Yesterday, 03:58 PM
Below is a basic review of my 2011 Camaro SS. I sold the car last Saturday. Please note that although I like all of you, I don't like any of you enough to have proofread or edit this review in any way. I basically just vomited on my keyboard as thoughts came to me so don't expect too much out this review. I will probably add to it as I think of more stuff.
Car: 2011 Camaro SS (S22/RS/M-6)
Purchased: October 2010 (2011 Model)
Sold: February 2015
Options: Factory Hurst Shifter, Sunroof, Heated Seats
My background: I have been a car enthusiast for as long as I can remember. This was my third “performance” car. My first Camaro was a 92 Z28 (G92/5-sp) and my second was a 2002 Z28 (6-sp, T-tops). My first car was a 1995 Honda Accord, which I tried to make into a performance car, and failed miserably.
Daily Driving Impressions: My driving consisted typically of a short (10-20 minute) in-town commute along with regular (one a week or every other week) 50-80 mile highway drives. I had one long (12hr) road trip which consisted mostly of highway driving both on back-road style state highways and interstates. I had the pleasure of driving the Camaro for several years and I generally drove it through all four seasons. I purchased winter wheels/tires (19inch wheels w/Bridgestone Blizzaks) for it in late 2014. For the most part, on bad snow days I left the Camaro at home and drove my wife’s Explorer. In short, I have driven this car in a relatively wide range of circumstances.
To start, I’ll address the most common criticisms. First of all is the visibility. I’m only about 5ft 8in depending on which liquor store I’m walking out of so headroom was never a huge issue for me. I was able to raise the seat pretty high to aid in visibility. That being said, the visibility still sucked, the a-pillars are huge and the rear of the car is essentially a large blind spot. This wasn’t terribly inconvenient in normal driving other than having to peek around the A-pillars. The mirrors were good enough to get used to the blind spots when changing lanes.
However, one thing I never got used to was parking lots. I don’t really gamble on sports or at casinos and I think a big part of this is the fact that I got my “fix” every time I backed out of a parking spot in the Camaro. The procedure for backing out of a parking spot is as follows: 1) turn the car on; 2) pray, 3) start inching backwards and gasp every time a car drives by, 4) slowly back out far enough that crossing cars are forced to stop, 5) back out as quickly as possible so as to avoid being shot by the person who nearly hit you as you were blindly backing out, 6) drive away happy knowing you escaped with your insurance premium intact.
The Camaro’s interior has received a lot of criticism by the press and I think it’s mostly undeserved. The fit/finish is fine for a car in its price range and the gauge pod ahead of the shifter is cool and very informative. I also like the lighting touches along the doors. One problem is the gauges, they are almost illegible. A heads-up display should be required equipment for any buyer. The annoying thing about the head’s-up display is there is nothing signifying redline on the tach. Thus you have to look down when shifting if you are driving the car quickly.
The leather on the seats is nice and the seats are comfortable. Like most sports cars one has to sit with their legs somewhat straight out. On a long road trip, expect your butt to go numb about 4-hours in. Overall, I don’t have any complaints about the car’s interior. It does have a few idiosyncrasies but you get used to them.
One of the Camaro’s biggest weaknesses, and strengths, is the fact that it drives like a normal, well made, big car when you are just driving like a normal person. This is nice when you don’t feel like driving a sports car, but it kind of sucks too. If you are looking for a car that makes you feel “special” every time you drive it, this is not the car for you. In normal driving the car is slow (tall gearing), the steering is heavy, the ride is somewhat stiff (typical for a sports car) and the car feels big. It’s a different story when you push the car, but pushing this car every day is an expensive and tiring proposition because the limits are pretty high and the motor is pretty thirsty when pushed.
Also, the tire noise is ridiculous. It is one of those weird cars where you have to yell at the person next to you (or at the Bluetooth) but people outside the car can hear you just fine. People complain that the engine note is too subdued but I think it’s actually just drowned out by the tire noise. When I put the winter tires on, I could hear the motor just fine.
Another annoying thing is the trunk. The trunk is a decent size but the opening is tiny. Two golf bags fit fine in it but it takes some jiggering to put them in and take them out. Roller bags are also a pain to put in and take out of the trunk. Once they are in, they fit okay, but taking them in or out is a chore.
One thing the car was surprisingly good at was transporting a baby. A rear facing car seat fit perfect in the middle of the back seat (it’s a bench) and a front facing car seat fit fine behind the passenger seat (my passenger was about 5ft 3in tall). Getting the child in and out of the backseat was a pain because you had to basically climb in the backseat to access the car seat.
The brakes are probably one of its biggest differentiators. Considering this car’s heft, the fact that the brakes work as well as they do is almost astonishing.
Ride quality is just fine on normal roads. On rough roads it is definitely a “sports car” but it’s a pretty forgiving sports car. On a 12-hour road trip I definitely noticed the difference between rough roads and smooth ones. By hour 6 I started tensing up every time I saw a major seam in the road or pothole. After a while you start to just hope for smooth roads, but on short trips the Camaro’s suspension provides for a very comfortable ride considering its performance credentials.
My typical mileage on my daily commute was around 19mpg (mostly in town). Highway mileage was between 22 and 26mpg depending on speed. This car is happiest at around 68mph where it cruises at just under 2,000 rpms and produces the best mileage. At 75mph, expect around 23mpg.
Daily driving conclusion: The Camaro was mostly a comfortable and decent daily driver with a few quirks. My biggest complaint is that when you aren’t pushing the car, it feels like any ordinary car. Don’t buy this car if you don’t plan to regularly drive it in a spirited fashion.
Performance Driving Impressions: Disclaimer: I am not a professional racecar driver nor am I any sort of driving expert.
I’ll start by saying that the Camaro is the fastest car I have ever owned but it didn’t necessarily feel like it. My previous Camaro (2002 Z28) felt faster but I think it is because the speed was more dramatic. The 2011 Camaro is built so much better in every way that it delivered its speed in such a non-dramatic way. I also think the tall gearing/big wheels (20’s) made the car feel slower than it really was. It is one of those cars that you look down at the speedometer and think “holy crap, I can’t believe I’m going that fast” (actually, you look down and say “how fast am I going, I can’t read the speedometer”).
From a performance perspective it is a fast car but it is not a quick car. It handles pretty well but it is not agile. A spirited acceleration run will scare your passenger but it won’t scare you.
The Camaro is extremely easy to launch either with launch control or without. I raced two 5.0 (Coyote) Mustangs during my time with the Camaro and I won both races (the Mustang’s were about even with the middle of my door) but I believe it would really be a driver’s race between the Camaro and the Mustang GT. I have driven both pretty extensively. The Mustang delivers most of its power higher in the rpm range and it is geared better. The Camaro’s low-end power is noticeably better.
As far as handling, the Camaro’s handling limits are high enough that you can’t really safely explore them on public roads. I can’t honestly say I know what the car’s limits are other than to say if you are able to reach them on a public road, you are an idiot. That said, any time you turn the car it rolls and leans into the turn. It seems to handle just fine from a number’s perspective, but it doesn’t feel like it loves to turn. It’s not a car that begs to carve mountain roads.
Speaking of idiots, the Camaro’s civilized nature makes it very amenable to random low speed power slides on wet or snowy days. A slide is really just a push of the throttle away if you are in the right gear and the traction control is off or in “Stabilitrack Competitive Driving Mode” which I believe translates into “Just Enough Wheel Spin to Increase your Heart Rate Without Killing You Mode.”
An interesting thing about the Camaro is when you start to push it, the car kind of “wakes up.” It’s hard to describe but the brakes work better, the steering gets sharper, the suspension seems to work better, etc. I can’t back this up with any sort of “science” other than to say it stops being a boring, big, heavy-feeling car when you start to push it. That being said, the car’s docile nature almost discourages you from really pushing it on a regular basis.
Performance driving conclusion: This car has more performance than 95% of society should ever want. It’s fast without being insane and it inspires confidence. The car is much happier when driven hard. That being said, it is not the type of car that encourages spirited driving. It delivers power and speed in a very laid back and non-dramatic fashion. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of personal preference. For me, I could have used more drama (I would exchange lower limits for more drama).
Maintenance and Repairs: Considering the car’s performance, the maintenance and repair costs were minimal. As far as costs go, I incurred the following outside of ordinary oil changes which, although more expensive than a normal car (about 8 qts) they weren’t too bad: 1) I flushed the rear end fluid and replaced it with Mobil 1 because the rear end was clattered a bit. This fixed the problem. 2) I replaced one turn signal light bulb. The bulb (2-pack) was $8 and it was ridiculously easy to install myself.
As one can tell, this was a very easy car to own. This is not surprising because I didn’t put a ton of miles on it.
Mechanical “issues”: Once again, no major complaints here. When I first got the car, I felt that the drive train was noisy and clattered a lot. As mentioned previously, flushing the rear end fluid took care of the rear, but the transmission was still noisy in my opinion. I took it to the dealer several times and they said it was normal. Perhaps it was, but it’s just annoying to buy a new, $30,000+ car, and the drivetrain makes more clattering noises than my previous 70,000+ mile 9 year old Camaro.
Another issue was the defroster fan. Shortly after the bumper-to-bumper warranty expired, it started making a ticking sound when operating the defroster at lower settings. It was a mild sound, but it was loud enough to notice it from time to time and once you noticed it, you couldn’t ignore it. It wasn’t annoying enough to pay someone to replace the fan, but it was annoying enough to be annoying.
A final issue was with the sunroof. At around 25,000 miles I noticed that the sunroof would pop up when someone closed the door. It also made a lot of noise when going over large bumps like train tracks. Once again, not annoying enough to fix, but annoying enough to be annoying.
The car’s paint is junk. Within its first year I noticed several rock chips in the front fascia/hood, and roof. It scratches fairly easily and the paint just seems “thin.” I complained at the dealer and they told me it was “normal wear and tear.” A normal owner probably wouldn’t notice, but I definitely noticed and it drove me nuts.
Once again, nothing huge here.
Grand Conclusion: I enjoyed owning the Camaro. It was very reliable, economical enough for my budget, and provided for a fairly drama free ownership experience. It’s a really easy way to own a car that’s faster than 90% of the cars you see on a daily basis. The interior was adequate and the exterior styling made me smile every time I walked to the car.
If I were 25 again and in the market for a fast car in the mid-30’s with 4-seats and 2-doors, I might buy another one, but a 1LE. I think a 1LE would provide the drama the base SS was missing. That being said, it wouldn’t be an automatic decision. I would test-drive a lot of different cars and I assume I would end up buying another Camaro but you never know. Additionally, I wouldn’t be “super stoked” (bro!) about buying the car. It’s just not an emotionally exciting car. I enjoyed owning it, I liked the car, but I didn’t “love” the car. It just doesn’t have enough personality (bad or good) to truly “love” the car.
In short, if you are looking for good, reliable, usable, good looking, and fast car; buy a 2011 Camaro SS. If you are looking for a “normal” daily driver that just happens to be fast, buy a 2011 Camaro SS. If you are looking for a car that offers a unique “experience” or puts a smile on your face every time you turn the key, test drive it, give it a shot, but look around because it probably isn’t the right car for you.