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Chevrolet Camaro
6/10

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Road Test

Chevrolet Camaro driven

Driven November 2011

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This, quite clearly, is a muscle car. It has the flanks of Geoff Capes, a big shouty grill, rims that require sunglasses, and the steering wheel's on the wrong side. But something's missing. Something old. Something bouncy. Something rubbish: a leaf sprung/live axle rear end.

Yep, underneath the 2011 Euro-spec Chevy Camaro, there's a 4.5-link independent rear end. Like a proper car. But you already knew that, because it's standard fit on the US-speccer. You might not have known that the Eurozoner's been braced by its very own set of super-stiff dampers and a pair of repositioned and reshaped anti-roll bars.

So, unlike the domestic market version, it does the unthinkable for an American muscle car. It corners. CORNERS! Pig-in-muck rolling proclivities have been ironed out and, despite development at James' least favourite holiday destination - the Nurburgring - it soaks up the open road with GT-like composure.

But this comes at a price. A big scary one. In America, the old idiom that if you've got a job - any job - you'll be able to afford a Camaro holds relatively true. Prices start at £15,000 over there (albeit for a wheezy V6). Over here, the fixed-head's a fiver off £35,000 and the rag top's £39,995. Zoinks.

OK, so our Euro versions, which come as a coupe and convertible, are more like the £22,540 USDM 2SS model. There are two engines - LS3 and L99 - which are bolted to a six-speed manual and auto respectively. They're pretty much the same, but the automatic gets VVT, which propels it to 62mph 0.2 seconds, erm, slower.

Both are 6.2 litres - the manual gets 432hp and the auto 405hp - the stick-shift coupe takes 5.2 seconds to get to 62mph and the rag-top 5.4. The auto coupe does it in 5.4, and the convertible in 5.6.

But it doesn't really feel that quick. It's only when you drive a manual, clinging onto the ratios for longer than seems healthy, do you really feel like you're in something as powerful as a 911.

Elsewhere, the Euro-spec gets 20-inch alloys, low-profile Pirelli PZeros, Brembo four-piston brakes. There's also a Hurst short-throw shifter, or for the auto model Active Fuel Management (four of the eight cylinders shut down when it's not being pushed). That conspired to 20.1mpg in our tester, which isn't entirely dreadful.

There remains an issue with the pricetag, however. It's over ten grand more than its US counterpart. Which seems a lot for some anti-roll bars and dampers - they've not even moved the steering wheel (all are left hookers).

And the price seems higher when you're inside. The a-pillar trim and plastic door panels flex with a gentle prod, and wobbly stitching abounds. The convertible roof flaps around when it's down, too. Which is all a bit of a shame, because poor interior fixture quality isn't endemic of today's GM crop - they fastened the Volt and Cruze together very well.

Still, the Camaro carries four people, right? Not exactly. There are strong suggestions that it should. Mainly the two seats in the rear. But if you try and fit a human equipped with legs in, half of their face will be smeared onto the headlining and the rest of their body positioned for an intrusive medical examination.

But let's face it: none of this matters. Buying any muscle car in the UK's all about visual pheromones and cultural connotations. And if you're seriously considering one, these words will mean nothing to you. Nor will these: "economy" and "practicality". And that's the point. A purchase like this transcends judgment, and this one even goes round corners.

Matthew Jones

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