this sporty.
The trunk is deep, but the opening isn't large and it's almost flat. This compromise is worth it for the handsome rear deck. There's a pass-through to the trunk behind the rear seat, which isn't easy to crawl into, and feels like a pit.
Rear-seat legroom measures 29.9 inches, a distinction, as few cars today break below that 30-inch mark. You'll want to avoid riding in the back seat.
The convertible's soft top is made of thick, durable canvas. An acoustical headliner material is designed to provide a quiet, coupe-like ride when the top is up, and the soft top incorporates a glass rear window and rear window defogger. The power folding convertible top retracts in about 20 seconds. It folds in a simple Z-pattern and latches with a single handle located at the center of the windshield header. The transmission doesn't have to be in Park for the top to be activated, allowing fast lowering while stopped at a red light, or when it starts raining in a dead-stop traffic jam.
The Camaro chassis is well-engineered. The rigid structure makes the turn-in precise for a car this size; the grip is secure, and the damping is solid and supple, with both the V6 (FE2 suspension) and firmer V8 (FE3). The front suspension uses struts, and the rear is an independent multi-link that's rubber isolated.
The Camaro is a hefty car, 3860 pounds for the V8 and 3800 for the V6, so the handling couldn't be called nimble, just secure and satisfying. The new Mustang is nearly 300 pounds lighter, and feels it.
We never encountered a harsh moment with the ride, in either the LT or the SS. We spent week in a 426-hp SS in the Pacific Northwest. We found the TAPshift manual automatic transmission does what you tell it to do, nothing more. We love that.
One especially nice thing about the transmission is that when you're in sixth gear on the freeway and lightly accelerate, it won't kick down when it doesn't need to. It uses its sufficient torque.
The Camaro LT with its 3.6-liter V6 shines. The Chevy V6 sounds sweet and gets 30 miles per gallon highway with the 6-speed automatic and optional 2.92 rear axle ratio. With the standard 3.27 gear, it accelerates from 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, and will do the quarter mile in 14.4 seconds, which is quick in anyone's book.
Camaro LT will also stop from 60 mph in 128 feet, according to GM, but we've heard of the Camaro stopping in much shorter distances. Surprisingly, the SS with its four-piston Brembo brakes doesn't do much better, but the Brembos can be used harder without fade for repeated hard braking of the sort used on a racetrack. And the vented rotors are huge, 14 inches front and 14.4 inches rear on the SS, compared to the LT's matching fronts and 11.8-inch rears.
The V6 LT with a 6-speed manual gearbox is the most versatile sporty engine-transmission matchup. The gearbox is smooth if not buttery, and easily shifts down into first gear for hairpin turns. Chevrolet says the throws are short, yet there's a Hurst short-throw shifter available as a dealer option. We'll take it. We tested it in the Shelby Mustang, and it made a world of difference.
The Camaro SS is humongous fast, so if you're driving it hard, you're deep into the danger zone with the law or you're on a race track. Its throaty exhaust turns heads. The SS with the manual transmission and 426-horsepower engine revs to 6600 rpm, while the automatic with its 400 horsepower only revs to an underachieving 6000.
Camaro ZL1 delivers supercar performance yet it's quite comfortable for everyday driving on rural roads, around town, and on the highway. At Virginia International Raceway, we found it easy to drive quickly and very predictable, even in some diabolically wet, cold conditions. The car could be drifted easily with power fed in as we accelerated out of the corners onto long, fast straightaways. Braking performance was equally impressive. This is a car that can be driven hard with confidence. Major league fun.
It's hard to say who wins the perennial muscle-car battle between the Camaro, Mustang GT, and Dodge Challenger; those with a favorite aren't likely to change their minds. But a battle of the stats gives the Mustang the edge, with its beautiful new 32-valve 5.0-liter engine. We think it's more enjoyable to drive, too. The Mustang wins the pounds-per-horsepower battle, 8.7 to 9.1 (412/3580 vs. 426/3860), but the Camaro SS still wins in the quarter-mile, 13.0 to 13.2. Not that two tenths of a second makes any difference in how much you enjoy your car.
The Chevrolet Camaro offers all the classic benefits of a Camaro: striking lines, powerful engines, great transmissions, superb handling and ride and great prices. Interior visibility is limited and the back seats are not for adults, and many interior touches are more for form than function.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses reported after his test drive of the Chevrolet Camaro in the Pacific Northwest; with Mitch McCullough reporting from Virginia International Raceway; Laura Burstein reporting from Los Angeles.