I drove a Chevy Camaro SS to see if the legendary muscle car could live up to its reputation — here's the verdict

Matthew DeBord/BIAmerican muscle.
  • The ChevyCamaro SS is a classic V8-powered American muscle car.
  • What it adds to the old-school muscle-car experience is some dandy new automotive technology and connectivity, as well as sportier handling.
  • My $US52,000 test car came with a wild Hot Wheels extra package, along with a few other options, bringing the price up from $US42,000 – an insane bargain for this much power and performance.

The Chevy Camaro has a bad reputation, but it’s good bad. In other words, it lives on the belief that it’s a powerful, unrefined, old-school muscle car, and that the quality is a badge of honour.

But that doesn’t mean the Camaro can’t evolve. And it has. The 2018 Camaro SS2 that I tested earlier this year can handle going around corners as effectively as many European sports cars. But it can also vaporise the asphalt in a straight line. The best of both worlds.

Even better, the Camaro SS is a massive bargain the levels of power and performance it delivers. The unadorned version of the car is $US42,000. That’s spectacular. And even with a bunch of extras, my tester tipped the cost scales at just a few grand north of $US50,000. Speed doesn’t have to destroy your bank account.

The current generation of the Camaro has been around since 2016, after the car was fully reimagined in 2010. These days, sports cars aren’t as popular as they once were, but muscle cars continue to have their fans. They have always adored the combination of all-American-ness and uncomplicated power. Stomp that gas pedal and express your core values.

So does that 2018 Camaro SS live up to that reputation? Read on to find out.


Behold! The mighty mullet-mobile, in all it’s “Crush” orange, black-racing-striped, Hot Wheels-package glory! That will be $US5,000.

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“The Chevrolet Performance design studio is full of designers who were inspired by Hot Wheels,” Tom Peters, director of Exterior Design for Chevrolet Performance Cars, said when this very special Camaro was unveiled.

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“The Camaro Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary Edition captures that passion, turning childhood fantasy into reality,” Peters added.

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It’s legit, by the way. You can still obtain a proper Hot Wheels Camaro, which is much, much smaller than the real deal.

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My test car stickered at $US52,000, about $US10,000 above the base Camaro 2SS Coupé base price.

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With its high beltline, bold rear haunches, low-slung stance, and overall spirit of throwback, muscle-car aggressive — not to mention the orange paint job — the Camaro SS makes a statement, anywhere and everywhere.

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“SS” stands for “Super Sport” and is a performance setup that has been an offer, in various guises and on numerous Chevy vehicles, since the early 1960s.

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The double-ess badge appears front and rear. Oh, and look closely for a little more Hot Wheels branding.

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A fastback slopes to a rear decklid spoiler.

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The trunk is … modestly scaled. But it can handle short roads trips, as well as grocery store runs.

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And should you require additional cargo capacity, just drop the back seat and open the pass-through.

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A pair of symmetrical hood scoops.

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The black bow-tie Chevy badge is one of the Hot Wheels extras.

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As is a dealer-installed aerodynamic ground-effects package.

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The satin-graphite 20-inch wheels are a Hot Wheels edition special.

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Complete with custom, orange Brembo brake calipers.

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So you guessed it! When you slip inside, you’re greeted by a two-tone black-and-orange interior. Obviously not for everybody.

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As with all proper muscle cars, the Camaro SS is fairly snug for seating.

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Some SS branding on the well-bolstered seats.

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Plus some Camaro-specific details.

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The steering wheel is suede, with orange topstitching and paddle shifters for manual mode.

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And yes, Hot Wheels is at the wheel!

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The instrument cluster is an analogue throwback.

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The Camaro SS is a 2+2 layout, meaning you’re only getting a pair of passengers in the back seat.

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It’s cosy back there.

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My eight-year-old and his booster seat fit in fine, however.

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The moonroof lets in some natural light.

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OK, motor time!

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We have a 6.2-litre V8, making 455 horsepower with 455 pound-feet of torque. This mill is all motor — not turbochargers or superchargers anywhere in sight.

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The eights-speed manual offers the same rev-matching feature at the Corvette Stingray. Fuel economy is 17 mpg city/27highway/20 combined. The 0-60 mph sprint passed in about four seconds, on the way to a top speed of 155 mph.

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Your drive-mode options are Tour, Sport, Track, and Individual (which can be customised to your style), and you can turn the traction control off if you want to sling the Camaro’s tail around.

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The MyLink infotainment system, running on a relatively small eight-inch touchscreen, is Chevy’s version of the GM system that we’ve been uniformly pleased with.

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It provides excellent navigation, along with Bluetooth connectivity, 4G LTE wifi, and USB/AUX ports.

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New owners can enjoy an introductory SiriusXM subscription, and the Camaro has Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

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The Bose audio system is generally splendid.

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OK, now let’s fire this muscle car up and see what it can do!

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So what’s the verdict?

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You can clearly skip the whole five-grand Hot Wheels thing if you’re aren’t a giant kid and simply wallow in the the beefy embrace of Camaro SS’s monumental powertrain. The driving experience is so different from the four-cylinder turbocharged version of the Camaro that what we’re dealing with here is another level of machine.

The benefits of big V8’s are torque-on-command and the ability to wind the motor way out on shifts. The redline is at 6,500, so you can have plenty of fun in manual mode by parking the Camaro SS in third gear and focusing on steering and braking. At $US42,000 before all the Hot Wheels hotness, this is an insane value in race-track-worthy cars.

In days of yore, you wouldn’t necessarily have wanted to take a Camaro around corners, but the latest iterations of the vehicle have changed that. One can easily imagine a hard swing into a turn after some braking, followed by some throttle and an oversteering exit, with the chassis and suspension supporting rather than protesting the manoeuvre.

Not that Camaro SS isn’t pleasurable in straight-line mode. It eats freeways for breakfast – all that torque serves up the classic V8 sense of bottomless power. And all you ever have to do is floor it to hunker down the back wheels and raise the front. Cue wildness! Bring on that backwoods Camaro DNA!

And, to be honest, I enjoyed the Camaro SS when it was in docile, poke-around-town mode. But of course, you don’t ultimately want to poke.

BUT therein lies the Camaro SS’s killer advantage. Compared with its natural rival, the Ford Mustang GT, the Camaro is easier to live with on a day-to-day basis. The electrically assisted steering is family-sedan-like in Tour mode, and while the motor can thump and thunder, it doesn’t endless roar.

So not the most practical car in the world, but perhaps more versatile than the competition.

The Camaro SS carries on a decades-old legacy, but nicely updates it. This, folks, is the muscle car matured.

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