2012 Chevrolet Camaro

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Key Specs

of the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Sprightly V-6, beefy V-8
  • Well-proportioned styling
  • Ride quality
  • Interior quality
  • Gas mileage

The Bad

  • Cantankerous V-8 stick shift
  • Small trunk and backseat
  • Mushy V-6 brakes
  • V-8's less-refined handling
  • Oddly placed door handles
  • Visibility

Notable Features of the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro

  • Standard V-6 gains 11 hp for a total of 323 hp
  • New supercharged ZL1 edition
  • New 45th Anniversary Package
  • Rear-wheel drive
  • Manual or automatic with paddle shifters

2012 Chevrolet Camaro Road Test

Joe Bruzek

Forty years after the initial muscle car wars, names like Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang continue to duel. Each contender has its own prize stallion, with the 470-horsepower Challenger SRT8 topping the Dodge lineup and Ford storing the 662-hp GT500 in its stable. For 2012, the Camaro joins the party with its 580-hp ZL1, which, by a large margin, takes the throne as Chevrolet's baddest Camaro.

The roided-up 2012 Chevrolet Camaro doesn't disappoint in the go-fast department, but its loud, brutish attitude has limited appeal when you're not banging gears or lapping on a track.

Slotted above the V-8-powered SS trim level in the Camaro lineup, the ZL1 is a stout package with 154 more horsepower, compliments of a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. Just as important as the extra power are the unique Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension, the big brake package, and the beefy wheel and tire combo. To compare the ZL1 with the V-8 SS and V-6 LT and LS, see here.

Factor in the Camaro coupe's existing visibility problems (well-addressed in our previous evaluations), and the ZL1's appeal is limited.

Sinister Is as Sinister Does
The ZL1's aggressiveness makes its SS sibling look tame. Listening to anything but head-banging heavy metal in the ZL1 feels inappropriate; Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" should be loaded standard in every stereo. A wicked stance, steamroller tires, a front splitter and a bulging hood with a carbon-fiber air extr...

Forty years after the initial muscle car wars, names like Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang continue to duel. Each contender has its own prize stallion, with the 470-horsepower Challenger SRT8 topping the Dodge lineup and Ford storing the 662-hp GT500 in its stable. For 2012, the Camaro joins the party with its 580-hp ZL1, which, by a large margin, takes the throne as Chevrolet's baddest Camaro.

The roided-up 2012 Chevrolet Camaro doesn't disappoint in the go-fast department, but its loud, brutish attitude has limited appeal when you're not banging gears or lapping on a track.

Slotted above the V-8-powered SS trim level in the Camaro lineup, the ZL1 is a stout package with 154 more horsepower, compliments of a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. Just as important as the extra power are the unique Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension, the big brake package, and the beefy wheel and tire combo. To compare the ZL1 with the V-8 SS and V-6 LT and LS, see here.

Factor in the Camaro coupe's existing visibility problems (well-addressed in our previous evaluations), and the ZL1's appeal is limited.

Sinister Is as Sinister Does
The ZL1's aggressiveness makes its SS sibling look tame. Listening to anything but head-banging heavy metal in the ZL1 feels inappropriate; Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" should be loaded standard in every stereo. A wicked stance, steamroller tires, a front splitter and a bulging hood with a carbon-fiber air extractor give the car a "don't mess with me" attitude. All are functional elements for achieving maximum performance.

The ZL1's serious hardware puts performance and durability ahead of comfort and day-to-day drivability. The six-speed manual transmission is a beefier unit than other Camaros use, with a rough and tough shifter and clutch pedal. Use the ZL1 to teach someone to drive stick only if you're looking to scare them away from ever driving a manual transmission car again. Driving the ZL1 smoothly in traffic takes an odd combination of finesse and aggressiveness that requires concentration and effort. By the end of a long trip that ended in stop-and-go traffic, I was ready to park the Camaro and take a cab. The roughness is smoothed out when it's time to romp on the ZL1; with faster shifts the gears engage smoothly and quickly. A six-speed automatic transmission is optional, for $1,185.

The standard Magnetic Ride Control suspension adjusts shock firmness on the fly and is in "go go go" mode all the time despite selectable firmness modes. Buttons on the center console select Touring and Sport settings. They have distinguishable differences over rough roads: Touring is less bouncy compared with the Sport mode. Touring is very aggressively tuned for a "comfort" mode; you won't mistake the ZL1 for the downright comfy Cadillac CTS-V, which has a similar magnetic suspension.

A Performance Traction Management system has five driving levels that vary both the Magnetic Ride Control firmness and how active the stability and traction control systems are for street and track use. The most aggressive mode, PTM 5, unleashes a third suspension setting, Track, and deactivates stability control.

A menacing exhaust matches the ZL1's looks. A standard dual-mode exhaust system increases exhaust flow during heavy acceleration by opening up valves in the mufflers. Unlike the Corvette's dual-mode exhaust, which has quiet and loud states, there's really only one mode in the ZL1: loud. On multiple occasions, the bass-heavy exhaust set off car alarms in our parking garage. The exhaust is a huge departure from the Camaro SS, which, by comparison, is as tame as an economy car. I'm all for loud, but the ZL1's unavoidable drone wore on me after a few hundred miles at highway speed.

The Challenger SRT8 is a far more livable car for everyday commuting, though a horsepower deficit puts the big coupe somewhat out of its league against the ZL1 and GT500. But then, it's also $10,000 less expensive.

For 2013, the GT500 is an all-new beast with a ludicrous 662 hp. It's also lighter than the ZL1 by a significant 270 pounds. The GT500 doesn't just gain power: Much of the car has been revamped, and it now offers electronically adjustable shocks as part of a $3,495 Performance Package. The Camaro's Magnetic Ride Control suspension is standard. Oddly enough, the ZL1's and GT500's base prices are exactly the same once you factor in the destination charge: $54,995. The SRT8 costs $45,120.

Grip It & Rip It
When the time comes to blast into turn one on a track, boy, does the ZL1 work well. Our playground for tracking the ZL1 was Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin's Road America road course. The ZL1 proved to be one of our staff's favorite rides at an event that included about 30 track-worthy cars from various automakers.

The ZL1's rough nature on the street cleans up on the track, where it's easy to drive fast despite all indications it would be unpredictable and too much of a muscle car — meaning big power but little handling capability. The smart magnetic suspension and stability systems combine electrical help with mechanical grip that got the most out of the track experience. The ZL1 feels stable and predictable blasting through corners, where the car is downright sprightly. The stopping and turning power is amazing considering the ZL1 isn't a lightweight, weighing in at roughly 4,100 pounds. To see more ZL1 specifications, click here.

When taking off in 1st gear, even the default traction control setting does a commendable job balancing wheelspin and engine power without killing acceleration. The best way to drive the ZL1 fast is to not show any mercy to the shifter or clutch pedal. Slam into 2nd gear, and the ZL1 doesn't miss a beat the way some performance cars do, losing steam between gears. In 2nd, there's an immediate surge of power that passengers said made their stomachs drop.

The ZL1 sure stuck to the tarmac well, but I would like to feel more resistance in the steering wheel at high speeds. That lightness wasn't a hindrance during street driving, though; it was actually welcome.

Safety
The ZL1 has not been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard safety equipment includes frontal and side-impact airbags, as well as side curtain airbags for front and rear occupants.

Given the Camaro's poor visibility, the standard backup camera is an invaluable feature, even though it's tiny and located in the rearview mirror. The backup camera is a must-have feature no matter which Camaro you choose.

A blind spot monitoring system is a missing feature that we'd like to see added to the Camaro to ease our nerves while changing lanes. Even with the mirrors adjusted correctly, I'm uneasy changing lanes because over-the-shoulder visibility is lacking. A full list of standard safety features is here.

Camaro ZL1 in the Market
If you can live with the Camaro's visibility issues, you've already accepted a substantial ZL1 drawback. For a little less money than a Corvette Grand Sport, the ZL1, at $56,295 (including a $900 destination charge and $1,300 gas-guzzler tax), is the baddest Camaro ever, with all the performance goods ready to hit the track. If you live more than an hour away from that track, though, you may want to tow it there.

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2012 Camaro Video

Cars.com's Kelsey Mays takes a look at the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro. It competes with the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang.

Latest 2012 Camaro Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.8)
Performance
(4.8)
Interior Design
(4.5)
Comfort
(4.5)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(4.6)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Fast, comfortable, and very reliable.

by CamaroLover on August 10, 2018

This car is immaculately comfortable, the interior design is spacious and luxurious, and it's not bad on gas for a sports car. By far my favorite car I've owned so far. Read full review

(5.0)

Best proformance coupe

by RjYankee from Orlando,Florida on August 6, 2018

Best good looking modern muscle car out now, plus the most reliable sports car you can get. I have just did oil changes on my 2012 camaro and it still feels new Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro currently has 4 recalls

NHTSA Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2012 Chevrolet Camaro 1LS

NHTSA rates vehicles using a star rating system from 1-5 stars, with 5 being the highest.

Overall
5 Star
Overall Front
5 Star
Overall Side
5 Star
Overall Rollover Rating
5 Star
Driver's
5 Star
Passenger's
5 Star
Side Barrier
5 Star
Side Barrier Rating Driver
5 Star
Side Barrier Rating Passenger Rear Seat
5 Star
Side Pole
5 Star
Side Pole Barrier combined (Front)
5 Star
Side Pole Barrier combined (Rear)
5 Star
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. NHTSA provides vehicle safety information such as front- and side-crash ratings and rollover ratings. Vehicles are rated using a star rating system from 1-5 stars, with 5 being the highest.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 100,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / 100,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Chevrolet

Program Benefits

Two Factory-Backed Warranties, CPO Scheduled Maintenance Program, Vehicle Inspection & Reconditioning, 3-Day/150-Mile Vehicle Exchange Program, 24/7 Roadside Assistance and Courtesy Transportation, OnStar & SiriusXM Satellite Radio Trial Offers, and a Carfax Vehicle History Report

  • Limited Warranty

    Two Factory-Backed Warranties

    6-Year/100,000-Mile, Powertrain Limited Warranty and a 12- Month/12,000-Miles, Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty, both with $0 deductible
  • Eligibility

    Under 5 years / 75,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 172-Point Inspection & Reconditioning.

    See inspection details.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Camaro received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker