2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Chassis and Suspension – An educated wrestler!

Consider its rivalry, Ford Mustang still retains the live axle in the rear. This Camaro is a major step forward. This advancement is like the first pro-wrestler in the wrestling family who earned a college degree. Not only this is the first Camaro in its 43 years of history with independent rear suspension, its alignment, camber, caster, and toe are fully adjustable; very rare in stock form.

The college certification is the Zeta platform, GM’s full-size global RWD platform designed by Holden in Australia that also underpins the short lived Pontiac G8. The Camaro platform is essentially a shortened version of the G8. The Zeta consists of MacPherson strut with dual ball joint on the lower A-arm in the front and four-link independent setup in the rear. Mass reducing hollow sway bars at 23 x 4.2, and 23 x 3 mm are used front and rear, respectively. Springs are progressive rated by varying both coil spacing and diameter. For a car in this size, the suspension never bottom out.

All the cornering power comes from a set of staggered 245/45ZR20 front, and 275/40ZR20 rear tires; the under-tired front hinting the understeering trait. The hydraulic-assisted steering has 16.1:1 ratio. It is a tar slow but precise enough and transmits proper road feel.

It has been reported that the SS can achieve respectable 0.87g in 200’ skid pad, and 700’ slalom @ 100’ spacing at 66.8 mph. Original muscle cars are for open road cruising and that is the only intent of it. Now the Camaro has pretty good handling at least on paper so far.

Driving on the street, the SS rides like a vehicle that came straight from Europe, perhaps, Germany. The ride is firm but the suspension tuning can still provide cushioning for your kidneys; comfortable for a sports car. With its massive diameter tires, pavement potholes, ruts, cracks, any imperfection transmitting to the cabin is less frequent as compared to the cars on smaller tires.

The suspension tuning can really hide the SS’s obesity. Obesity, however, can be a relative term. Consider the SS’s muscular posture, the move-out-of-the-way angry front fascia, 3,913 lbs may not be that overboard. Without its sheer size, the SS might not have its most unique looks on the road today.

Going onto the freeway, at the onramp, the SS has so much grip, so stable, so flat, it can go into the turn at much much higher speed than you could imagine. To draw comparison, in a Mazdaspeed Miata, you would be preparing to dial in some counter-steer at the same entry speed as the SS. But the SS is so planted. The sticky Pirelli PZero summer performance tires remain compliant, no squealing, not a sound.

When the road gets tight and twisty, the width of the car handicaps the SS. At 75.5-in width, the car itself is basically taking the entire usable width of the narrow mountain lane. Perhaps, that is a good way to discourage the driver to go too aggressively. The SS is not very good on these tight mountain roads. It is too wide, too long, too lack of outward visibility to precisely place the car in the lane.

The 2-ton weight is then obvious. I believe the springs are designed with too many criteria in mind. It has to combat the weight and the ride comfort to some extent. Sacrifice has to be made somewhere. Tight cornering balance would probably require stiffer springs, thicker roll bar which making freeway cruising a pain. It doesn’t fit the purpose of a pony car.

The weight transfer issue is also confirmed at the track-like condition. In the tight slower speed corners the car is rolling too much with mild understeering. In the large radius skidpad like turn, the front end would plow. TCS and Stability Control involvement/interruption is minimal even when the front tires are screaming for grip. This indicates the suspension setup and alignment is tuned for understeering near the limit, a common practice in stock form, and a safe feature on a high-torque RWD and a sense of confidence.

It is not fun to have this 2-ton beast to snap its tail on you. Think about the power of its momentum when all hell is loose. Therefore, the Camaro can be cornered nicely at 8/10th, once beyond that weight transfer becomes a problem. The SS becomes a handful when pushed beyond.

The Zeta chassis feels extremely solid, notice no flex nor rattle during our test, regardless how rough the road gets or how hard we threw the car into a corner.

Brake – Huge, so good!

In speaking of driving at 8/10th, the brakes require careful modulation to prevent activating the ABS. The initial brake input requires gentle touch with added effort in a linear way to avoid a rapid weight transfer to the front. As the nose dives and the rear gets light, the rear brakes would start to lock up due to lack of grip. The Bosch supplied ABS has coarse operation. Under heavy braking, the backend would unsettle and result in much longer brake distant. To drive the SS fast, proper weight transfer is the key.

The mechanism capable of stopping the beast from 60 mph in 115’ comes from 14” x 1.25” vented front disc and 14.4” x 1.10” vented rear with four piston monoblock aluminum Brembo calipers at all corners. The Brembo brake calipers and pads are capable of repeated heavy use even in track condition. The brakes never faded. Braking distance doesn’t really change by that much as they get hot. The cooling fins in the massive rotors are doing a great job cooling things down as the mass of the rotors and calipers acting as heat sinks. Bigger the better applies here.

If we have to rate the pedal’s operating effort, feel and performance it will get a 9/10. It is really good. For being nit-picky, on the street, the brake force would self increase without any added effort on the pedal but it is not apparent until the last 20 feet of a gentle stop at the light.

Interior – The Intercontinental Champion!

After a few generation of gene mutation, this new Camaro has finally got it right and making the family proud. The interior was appraised as one of the ten WardsAuto Interior Award winners in 2010. The blue theme panel backlit, ambient LED pipe runs through the dash into door panel made it special. Switchgears operate with high quality feel along with a super awesome 245W Boston Acoustic 9-speaker audio system. By far, it has a very decent looking, well built cockpit from the North American continent.

The HUD display is a very nice feature. It includes the information that a driver needs without taking eye off the road. It covers for its ergonomic problem of the gauge cluster as it is illegible; you can’t get any information by glancing at the retro-style text and thick analog dial.

Here are the reasons why the interior quite ain’t World Champion material aside from this. The oil pressure and temperature, voltage, and transmission fluid temperature gauges afore of the shifter are considered as good as useless, you have to completely take your eyes off of the road for seconds to register for any useful information. The same goes for the miniature and symmetrical climate control buttons on the center console.

The stylish deep dash shaped steering wheel is odd to use. The problems are the extremely large diameter and the thick spokes at 3 and 9 o’clock position. Have no idea how and where to properly place the hands. Maybe need to be driven with claws. It’s like you are holding a ceramic saucer. It should stay in the concept stage, shouldn’t carry over to production.

The high beltline, short green house, thick C-pillars, large cowl on the hood which all impairs outward visibility as you are submerged into the cockpit. Despite its 54.2” height, only 37.5” and 33.5” are reserved as front and rear headroom, respectively. In translation, headroom is tight considering a 5’10” figure with helmet on. The helmet will be pinching the roof. Maybe the designer thinks one could use the head as a redundant support to overcome the lateral force when corning since the bolsters in the frontseats are too far apart to provide meaningful lateral support. Backseats are basically useless as space for human occupants. Head room is even more lacking. No leg room, despite the car’s 112.3” wheelbase.

Should we blame on the designer, as the styling was penned by South Korean-born Sangyup Lee? Well not quite, as the shrouded headlights, bulged hood, and utilizing foglight as day-time running light, both fake hood scoop and grille near the rear wheel although not mechanically functional but visually it worked. The SS turns head. Thumb ups are received, random pedestrian approach with friendliness and slower vehicles in the fast lane move out of the way with courtesy. If the passenger compartment and trunk (11.3 cu-ft) spaces become a concern, get the Pontiac G8 GXP sedan!
Overall Impression

Scoring System:
Powertrain Performance & Refinement
8.5/10

Handling & Ride Characteristics
8.5/10

Brake Performance & Feel
8.5/10

Comfort & Workmanship
8/10

Features & Technologies
7.5/10

Will I buy one factor
10/10

My recommendation factor
10/10

Lamzgarage factual ratings. Dollar-to-Horsepower: $83.63/HP; Dollar-to-Trunk Space: $2,960.18/cu-ft.

Afterthought:

“American. Performance. Redefined,” is experienced firsthand. So true, the Camaro SS has refined the how we would think of muscle cars, we’ve experienced the American definition of performance. At the petrol station in rural American, we noticed a phenomenon that people act more friendly and polite. They, even the obese type, with a half pounder burger in one hand and a jumbo size diet pop in the other, came running out from the store to move their rusty, gross polluting 2nd gen. Camaro out of our way to let us fill up, all with a friendly smile.

The Camaro SS isn’t the typical gimmicky pro-wrestler. It got some talent. Do a custom alignment to tune out the understeering, change the steering wheel, install some better tuned springs and shocks to take care of the pitch and roll. You have got one decent track toy. Or get the 580 hp Camaro ZL1, GM got it all sorted out for you. End

One thought on “2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS

  1. great write up. You would be happier in a corvette, much more focused performance car and it doesnt weigh as much. Have you noticed that most camaro drivers have mullets and missing most of their teeth? just kidding…

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