The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro features updated and the addition of a high-powered Z/28 model, keeping its place as the best-looking American muscle car currently on the market.
Changes for the 2014 model year include a new front fascia with a lower, wider front grille and new headlights. In the rear, there’s a new spoiler, redesigned exhaust tips and new single-piece taillights, replacing the old double-rectangle design found on the current Corvette Stingray). New Recaro sport seats are optional on Camaro SS and Camaro ZL1 models.
The Camaro Z/28 is a track-ready, super high-performance variant that weighs about 300 pounds less than the Camaro ZL1. The Z/28 is powered by a 7.0-liter V8 that makes a hearty 500 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired exclusively with a 6-speed manual transmission and uses a race-inspired suspension. Carbon ceramic brakes and performance tires come standard. The interior is no-frills: Standard Z/28 models come without air conditioning (though it can be added as an option), and a spartan audio system that includes only one speaker.
Camaro LS and Camaro LT models continue with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 323 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard and a 6-speed automatic is optional. In terms of power, the V6 can pretty much pass for a V8, a bonus for the price. EPA fuel economy ratings are modest for its class, at 17/28 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission and 19/30 mpg city/highway with the automatic.
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.
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 Camaro SS uses firmer shocks, springs and anti-roll bars than do 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 level of performance.
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 cabin is quiet, so 80 mph feels more like 70. Interior materials are good, but the instrumentation is disappointing, with GM trying to be retro rather than clean with gauges.
Perhaps the Camaro’s biggest drawback is its lack of driver visibility, due it its high beltline and relatively small windows. Up front, the view is compromised by the long hood and raked windshield. Rearward visibility over the driver’s shoulder is hampered by the low, slanted roofline.
Competitors to the Chevrolet Camaro include American pony cars Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang, each with high-performance versions. Those looking for performance and sporty handling at an attainable price should also consider the Scion FR-S or Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
This latest-generation Camaro captures the look of the original '67, though it's bigger in every dimension: longer, wider and taller. For 2014, changes include a new front fascia with a lower, wider front grille and new headlights.
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. 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.
Viewed from the rear, and especially from above, the lines suggest the 1963 fastback split-window Corvette. Revisions for 2014 include a new spoiler, redesigned exhaust tips and new single-piece taillights, replacing the old double-rectangle design that like found on the current Corvette Stingray.
Convertibles have a reinforced frame, with additional branding that helps it 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.
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, and before that one day driving east of San Diego, where we had the chief designer, Canadian Gene Stafanyshyn, riding shotgun and giving us the backstory. He's the guy you can thank for the true programming of the TAPshift manual automatic transmission. It does what you tell it to do, nothing more. We love that. Stafanyshyn said he too hates manual automatic transmissions that shift on their own.
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.
The LT will also stop from 60 mph in 128 feet according to GM, but we've heard of the Camaro stopping much shorter in editorial testing. Surprisingly, the SS with its four-piston Brembo brakes doesn't do much better, but the Brembos can be used harder without fade. 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'd take it. We tested one 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.
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. We love all three of these cars, so our advice is to choose the one you like the best. You can't go wrong.
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 Laura Burstein reporting from Los Angeles.