The all-new Chevrolet Camaro is a shot likely to be heard around the world. From Germany to Japan, notice has been served: The 1993 value-packed Camaro Z28 is the standard by which sports coupes must now be measured. The Camaro Z28 offers more safety features - dual air bags and anti-lock brakes are standard - and performance equal to or greater than any other sports coupe in its class. But the Camaro's biggest advantage is its price. The well-equipped test car I drove was priced under $20,000. Yet the new Z28 competes with such as cars as Nissan's $34,000 300ZX and the $30,000Dodge Stealth R/T Twin Turbo and its twin, the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4. PERFORMANCE There are only two versions of the Camaro this year. The base model sports a 3.4-liter, 160-horsepower V-6, while the Z28 comes with a 5.7-liter 275-horsepower V-8. The Z28's engine is a slightly reworked version of the fuel-injected engine used in the '93 Chevrolet Corvette. The Camaro's sloping hood forced Chevy engineers to design a new, lower profile intake system for the engine. That dropped horsepower from 300 in the Corvette to 275 in the Camaro. No matter. The Camaro - which can zoom from 0 to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds - offers blistering, tire-smoking, neck-snapping performance. The test car came with a six-speed manual transmission, which will probably be preferred by performance enthusiasts wishing to extract maximum performance from the Z28. I've driven the Z28 with the optional four-speed automatic, but I prefer the stick shift, even though the clutch pedal required a lot of pressure to press to the floor. The gears are spaced nicely. For instance, you can reach 55 mph in second gear, so you might not have to shift quite as often as you would in other cars. Fuel mileage is EPA-rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway. However, I drove aggressively and the car's fuel economy was considerably lower. In the city with the air conditioner on, the test car delivered just 13 miles per gallon. On a trip to Daytona Beach, mileage increased to 19. HANDLING Chevy engineers did an outstanding job redesigning the new Camaro's suspension system. It's certainly kinder and gentler than the old one. The stiff, bone-shaking ride, a trait of older Camaros, has given way to a softer ride, but not at the expense of handling. Because the new car has a stronger body, Chevy's mechanics were able to build a suspension system that does a better job of absorbing bumps. But the handling improvements don't stop there. The Z28 also is outfitted with a new power rack-and-pinion steering system that makes the car easier to control. The car has powerful new four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes. I had an opportunity to drive the Z28 on a race track with no limits on speed. The car slithers through turns and can stop quickly from speeds of 120 mph or so with little or no fu ss. The Z28 offers the same excellent handling characteristics that enthusiasts have come to admire in high-priced imports. It is stable and predictable. It's also easy to get back under control if you get carried away. FIT AND FINISH Because the hood slopes down, it's hard at first to determine where the car's front bumper is. That's not much of a drawback, though. It takes only a few moments to get a feel for where the Camaro's front end begins. The Camaro's deep dash also takes a little getting used to - especially if you are used to older Camaros, which had short, flat dashes. The test car was built well. Unlike older Camaros, squeaks and rattles were not standard. All the body panels fit nicely, and the switches were arranged logically on the dash. One passenger thought the bright orange numbers on the gauges were a bit gaudy, but they were easy to read, especially at night. Real progress has been made with the seats. In the front, th cloth-covered buckets offered plenty of padding and support. The rear seats also were fairly comfortable, but head and foot room for adults is extremely tight. Be prepared to ride with your chin resting almost on your knees. A $1,901 preferred equipment package bumped the price of the test car from $16,779 to $19,269, but added air conditioning, power windows, door locks, mirrors, fog lamps and half a dozen other items. The 1993 Camaro Z28 marries1960s muscle car performance with 1990s handling and technology. Its use of an environmentally friendly air-conditioning system and dent resistant plastic body panels, plus super performance and many safety features make the new Camaro a world-class sports car. Truett's tip: The new Z28 is the performance bargain of the decade. It offers all the safety and speed you could want, and it does so at a price no other automaker can match.
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