Just when you thought you heard the last of anything to do with this year's Woodward Dream Cruise, I have one more story about a car to share: The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS.
During last week's Cruise O'Rama, I was fortunate enough to take the biggest and baddest Camaro built today out along Woodward Avenue.
A future classic, the 2011 Camaro improves upon an already great car.
Park it at 13 Mile and Woodward and people will walk by, lean over the open hood and whistle quietly to themselves. They'll be struck by that menacing gaze from the front end and the small windows that add to its edgy exterior.
Of all of the current pony cars, the Camaro is the best modern interpretation of those that hit the avenue last Saturday. It's futuristic looking with sharp edges at every corner. That big gold bow tie on its grille and large intake below the bumper add to the distinctive look.
Its profile is beefy and powerful. It looks like a football lineman with 20-inch wheels.
But really, this Camaro SS was made for cruising. So start up that 6.2-liter V-8 and rumble on down the road.
Camaro made for cruising
After joining other cruisers along Woodward, I had two complaints. The first was the traffic. It was awful. The second: Why was that minivan in the right lane? Classics to the right, minivans to the left; the rules are pretty simple.
This Camaro certainly belongs on the right. First, there is the V-8 under the hood. Try as some carmakers might, nothing sounds better than a V-8, except maybe a V-10 or W-12. I understand how more carmakers will avoid using these engines in the future, but the Camaro SS is the perfect time and the right vehicle for it. The power is incredible.
For the SS model, there are two different 6.2-liter V-8s. The first is the 426 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque LS3 V-8, which comes with the six-speed manual transmission. My test vehicle had the 400-horsepower, 410-pound feet L99 V-8, which includes the six-speed automatic.
While I would prefer a manual for a car like this, I found the automatic perfect for the stop-go-stop-stop pace of the Dream Cruise.
The massive 14-inch disc brakes with Brembo calipers were also nice to have and used more often than the accelerator pedal. If I wanted to shred some rubber through a little brake torquing, turning off the electronic stability control and then hitting the gas and the brake at the same time, I could have. But the Royal Oak police on bicycles would chase me down and write me a ticket. (I find something morally wrong with a police officer on foot pulling over a car.)
Info floats on the windshield
New for 2011 is the heads up display, which shows loads of information on the windshield. The display actually looks like it's floating somewhere in front of the car, the spot you want your eyes looking for the beginning. In the past, the display showed just the digital read out of your speed. However this display shows the songs playing on your iPhone connected through a USB port as you control it with your thumbs on the steering wheel. (As the song starts, the name appears in the display and then it is replaced by the speed.) During the Dream Cruise, I once hit a speed of 8 miles per hour.
But on the way home from the cruise, I was able to top that speed very quickly. Actually, I was able to top a lot of speeds that I do not want to admit to here.
Really, the combination of the Camaro's independent suspension, low center of gravity and rear wheel drive makes it an absolute thrill ride on the open road. That V-8 lets you blast off and you can feel the power in your stomach as that hand of torque presses into your belly.
Perhaps the best part of the new Camaro over its early ancestors is all of the amenities. Air conditioning was my favorite modern feature that so many of those classics lacked. During Cruise week, and it was a weeklong festival of all things automotive, it was nice to blast the AC, roll the windows down and listen to the mechanical music surrounding me. Sitting in a well bolstered seat, cranking tunes with one arm on the window ledge (except when driving through Troy) felt perfect.
Overall, the dash could use a little more character. The simple and modern center stack sticks out at the base as if it's trying to pop through the plastic on the dash. The deep-seated speedometer and tachometer look chunky and cool. The brushed aluminum trim has a plastic twinge but still looks nice.
At night, the inside looks great. The soft blue glow from the instruments and the blue lines on the doors (lights are hidden behind the door inserts). They create a very cool blue slash on each door.
The Camaro SS may not be the perfect vehicle -- small quibbles here or there -- but for this car, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And you don't have to drive along Woodward Avenue to know how special of a car the new Camaro really is. It looks good, feels good and rides great.
What more could a cruiser ask for?
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