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Expert Reviews 2 of 2
By Bob Golfen
November 18, 2000
Chevrolet Camaro SS may be a dinosaur, but it's also a pure muscle car that will wake up your red blood cells and put meat on your petrified bones.The SS, which is the Super Sport-enhanced version of the Z28, is a throwback to an era from the dim and
distant past, remembered now only through relics. That was when heavy, rear-wheel-drive machines powered by massive V-8 engines roared away from stoplights, back when gas was cheap, power was king, and rubber was for burning.These days, when
young hot-rodders are sporting slammed Honda Civics with VTEC engines, the Camaro SS is part of a vanishing breed, sharing its turf only with archrival Ford Mustang. The Camaro, its sales slipping in recent years, is constantly threatened with
extinction.The bright-red test car looked suitably aggressive, all crouchy and set over enormous 17-inch alloy wheels and performance tires. The front aspect looks sharp, with the new headlights and SS badges and hood scoop. There were many
covetous looks, as well as many challenges to drag race. Yes, Camaro SS is archaic and unsophisticated, noisy and ill-mannered, and design flaws continue unabated. But the acceleration is awesome, and the guttural rap of the engine under throttle begs
to be heard again and again.The price tag is not too evil, though the SS options load it up into the $30,000 range. Actually, that's just a trifle more than the Camaro SS that I drove in 1996. For 2001, the engine has been upped to
325-horsepower, with neck-snapping torque under hard acceleration and a certain traffic ticket looking for a place to happen. But this engine is not only mighty, it's smooth and as easy to drive at low speeds as high. And thanks to a six-speed
transmission, this beast actually gets decent gas mileage, at least on the freeway. Slip it into sixth gear, and the engine settles down to a low rumble, ticking along at about 1,500 rpm at 75 mph. Gear changes are via a classic Hurst
shifter. There were complaints. First off, the interior is still cramped, with a worthless back seat and a huge hump on the front passenger-side floor that cuts into legroom.A gigantic cupholder in the center console looks tacky and blocks
shifting when a cup is lodged there. The gigantic doors swing out way too far, threatening to bash parking-lot neighbors. The SS, though fiercely fast, is still hampered by its archaic suspension, and by a back end that begs to cut loose at the
least provocation, despite traction control.The rear suspension tramps under hard torque and dances over the least imperfect paving, especially in curves.And the engine noise, though enjoyable when sprinting away from traffic, gets annoying
after a while. The exhaust roars under even mild acceleration, accompanied by oppressive gear whine, tire rumble, and various thumps and clunks coming from the rear. However, anyone with an ounce of gear oil running in his (or her)
veins should get a huge charge out the SS. The intoxicating acceleration that pushes you back in the seat, the rapid shrink of traffic in the rearview mirror, the adrenaline rush whenever you spot a traffic cop, all those things.I could almost
feel my emotional maturity drop into the adolescent range. 2001 Chevrolet Camaro SS Vehicle type: Four-passenger, two-door sport coupe, rear-wheel drive. Base price: $21,645. Price as tested: $30,025. Engine: 5.7-liter V-8, 325
hp at 5,200 rpm, 350 lb-ft. of torque at 5,000 rpm. Transmission: Six-speed manual. Wheelbase: 101.1 inches. EPA mileage: 19 city, 28 highway. Highs: Awesome power. Sharp new styling. Surprising fuel economy.
Lows: Cramped interior. Oppressive road noise. Archaic rear suspension.