2012 Chevrolet Camaro

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$23,280

starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown

Coupe

Body style

20

Combined MPG

4

Seating capacity

190.4” x 54.2”

Dimensions

Rear-wheel drive

Drivetrain

Overview

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

7 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2012 Chevrolet Camaro trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best Coupes for 2024

Notable features

  • 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 review: Our expert's take

By 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 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.

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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Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.5
  • Interior 4.5
  • Performance 4.8
  • Value 4.6
  • Exterior 4.8
  • Reliability 4.7

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

Amazing car to drive what a blast

What a great car to drive. I beat on this 2ss constantly with absolutely no problems ever. As far as Evelyn and the blend door, you never have door issues if you don't drop pens or mascara and stuff down from the dash and jam it up. I haven't had one problem in 100,000 very very hard miles and 4 or 5 sets of tires. Overall an amazing fun car

5.0

2012 45th Anniversary Edition Cameo

I purchase this car new in March of 2012. I currently have only 6782 miles. It's the 45th Anniversary Edition Cameo. It's great! Lighted door panels and cup holders. Monogram seats, door seals and Matt's. Red and grey striped hood and trunk lid. 20 inch weeks. I love my car!

4.0

Blend door blues

My 2012 Camaro SS is my dream car. At 42,000 miles my blend door is broken. There needs to be a recall on this for the amount of money put into this car or there should be a discount on the cost to have it replaced.When will it go out again once its replaced? A cheap plastic part in an expensive car. This is my 3rd Camaro,my last.I think in the future a better and stronger material should be used for the blend door and just maby this will prolong the life of the piece itself.

See all 141 consumer reviews

Safety

Based on the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro base trim.
Combined side rating front seat
5
Combined side rating rear seat
5
Frontal barrier crash rating driver
5
Frontal barrier crash rating passenger
5
Overall frontal barrier crash rating
5
Overall rating
5
Overall side crash rating
5
Risk of rollover
8.7%
Rollover rating
5
Side barrier rating
5
Side barrier rating driver
5
Side barrier rating passenger rear seat
5
Side pole rating driver front seat
5

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Chevrolet
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
36 months/36,000 miles
Corrosion
36 months/36,000 miles
Powertrain
60 months/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance
60 months/100,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 model years or newer/up to 75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12,000 miles bumper-to-bumper original warranty, then may continue to 6 years/100,000 miles limited (depending on variables)
Powertrain
6 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
172-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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See all 2012 Chevrolet Camaro articles