You have to hand it to Chevrolet, they seem hell bent on giving us less and less to complain about on the fifth-generation Camaro. First they announce the ZL1, and then--"oh, by the way, we plan to upgrade all the SS models with the ZL1's suspension improvements, steering wheel and gauges. And heck we'll even add a few interior options to hide some of the hard plastic." Suddenly the few nagging oversights are gone with one felled swoop, and the fifth-gen is as refined as you can make it. What better way to celebrate the Camaro's 45th birthday? Sure it could be lighter, it could be easier to see out of, and even have more usable cargo room. But there isn't a more distinct looking sports car on the market that offers this level of safety, power, and refinement.
While the 45th Anniversary package lacks the more radical distinction of a tuner car, such as SLP's Camaro we had last month, its subtle exterior cues are enough to intrigue a loyalist or fellow owner. On a cloudy day or in a covered parking garage, the Carbon Flash Metallic paint could easily be mistaken for plain black, but with the sparkle of direct sunlight it definitely reveals its depth. The subtle difference in the wheel design gives no help either. However, the proprietary anniversary rally style stripes are a dead giveaway. Moving to the interior, the red and blue stitching on the seats and shifter aren't for everyone, but a necessary touch to give further distinction for the special package. The most attractive part of the package, though, is by far the leather-covered dash, which has a clean white trim with the 45th Anniversary logo.
The changes made across the model lineup, independent of the Anniversary package, also added great value to the 2012 model. Those who disliked the look of the gauges on the 2010-2011, a carry over from the concept, will be happy to know a much more modern and sleek looking font was chosen. The extra set of door lock switches, on the doors, was a more practical change, rather than aesthetic, that decreases your awkwardness ten-fold in daily maneuvers. The steering wheel was downsized to something more comparable to the ZL1's as well, which makes a noticeable difference in steering feel. The combination of tighter steering with increased feedback and the new FE4 suspension seem to beg the car to be driven hard. The retuned shocks offer a slightly stiffer ride than the previous (FE3), and the reshaped and resized sway bars act as advertised--greater resistance to body roll and more precise response. In layman's terms, the car goes where you point it--the FE3 in comparison is much more vague, especially on tighter turns and at the limit (of tire grip). We'd bet that the 2012 Camaro is easily a half a second faster on our test track just due to improved driver comfort and feel. Unfortunately a lack of notice didn't allow us enough time to get up to Gainesville Raceway.
Despite our lack of road course testing, we did log plenty of street miles in our 6L80E-equipped test car and even made it down to Bradenton Motorsports Park for a few passes at the drag strip. Aside from one lucky pass, the 2012 Camaro couldn't surpass a 2.08 sixty-foot no matter how hard I stomped the pedal. After that the e.t. depended solely on how hot the intake and water temperature was going down track. With an hour cool down, which got the water temperature around 180-degrees rolling into the lanes and over 190 by the time I got up to the line, the SS could do no better than a 13.48 at 105mph. Power braking, manual shifting, and every other driving technique I could think of made no difference. While there are those out there boasting sub 13-second times in bone stock automatic '10-'11 Camaros, I can assure you that our test car was certainly not capable of that, at least not in 80-degree weather. And as the result, this became the one area of want on the 2012 model. Maybe GM will finally get us a 12-second Camaro to surpass the fourth-gen on the next generation.
If straight-line performance is what kept you from purchasing a fifth-gen, then I am sorry to say that the '12 model is no better. But if you were teetering on the edge of whether to buy a new Camaro, but were held back by a few small gripes like a lack of rear view camera, Heads-Up-Display, lack of door lock switches, or a clunky steering wheel then I invite you to check out the 2012 model. The 45th Anniversary package in particular will do wonders to convince you that your hard earned dollars are going towards a quality car with plenty of features that will impress not only your significant other, but the neighbors too. Those that are still hung-up on the vehicle's weight and elapsed times will just have to wait hopefully for the sixth-generation.
'12 MODEL CHANGES
- Redesigned steering wheel
- FE4 suspension on SS models: retuned shocks, solid 23mm front and 24mm rear stabilizer bars (positioned outboard of shocks)