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You Are What You Drive

No matter what my kids might tell you, even I looked cool driving the new Camaro. And yes, I look like an old fart when I’m driving my rusty, woodgrained ’95 Buick station wagon. Like the headline says…

One day last week I headed over to Paddock Chevrolet in Kenmore, where it seems they have at least one of each flavor Camaro scattered amongst their many new car storage lots (including a screaming green limited edition Synergy Camaro which is guaranteed to make heads turn!). “What to drive?” I asked myself. After all, my choices ranged from a silver $24,000 base LS coupe, on up to a white 2SS with an Inferno Orange interior which listed for nearly 42 grand. I think it was too early in the morning for that one, so we picked out a dark grey 1LT coupe ($26,915); a V-6 with an automatic. It kind of reminded me of back in the day when Mustangs and Camaros were the new breed of car—pony cars they called them. Everyone lusted after GTs and SSs with V-8s, four-on-the-floors (fours-on-the-floor?), and fancy “mag” wheels, but the truth is many buyers left the showroom driving a six-cylinder automatic with whitewalls and chrome-plated wheel covers. You’re not going to find a new Camaro, no matter how base it is, with whitewalls and wheel covers, but you can find—and if you’re buying you certainly should consider—a six-cylinder mated to an automatic.

First off, the engine is nothing like that straight six in the first ’67 Camaro. This is a 3.6-liter V-6 with direct injection and variable valve timing. If that sounds vaguely familiar it may be because it’s the same engine that comes standard in Cadillac’s CTS. And the transmission isn’t your aunt’s three-speed Hydramatic (or worse, your Grandmother’s two-speed Powerglide). How does a six-speed with overdrive, which includes steering-wheel-mounted tap paddles, sound to you? This powertrain combination will net you, according to EPA estimates, 18 city/29 highway miles per gallon. And in this day and age of fine-tuned automatics, the EPA estimate for the manual transmission V-6 Camaro, also a six-speed, is (minimally) lower at 17/29.

Standing outside the car I must admit it’s larger than it appears in photos. Not huge, but not small. And standing there looking at it I wondered just how difficult it would be to get into. Those narrow bands of glass make the Camaro look even lower than it actually is. But it’s merely a styling element. Opening the large door and climbing inside was no problem, even for a six-foot tall guy like me. The back seat? Well, I didn’t get back there this time, but it looked like I’d fit if I really, really wanted to—maybe for just a short ride! Sales guy Tom Sgroi, who was kind enough to show me around the car, assured me he’s been back there and fit just fine. On this day, I took his word for it.

Now you’d think that driving a not-too-small car with a V-6 would be, should I say, somewhat dull? If you thought that, you’d be wrong. Chevy did their homework when putting together the new Camaro, knowing they were up against a legion of Mustang buyers, and hopefully others, who wouldn’t buy a dull-driving car no matter how cool they looked in it. So they gave it this V-6 with 304 horsepower. Traction control and stability control for safer handling. A multi-link strut front suspension; 4.5-link independent in the rear. And the exhaust—dual-outlet stainless steel which not only looks good poking out the rear end, it’s got a sound when you accelerate that may just find you turning off the radio so you can soak it all in.

So while you’re driving around looking cool like I was, and smiling, it’s from an all-senses experience. One I suggest you try yourself.

Read “You Auto Know” every other week in Artvoice and more often on AV Daily at Plus check out Jim’s bolog:

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