The wait between thinly disguised show car and production Camaro was so long that a lot of people were predicting the real thing would be a dud...that the public would be bored silly before the first one was sold.
Boy, were they wrong.
No, it's not going to be 1967 all over again, when 220,000 Camaros rolled out of showrooms and into driveways across America...100,000 is probably more like it. But in this day and age, that's an impressive number for a limited-use vehicle (have you tried the back seat?) with two more or less equally attractive direct competitors.
Part of the appeal here has to be the magic Chevy has wrought with the base V6. At 305 horsepower, it's five horsepower more than the '09 Mustang V8, and only ten less than the 2010 Mustang V8. The fact that it can get 29 miles per gallon on the highway no doubt sweetens the deal for newly-green buyers.
And then there's the look. It takes a lot of critical thinking to get past the "Wow!" stage when you walk up to the new Camaro, especially in the right color (ours was the yellow you see above). Once that critical thinking is mustered, though, the only downer is the car seems a bit big...especially if you've been exposed to the first-gen (1967-69) car this one emulates. But the truth is, there's no way to build a car with the capabilities of this one, and the equipment the government mandates and buyers demand and have it be as light and lithe as the ones from 40 years ago.
Inside is where a lot of the "Wow!" factor evaporates. It's dark inside...and it's not helped by the high doors and low roofline that reduce glass space all around. Over time, you get used to it, but you'll never fall in love.
And the cluster of gauges down on the floor console? Well, we've learned way too much about ergonomics and keeping our eyes on the road the past four decades to think that's anything but a gimmick with no real value for the driver.
For the purposes of television, I took the RS out to the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving near Phoenix and spent half an hour or so on the autocross track. The RS handles sweetly...especially given its size and weight. The SS, with a heavier 425-horsepower V8 over its nose, probably won't move as nimbly.
Base price starts in the 22s...our tester bottom-lined at $30,160. These days, for this kind of performance, that's a bargain. It goes a long way toward explaining how Camaro is overcoming a late start, stiff competition, a bad economy and a burgeoning "sports cars=bad" mentality with a car that draws its inspiration from before its target buyers were born.
UPDATE: Did another week in another RS recently...this one with a six-speed manual...makes a big difference in performance (which is already stellar)...and kept the price below $30K ($29,175). EPA estimates 17 city/29 highway.
If only Chevy can fix the interior darkness and visibility issues (beyond suggesting we buy the 2011 Camaro Convertible, that is)