2012 Chevy Camaro SS

Print Friendly

Back in 1987, I was very happy with my 1980 Z28 – which had less than half the horsepower of the 2012 Camaro SS I just spent a week with. Ye gods, the base 2012 V-6 Camaro puts out 133 more horsepower than my old 350 V-8 Z28. And despite having twice the power of my old Z, the ’12 SS also gets twice the MPGs – probably more, if you’re gentle – than my poor old Disco Machine Z28 ever managed.

So, what’s not to like?

Well, not much. But there are a few bugs. Some are subjective – my personal issues, maybe having to do with being an over-the-hill Gen X’er. But the others are pretty objective.

I’ll tell you – then you tell me.

WHAT IT IS

Camaro is a two-door, four-seat revisitation of the ’60s-’70s muscle car concept: Big car, big V-8 (in the SS). Truckloads of ‘tude.

Base price is $23,200 for the V-6 LS coupe. An SS starts at $31,850. Both are available as convertibles, too – with base prices for those versions starting at $30,100 for the V-6 and $37,900 for the SS.

Main competitors are the Ford Mustang ($22,310-$40,310) and the Dodge Challenger ($24,915-$43,995).

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2012

The base V-6 now produces 323 hp (vs. 312 in 2011) and the SS gets a revised Sport suspension. All versions get interior tweaks, including a new-design steering wheel and trim bits. The formerly optional RS taillights with darker lenses and chrome trim are now standard on all versions.

There’s also a 45th Anniversary Edition of the SS (tested model) and – later in 2012 – Chevy will resurrect a legendary ultra-performance Camaro nameplate – ZL1 – to compete against the ultra-ulta performance versions of the Mustang (Boss 302) and Challenger (SRT-8).

WHAT’S GOOD

Base V-6 puts our more power than most classic-era V-8s  – and can deliver 30 MPG on the highway.

SS Camaro (426 hp) has more power than Mustang GT (412 hp) and much more power than Challenger R/T(375 hp).

Drive an icon. Get lots of attention.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

Mustang is much lighter – and so, significantly quicker.

Challenger’s about $2k cheaper – and has usable back seats. Plus a trunk, too.

Bouncy ride (SS) on super tall wheels/tires.

Maybe 25 percent too big – definitely 25 percent too heavy.

UNDER THE HOOD

The standard Camaro engine is a 3.6 liter V-6, now rated at 323 hp. It is the most powerful of the three latter-day muscle cars’ standard engines – and also more powerful than most of the V-8s used in the original-era muscle cars. Just for perspective, the 1969 Camaro Z28′s 302 V-8 was rated at 290 SAE gross hp (today we use a less optimistic SAE net standard that measures engine power in factory tune with full exhaust and accessories installed). My 1980 Z28′s larger 350 cubic inch (5.7 liter) V-8 was rated 190 hp, SAE net. Even as recently as 2000 – just before the last generation Camaro was retired – a Z28′s 5.7 liter V-8 produced only 305 hp (320 if you ordered the SS on top of that).

So, wow.

The V-6 comes with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. It’ll get you to 60 in the six second range (that’s quicker than a stock ’69 Z28 and much, much quicker than my ’80 Z28) and still manages to deliver fuel economy no old-school V-8 could ever dream of: 19 city, 30 highway. Again, for some context, my 8.5 second to 60 MPH 1980 Z28 was rated 14 MPG… on the highway.

Not enough? Choose the SS, which packs a 6.2 liter, 426 hp V-8 and a 5 second 0-60 timeslip. It’s not quite as quick as the slightly less powerful (but several hundred pounds lighter) Mustang GT, which does the deed in about 4.8 seconds – but it’s quicker than the less powerful (and even heavier) Challenger R/T, which gets there in 5.5 seconds.

As with the V-6, you can go manual (six speed) or automatic (ditto). Gas mileage with the 6.2 V-8 is 16 city, 24 highway but unlike the V-6, which is slightly more efficient when teamed with the optional automatic, the big V-8 loses a few MPGs (14 city, 22 highway) when you pair it with the six-speed automatic.  That’s also slightly worse than the automatic-equipped Mustang GT (18 city, 25 highway) and the manual-equipped Challenger R/T (15 city, 24 highway).

In spring – a few months from now – Chevy will resurrect the ZL1, a Camaro that will make the SS seem toothless, or at least loose-toothed.

Back in the late ’60s, the ZL1 was a special-order Camaro with a Corvette 427 cubic inch big-block V-8 under the hood. For 2012, the concept will be similar: Under the hood will be a version of the current Corvette ZR1′s supercharged 6.2 liter V-8 with output expected to be 570 hp. This would be the most powerful factory-built Camaro ever.

And most importantly, stronger – by far – than the current SRT8 version of the Challenger (470 hp) and also the Boss 302 version of the Mustang GT (444 hp).

ON THE ROAD

It’s a mixed bag.

Camaro – especially the SS, with the new sport suspension – has very high levels of grip, like all modern high-performance coupes. But few high-performance coupes are this big – or this heavy.

Camaro is an enormous car, by any measure – and not just relative to other coupes. It rides on a 112.3 inch wheelbase, is 190.4 inches long, 75.5 inches wide, 54.2 inches tall and weighs a ponderous 3,860 pounds empty. This is only two inches shorter, nose to tail, than a current Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan – which only has about an inch more wheelbase (113.2) and weighs just slightly more (4,084 lbs.). My 1980 Camaro’s wheelbase was only 108 inches – and it weighed about 200 pounds less than the current model. I parked the SS next to my ’76 Trans-Am (same basic car as a mid ’70s’ Camaro) and the TA, a big car in its day, looked almost dainty in comparison.

A more direct comparison is to compare the Camaro to its most obvious rival, the current Ford Mustang. The Ford’s wheelbase is much shorter – 107.1 inches – and the car is about three inches less, end to end (188.1 inches). It also weighs almost 300 pounds less – which explains why the GT is quicker than the SS, even though the 5.0 liter V-8 is a bit less powerful than the SS’s larger, 6.2 liter V-8.

All that weight – and all that wheelbase – combined with those mongo 20 inch wheels (SS 45th anniversary) wrapped with super low-aspect ratio (very short sidewall) ultra-performance tires results in a car that’s quite a handful. Also on the bouncy side if the road is less than perfectly smooth.

This isn’t to say Camaro’s not a tenacious cornering fiend – it absolutely is. But it takes a meaty hand on the wheel to keep it all on track. Mustang handles extremely well, too. It’s probably a draw – or a question of fractions of a second – as to which goes around a road course the fastest and  even that will come down to who’s behind the wheel more than any other single factor.

But on the street, I have to say I’d rather be behind the wheel of the Mustang. You don’t feel like you’re constantly running out of road on either side; you’ve got much better to-the-side (and rearward) visibility because the ‘Stang’s roof is not so cartoonishly low-cut. And it’s not as bouncy on less-than-perfect pavement.

Why does Camaro have to be so huge?  You don’t even get a usable back seat in return! (More on this below.)

AT THE CURB

Camaro has curb appeal. Most people – most especially young guys – seem to really like it. I got multiple thumbs-up and waves from the 18-35 set during the week I had the car. On this count, it beats the Mustang – which though an excellent driver and arguably (my opinion) a better car overall, is also everywhere. The roads are saturated with Mustangs, so owning one does not set you apart from the herd. Even a brand-new 5.0 GT draws no eyes, or very few anyhow. But because Camaro had been gone for so long (nearly ten years) and also because the new car is heroically outsized in every respect – everyone looks. They are still enough of a novelty to stand out like Hulk Hogan draped in feather boas at the airport. The styling is like nothing else on the road.

My 45th Anniversary car, painted Carbon Flash charcoal metallic with  two asymmetric red stripes on the hood and decklid – stood out from the crowd even more. This special model also gets LED headlight surrounds, special 20 inch wheels and interior trim, most notably matching charcoal leather seats with accent stitching.

The Dodge Challenger also stands out, for exactly the same reasons. There are not many out there – and the styling of this car is equally bold. The Challenger, incidentally, is even bigger (and heavier) than Camaro, weighing in at a truly obnoxious 4,082 lbs. empty. It is also about eight inches longer – and rides on an incredible (for a coupe) 116 inch wheelbase. That is almost four inches more wheelbase than Camaro! But, there is an upside: You get a real trunk: 16.2 cubic feet – which is more trunk than the current Benz E-Class sedan and much more than the Camaro’s ridiculous – for such a big car – 11.3 cubic inch trunk.

You also get usable backs seats in the Dodge, something neither the Camaro nor the Mustang have. Check some stats: The Camaro’s back seats are tighter than the bottom half of a 50 gallon oil drum, with only 29.9 inches of legroom and 35.3 inches of headroom, if you want to call it that. In the Challenger, backseaters get a human-friendly (or at least, human usable) 32.6 inches of legroom and 37.4 inches of headroom.

Now, the Mustang is also cramped in the back – but in its defense, it’s not so huge on the outside, as Camaro is. Probably my biggest criticism of Camaro is its poor use of space – and its out of proportion proportions.

Well, there is one other thing…  .

THE REST

Camaro was originally a fairly inexpensive car. Even my old ’80 Z28 had an MSRP of just $7,120 brand new. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $19k in today’s Fed funny money. Mind, that was for a Z28 – the top-of-the-line Camaro back in 1980. The SS I just tested was $43k-plus and even without the 45th Anniversary package, the base price of a new SS is almost $32k. That is near-BMW (or Lexus or Cadillac) money nowadays. And the Camaro’s interior does not match that MSRP. The layout is fine but the materials and small details aren’t. Look at the gauges, for example. There’s nothing wrong with them, as far as how they are laid out or how they work. But the faces and detail touches are very plain. There is also too much hard plastic, which even leather girdles here and there (as in the 45th Anniversary model) can’t completely hide.  The Mustang’s interior just looks better to me. Maybe you disagree. I expect lots of hate mail from Chevy people, but there you have it.

You look and see for yourself.

I do like that GM has kept the nanny crap to a minimum. Turn the TCS off and it is off. You can do a burnout or slide the ass end through a decreasing radius curve, hollering like a crazed hillbilly as you go. Excelllllent. Sixth gear in the manual is a really steep overdrive gear and the engine is almost dozing off at 80 MPH, barely turning 2,000 RPM. Also excellent. And the GM LS-series V-8 is a magnificent piece of engineering, a two-valve, pushrod unit that spins as high as many three and four-valve/DOHC units, like the Ford 5.0. It is totally unstressed, with massive untapped potential. A few choice mods here and there and this engine can pump out 600-plus hp without a supercharger.
Hands clapping like a seal awaiting a mackerel.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It’s far from perfect, not family-friendly and will probably annoy your wife. But isn’t that part of the charm?

Throw it in the Woods?

Share Button

  31 comments for “2012 Chevy Camaro SS

  1. Fritz
    November 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    The size was too much for me. Wouldn’t even drive it. My mom has an 02 SS, and the visibility and ergonomics are horrible. This new one was even worse, just sitting in it. I’d very much like to think that cool, RWD cars are coming back, but if they are, this stuff from “the big three” isn’t evidence of it. Even the Genesis coupe is like 3600lbs. I know damn well they’re doing it on purpose. You don’t keep cars you hate for very long.

  2. 3Deuce27
    November 19, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    The best review and comparison of the current crop of Pony cars I have seen. A ‘real guy’ review.

    My last Pony car was a new 1985_1/2 ‘SVO’ Mustang. A fun car similar to the current Genesis 2.0T.

    I started out wanting to replace my 96′ BMW 328is with a V-8 Pony car(GT/RT/SS) or Genesis coupe. I then shifted my focus to the new 300+HP versions of RWDs. After extensive testing, I found that I liked the Camaro(V-6) better then the Mustang. For me it is just smoother and more intuitive to drive. But the 2.0T Genesis Coupe(now with 271 HP, for 2013) wins, over all of them. Lighter with a true sporty demeanor.

    For me, the problem with the American Ponies, is that after a test drive, I get back into my old 328is Coupe(now with 200k+ miles) and it just works and feels a lot better then the much newer Pony cars do.

    The problem with the new Ponies for me is that they are all very dated. Give me a light, RWD, Turbo Four(250+ HP), Coupe, with an attractive purposeful look, and I’m good to go. I would miss that V-8 Song, but would smile at every curve and at the pump.

    I will probably end up with the Genesis 2.0T Coupe(2013), as it makes more sense for me and gives a fun, satisfying driving experience while delivering good MPG numbers. The other option is a gently used BMW 128/135 Coupe. Who am I kidding, I want an Audi S5 or RS5 Coupe so bad, it’s palatable..COL!!!

    PS! For those intent on a new Pony car with a manual tranny, if you want real down low acceleration like the old Muscle cars, you will have to opt for the optional performance rear gears. The standard rear gears are for EPA mileage and kill off a lot of the get up and go one would expect from 300-400+HP. The autobox’s do a better job of multiplying the available torque, but they are not an option for me.

  3. methylamine
    November 19, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I love this car, but I’ll never buy anything from a company that extorted money from me at gunpoint…they took the bailout. And no, to any would-be Clovers, they didn’t pay it back; that was a fraud.

    Eric–your line

    …slide the ass end through a decreasing radius curve, hollering like a crazed hillbilly as you go.

    Classic!

    What’s the story on the Boss 302? I understand there’s the Boss 302, and then the Laguna Seca. They’ll make as many Bosses as they can sell, but the Laguna Seca is limited-production. Or is the Boss limited, too?

    Say it ain’t so, because I’m drooling for one. The engine is even BETTER than the S62 in the M5; same exact specs but it revs higher, has con-rod bearings that are actually designed for the job (unlike the M5′s which are straight out of the less-powerful M62 engine), and makes more power.

    I figure in 2-3 years you’ll be able to pick one up for less than $30K and have an excellent daily driver and formidable track car…and the soundtrack of a V-8 at 7500 RPM? Priceless.

    • November 20, 2011 at 12:08 am

      Thanks!

      And, I agree on GM. I’m torn between my love for their ’60s and ’70s (and even ’80s) stuff and the way they mulcted the taxpayer to give us stuff like the Volt. (I have one right now, by the way. According to the computer, I am averaging 28.7 MPG… review to come!)

      I like that Boss 302, too. Heck. I like the standard GT a lot, too.

      Of the three, the Mustang strikes me as being the best package of looks, function, performance and value. It’s the one I’d pick if I had to choose….

  4. babydriver
    November 20, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I still have to wait a few more months for my 11 Mustang to depreciate to where I can afford to buy it. Been a Mustang kind of guy since I drove the first one in ’66.

    And the Boss is indeed limited, I can’t find one anywhere.

    Oh and Eric, the taste in cars must be regional. In San Antonio the Camaros are everywhere with nary a Mustang to be found. Up here in N. Idaho they are about even.

    • BrentP
      November 20, 2011 at 5:25 am

      All Boss 302s are limited. Ford uses Boss 302s, GT500s and all mustangs not a V6 or GT as dealer reward vehicles. If you don’t have a high volume ford dealership in your area, your area got one Boss 302 per dealer. Dealerships usually add 5-10K on top of sticker for Boss 302s presently. GT500s can vary now. But generally they go for sticker exactly now. Years before they were surcharged too.

      I’m not going to pay more than sticker for any car. I did get a GT because Ford finally moved all the stuff I wanted to the GT. So long as I had to buy a GT500 for it and pay over sticker I wasn’t going for it. I nearly went for it at sticker but couldn’t think what GT500 offered me except a less usable car for considerably more money. The Boss 302 I really wanted at first. Then I found they were going to be dealer rewards cars. When I ordered my GT the dealership had a Boss 302 just as I would order it (remarkable for dealer rewards models, cause they are usually as the dealer wants them making it less attractive to me) but it had already been sold. I sat in it, and really was disappointed in the ‘basic’ interior. The original boss 302 had a better than basic interior….

      Camaros… around here they are already nearly as common as mustangs in my area. What makes a camaro different as it has been so many years that most of the previous ones have reached end-of life. Mustangs never went out of production.

      • methylamine
        November 20, 2011 at 6:37 pm

        Dammit, that sucks! So Boss 302′s will be trailer-queens and hard to come by on the used market…and no bargain when they do.

        I wonder if the standard GT’s engine is durable enough for serious track poundings and daily driving for 100K miles? The stout crank, bearings, lighter pistons are key selling points in the Boss.

        I wonder if they’ll make the Boss engine an option? Or what a Boss crate engine would cost?

        • BrentP
          November 21, 2011 at 3:17 am

          I doubt there would be a Boss engine option for the GT. Not sure how the Boss 302 would be as a daily driver. I know that for that kind of money I want something more than than a basic track day interior.

    • methylamine
      November 20, 2011 at 6:34 pm

      @babydriver–

      How is N Idaho from a freedom standpoint? It’s my understanding that they’re way up there on the freedom index–great gun laws, decent drug laws, etc. 4th in the Mercatur (sp?) index. Are there other freedom-minded people there, or is it just a lower density of clovers?

      It’s one of my few in-country target bugout places.

    • 3Deuce27
      November 21, 2011 at 3:32 am

      @ Babydriver,

      There are regional tastes/preferences in cars/trucks.

      When I was on the road doing field engineering in the Western states, I saw a lot of evidence one sided brand loyalty, especially in the rural areas. I would pull onto a job site and it would usually be heavy with Fords, with a sprinkling of Dodges, or GM models and little else.
      It is a curious development on which I can only speculate, and some of that speculation wouldn’t pass the ‘PC’ muster…COL!

      • November 21, 2011 at 10:57 am

        So true!

        I know this guy at the gym who is a “Ford guy.” It’s not just that he likes Fords – he is contemptuous of all other makes. It is a phenomenon I have never been able to get my head around (like sports worship and fervent religious belief). Example: I really like Pontiac muscle cars, especially Firebirds. But I can appreciate many other makes/models, and would certainly be happy to own any of several of them. Same with bikes. I have four Kawasakis but also one Honda (and would certainly own a Guzzi, or a BMW or a Suzuki). Harleys are cool, too – just not my personal preference.

  5. swamprat
    November 20, 2011 at 1:29 am

    I test drove a Genesis 2.0T auto and stick. LIked them both. The cars were great except that they needed an extra gear for highway cruising and tire noise was high above 60 mph. Otherwise, the Americans should have manufactured something like this 15 years ago. They still aren’t and I’m not buying.

    • November 20, 2011 at 11:17 am

      I also like the Genesis – and if someone’s looking for a well-balanced, well-engineered RWD sporty coupe, this car ought to be high on the list. You can’t fault it objectively. But it will never be a Mustang or Camaro, or even directly competitive with them, for much the same reason (not rational, I agree) that a Yahama or Suzuki will never be quite the same thing as a Harley Davidson. There’s the history, the patina… . No matter how good, as a performance machine, any current entrant is or becomes, it will never be the one that started it all (as Mustang was, along with Camaro and the other originals), nor will it have the embedded culturally memory as an icon that those names have.

      It’s like Sinatra or Elvis. New singers will come along. Some maybe as good – a few perhaps even better. But they will never be Sinatra or Elvis.

  6. 3Deuce27
    November 20, 2011 at 3:29 am

    My comments below are based on my interest in a trip/touring/daily RWD coupe with sporty intentions and better then average handling and performance, with decent MPG and a warranty to cover me when a thousand miles out of town. I don’t need a show/weekend car as I consider the GT/SS/RT to be.

    I agree Eric that the Mustang has value for the money _especially the V-6_ and I thought I would be driving a V-6, manual Coupe with the ‘Sports’ pkg. by now, but here is what killed it for me.

    Upright sedan like driving position, not very sporty.

    Sticky, bulky shifting. Several examples produced the same result, as has been reported in other reviews,

    Rear suspension had poor lateral transition, especially during off camber situations. And composure on rough roads deteriorated exponentially.

    Acceleration down low and in passing roll on was uninspiring for a 300+ HP vehicle. Something it shares with the V-6 Camaro.
    The little Genesis ’2.0T’(210 HP) just felt more vigorous, especially in the 5th & 6th gear roll-on from 55 MPH and 65 MPH to 75 MPH. Numbers backed that up too.

    No conventional sunroof on the option list.

    The exterior trim didn’t have a pleasing finish or look durable.

    Uninspiring, dated styling further compromised by bulbous over developed rear quarters, with a cheap plastic finish panel between the debatable tail lights. Apparently Ford has eliminated the panel for 2013, but they seem to have made the rear quarters even less attractive for 2013.
    I first became aware of the rear end issues when I rented a 2012 convertible for ten days in Vegas this May. My cousin _a devout Ford/Mustang Fanatic_ agrees with me on that point.

    In addition, but not a deal killer as they are currently part of the nostalgic, retro look, the unsophisticated ‘Boy Racer’ dash, that costs quite a lot of money to upgrade to an upgraded Boy Racer dash. I guess I have just spent to much time behind the purposeful, nicely finished dashes of Miata’s and BMW’s

    High hood and front shoulder development…where is that tight apex? Ditto on the Camaro, Kudos to the Genesis.

    Now given steep, end of the year discounts, I could possibly reconsider, but I still can’t see the Mustang as being a long term keeper. I would just run the mileage up on my frequent long distance trips and trade it near the end of it’s warranty and move on. But in that scenario, I would lose the mile by mile enjoyment of a better composed sport touring machine, and at my age I want to enjoy every mile I can.

    • BrentP
      November 20, 2011 at 6:22 am

      The plastic panel between the mustang taillamps is an option. It’s supposed to mimic something I don’t like on the 1970 Mach one.

      I don’t see what is boy racer about the dash of the mustang. It’s a simple two pod layout. Looking at photos maybe I see what it is… The lighting effects in promo photos can be turned off or adjusted. I have mine set to a simple classic green. Looks quite nice, not like the ugly boy-racer blues and stuff seen in photos. The camaro’s dash is hideous IMO. Round gauges in oddly straight sided pods.

      I don’t understand why people hate the 2010-2012 mustang rear end so much. Only thing I don’t like is the black plastic lower panels. I know why they are there visually, I just prefer body color.

      The rear suspension, I don’t know about the camaro but my GT with the brembo package is just flat. The weak point is the seat. Perhaps V6s get skimped in this area. Rough roads, I haven’t noticed anything but an annoying frequency on some bits of road where an oscillation pattern is worn in. Then again I’ve spent so much time in solid axle cars I probably wouldn’t notice anything unusual anyway.

      On shifting, V6 and 5.0 V8 MT mustangs have a getrag 6spd. With it came some of the odd behaviors that BMW owners (with getrag transmissions) have noted.

      As far as warranties go… isn’t that when people dump their BMWs because of the expense of keeping one?

      • 3Deuce27
        November 20, 2011 at 12:44 pm

        Hello! BrentP,

        Appreciate the feedback.

        Reg; The ‘Finish Panel’, Buying from stock it is always there. Earlier in the year it was part of the ’101A’ appearance pkg. and all of the dealers ordered vehicles for stock with that option. Now it appears to have been dropped on all pkgs on the base Pony.
        Regarding prior use on the Mach-1. At the time it was supposed to mimic the rear grille on the mid engine exotics of the era. Particularly the Lamborghini Miura.

        The Mustang dash is decidedly retro rather then ‘Boy Racer’. I should have used ‘garishly’ retro. Disappointing in an allegedly serious performance vehicle. Primary instruments in a performance vehicle should be behind a full view, clear panel or shallow faced on a flat panel for quick assimilation of information. The Camaro dash/instrument cluster is also poorly designed, functionally, though it is unique.

        Regarding inability to see issues with Mustang rear end. Can’t help you out there. A friend refers to it as having the overbearing presence Clydesdale’s ass. This is always a problematic area for designers with all that they have to deal with.

        I have been driving independents(IRS) of one form or another for most of my life, from my first Bug, to Corvairs and early Stingrays, X1-9′s Miata’s and BMW’s. There is a difference.

        Regarding ‘Shifting/Getrags’, I have never encountered the bulky/’odd Behaviors’ in any BMW. My 328is and 540iT shift like butter. A real pleasure to use.
        The Camaro’s I tested(Tremec TR-6060 ) also exhibited a sure, smooth, selection.
        Often, particularly on downshifts, the Mustang(Pony & GT) was difficult to engage. This may be due in part, to the type of clutch used or the adjustment of the clutch. But I did test several vehicles all exhibiting this behavior.
        I have spent a fair amount of time in the cockpit of a 2000 Cobra ‘R’. It was a slow/bulky shifter too, but that was due to race synchros. You had to be very deliberate to efficiently shift the Cobra in race conditions. The classic speed shift would eventually put you behind the wall ending your day if not your weekend.

        Regarding ‘Warranties’. Now days, any newer car out of warranty is a dicey, potentially expensive affair.
        As far as BMW’s go, I have 320,000 miles between two of them with very few issues, all of which were/are trivial, with no mechanical failures to date. Even the clutches are original.
        I would rather rebuild a BMW inline six then a newer Ford Mustang V-8 or Camaro V-6 or for that matter, the BMW V-8.
        The last quad cam ‘V’ motor I rebuilt was a Maserati V-6. An expensive, time consuming, but satisfying experience I don’t look forward to repeating.
        The new Mustang V-8 SOHC iteration is a bit simpler, but still quite involved. Rebuilding the current SM block Chevy V-8 is a cake walk in comparison.

        Regards……….3Deuce27

        • BrentP
          November 21, 2011 at 3:38 am

          The trans in mine is smooth other than some quirks here and there. Most of which I blame on the shifter. Buying an aftermarket shifter is par for the course anyway. I came across some posts in mustang forums stating that they had to use driving habits they developed for their BMWs. further searching seemed to confirm that with posts in BMW forums and I have stopped worrying about it for the most part.

          You mention downshifting… the MT-82 is off by one gear for downshifting. This is by gear ratio. It only has one OD gear. fifth is 1:1. Third is a ratio more like 2nd in other transmissions. If shifted by gear number the downshifts will be bulky because they are more drastic than a driver is thinking. I’ve retrained my thinking and downshifts are smooth.

          The clutch slave cylinders… some in the forums are saying they have the same problems as corvettes with clutch dust working its way into the fluid. So another maintenance item.

          As to the rear suspension I figured I’d rather have a good solid axle than a mediocre IRS. I haven’t read of any particular advantage to the IRS in camaro and figure when ford finally changes it in the mustang the last of the solid axles will probably be better.

          I just notice that BMWs seem to vanish at warranty time. I like mustangs because of the factory and aftermarket support and the competition for my dollar. It makes them very easy cars to keep going forever and ever. From various mustang forums it seems a good number of BMW owners have purchased the current GT because they wanted a car that was less expensive to maintain. They kept their BMWs of course, but wanted to lessen the usage of them.

          My ’97 Mustang 4.6 is at nearly 200K with no apparent issues. as is my dad’s ’99, and friend’s 2000 something GT has passed the 200K mark. I expect the 5.0L to last just as long with the same care. I don’t expect to have to rebuild engines. But if I were concerned about complexity of rebuilding the heads I’d probably look for whatever upgraded pre-assembled units were available if and when rebuild time comes around.

          • 3Deuce27
            November 21, 2011 at 7:06 am

            Reg; ‘I just notice that BMWs seem to vanish at warranty time’

            Interesting, purely anecdotal comment Brent. Where do they go?

            There are no maintenance costs for the owner/lessee of a BMW under warranty. And trading early, has more to do with end of leases, then end of warranty issues. BMW’s ‘Bumper to Bumper’ warranty is for 4 years and 50,000 miles. Most leases are for 24 or 36 months. BMW also offers and extended ‘maintenance’ warranty as well as an extended ‘drive train’ warranty for those who purchase their BMW.
            Most Audi’s, BMW’s, Merc’s, and Porsche’s, are leased, and usually have significant time left on their warranties after the lease ends.
            Last Fall I picked up an end of lease, 2007 ‘M’ Coupe for resale. It still had 23,000 miles and 11 months on its warranty.

            The key to long term ownership of any of the higher end performance/luxury cars, Audi, Benz, BMW, Porsche, Jag, etc., _if you don’t do your own maintenance/repairs_ is finding a competent, fair$$$, independent shop.
            The Dealers have very high shop rates and almost always charge book rates no matter how little time it takes to do the job.

            If you think that a BMW is expensive to repair, try buying parts or getting repairs on a Ford ‘Mod’ motor. It is cheaper to just buy a good used or crate motor, and be done with it.
            By the way those motors are prone to blowing out spark plugs and head gaskets. Average cost of replacing both head gaskets on a mod or Triton motor will bust a $4,000 bill up pretty bad. About the same cost for a BMW 540 engine head gasket repair. So go easy on your out of warranty Mustang.

            Ford used ‘IRS’ in the ‘SVT’s’ and Cobra ‘R’ from 1999 to 2004, quite successfully. The penny pinching gray suits at Ford wouldn’t allow it in the GT.
            Maybe Ford will have to step up with the market pressure put on the Mustang with the new Camaro. If so, Ford fans will have to thank GM for finally getting a modern rear suspension in the Stang.
            But I suspect it is not likely with the current iteration of the venerable Pony car. Maybe in the next generation Mustang, which probably won’t have a V-8.

            The handling issues of the Camaro at the limit, have more to do with weight and its placement, which greatly effects vehicle chassis dynamics.
            GM still needs to sort this new chassis, Ford has been at working on the Mustang chassis for quite a few years now. It effectively performs at the limit on smooth, even cambered surfaces, but it is not pretty doing it, especially in mid corner transitions or rough corners.

            I’m suspicious of the credentials or the agenda of any reviewer who praises it’s handling in the 9/10ths percentile. Most Mustang owners will never get close to those limits so it is mostly a non-issue.

            This from ‘Edmunds’ …. “In the corners, the GT500 is easily upset by careless inputs. Maximizing thrills in the curves requires a high level of restraint and a healthy dose of courage. There’s plenty of grip, but the Shelby’s 3,800 pounds seem poised to break loose at all times.”

            Enjoy your Mustangs Brent, they do offer pretty good fun for not that much money.

          • BrentP
            November 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm

            Where do they go? I don’t know. I figure they end up being used as weekend drivers or something. I always see lots of recent BMWs (and I am aware of what they cover I considered a couple BMWs). It’s a rare sight to see a 90s BMW these days and they were common around here. even early 2000s BMWs are declining in sightings. I don’t know where they go. I can only guess that people stop using them as daily drivers.

            BMWs also seem hostile to do it your self. Mustangs are not.

            Head gasket cost? Bah. I can convert my ’97 to PI heads for less than half that. Of course I have to do it myself. That’s not just new gaskets, it’s new heads, new intake manifold and associated other parts.

            I am also aware of the bolt on IRS for ’99 up. It wasn’t well regarded and suffered from being a retrofit design.

            I was pretty loud in chastising ford for not using an IRS in the 2005+ mustangs. But I do fear IRS for the sake of IRS… that is a compromised design. I’m not arguing that IRS can’t be better, but the odds of it being just for ad copy on not really being better is high. You don’t have to remind me there are limits to a solid axle, but it’s possible to make a crappy IRS and marketeers and bean counters could easily make that happen.

    • November 20, 2011 at 11:03 am

      Hey Deuce,

      You know what? Every point you’ve made is absolutely valid. But these cars remain popular, despite their many flaws, because of the same intangibles that make you love a loud, often obnoxious Uncle who nonetheless has an outsized personality and who is always just a lot of fun. The one element that is missing from the latter-day muscle cars, in my opinion, is affordability. All the V-8 versions are $30k-plus cars, which for some perspective is about $10k more than their equivalent ancestors of the ’60s and ’70s, as mentioned in the review. (And I’m not even mentioning today’s much higher peripheral costs, including things like property taxes, registration fees, insurance and so on.) Thus, to a great extent, these cars are now middle-aged guys’ cars instead of young guys’ cars.

      What I’d really like to see is a car like the Cobra R I had for a week back in ’95 and could have (should have) bought. As little extraneous as possible. Delete option the fancy audio, power windows, locks – even the AC. Basic seats, not the fancy electric ones that all the V-8 models now come with. Minimal sound-proofing/carpeting (to cut further weight). Probably they could build a still street-legal “track day” version of the GT or SS that would be 300 pounds lighter than the standard version and cost maybe $25k out the door.

      Someone call me when they do!

  7. 3Deuce27
    November 21, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Hey! I have an uncle like that, the perennial kid even in his eighties.

    Yes, flawed, poor value for the money(V-8′s) and costly ownership issues, yet they still draw us to them. Must appeal to that sixteen year old boy still in us who can’t wait till Saturday night to cruise his shiny, loud, baby, and burn rubber down the street in front of his grrl friend’s house.

    I was waiting outside the doors of Titus Will Ford in Tacoma, Washington, the first morning the New Mustang was introduced to the country. A white 6-cylinder coupe with a 3-speed, was on the floor. I liked it, but not enough to stop me from walking down the street and buying a new, Yellow 442 convertible. My first new car.

    As it would turn out, I didn’t pull the trigger on a Mustang until the SVO came out in the mid eighties(still one of the best cars I have ever owned), and I have never owned a Camaro, though I have lusted after them for years. A 73′ Z-28 ‘RS’ would be welcomed in my garage. I did pick up a 79′ ‘Big Bird’ Trans-Am, but by then the performance, if not the luster, were gone for me, though it was a better then average daily driver.

    The content of today’s cars, compared to cars of late eighties and beyond, is so high with safety equipment, injection/electronics, impact protection, anti-skid, etc, we really can’t compare like dollars today.
    And you really can’t buy a car stripped of some of those now considered essential items. Even the 2000 Cobra ‘R’ had to have a defroster and wipers to meet DOT and Race sanctioning rules.

    Today the retail price of a V-8 Pony car is an issue, but surmountable if you remain patient and flexible. Recently saw two, new 2011 ‘SS’ Camaros for around $26,+++ at a dealer ship in Seattle, and have seen deep discounts($22,000) on new 2010 Mustang GT’s in Portland. Ford fans abandoned the 2010 GT when the 400 plus HP cars came out, so the dealers finally had to clear them out to get out from under flooring costs.
    A bargain performance Pony car is available, you just have to give up 2 cylinders and that wonderful exhaust note(with after market pipes), but you will still have a 300 Plus HP car.
    Ford is doing a nice job offering the performance pkg. with the V-6… Kudos to Ford, but we need to see even more performance options for the V-6 Camaro’s and Mustangs

    Yes, most Pony car sales are V-6′s, with a preponderance of them going to the young and women, while the few V-8s’s mostly go to older males.

    The ’1LE’ Camaro and the Cobra ‘R’s were street legal, almost race ready cars. But would we be happy with them on the street? I like great audio systems, sunroofs and remote locks. I can do with out heated seats and blue tooth.
    If I want that old factory V-8 hot rod sound and nostalgic feel, I dust off my 60,000 mile big block Mercury Comet Caliente convertible, put the top down and drive down Marine drive to the Sextant tavern. Fixes me for a few weeks, but the 3_Deuce 27′ Tee is almost a daily driver in the Summer. 1,600+ pounds and nearly 400 HP with bugs in your teeth, quickly takes a real hot rodder back to his roots. True ethyl stroked nostalgia and a whole lot of fun….Yee! Haw!

    Thanks for the feedback Eric. You have a real car guy site here with out most of the lame ‘sand box’ comments you see on other sites.

    • BrentP
      November 21, 2011 at 3:51 am

      My experience with my ’97 is that it’s rather inexpensive to keep into old age. That’s with me fixing things that most people would let be at the kind of mileage my car has racked up too.

    • November 21, 2011 at 11:07 am

      Indeed (and, thanks!)

      Wow, you had a 442… brand new. Color me jealous! I was born 20 years too late. By the time I was able to buy my first car (’80s) most of the original muscle cars had been thoroughly used up. We mostly made due with second-hand “disco machines” from the mid-late ’70s, though several of my friends had the real deal, including a ’71 GTX 440.

      Was your ’79 TA a W72 (220 hp 400, 4-speed) car? Those were decent performers, even in stock trim with the plugged-up single cat exhaust. Unplug that exhaust (replace the factory set-up with true duals) adjust the carb and ignition and you could get one into the mid-’14s, which was strong then – and still respectable today.

      Love the SVO. This car came out when I was in college. It, as you know, fell victim to poor timing – and worse marketing. I’d love to have one in my garage today.

      The ’95 Cobra R: I had been writing about cars full-time for a couple of years already when it came out and had a good friend inside Ford who wrangled me one to play with for a week. I drove the thing from DC up to NYC at 2 in the morning, taking the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel at 130. The reverb off the tile walls was magnificent!

  8. holdover
    November 26, 2011 at 5:09 am

    got to drive the 2012 SS 6 speed and am happy that I went with the 2012 Mustang GT. I believe my mustang is quicker and handles better, did a few 0-90 runs with the SS, it just didn’r seem to impress me, don’t know what the rear end ratio was, mine is 3.55, maybe a lower gear would make a difference if it was geared high. With the SS I felt that I was a cork on rough seas, not as stable on side roads that are rough with turns off camber etc. The price was a bit higher also. With that all said I’m happy that all the pony cars are getting back to being street machines, they will never have the eye appeal of my ’65 FB or ’67 FB which are parked next to the GT, at least in my opinion, and they are not as refined as some of the euro cars, but they are what we have..and to me are a move in the right direction.

    • November 26, 2011 at 11:09 am

      Hey Tony!

      I know what you mean…

      As we talked about, the two things that bother me about the current Camaro are its size and its weight. Oh, also the fairly cheap-looking interior. Ok, that’s three things. Anyway… I’m also glad they’re making cars like this again, although I suspect they won’t be making them like this again for much longer. In Camaro’s case especially, the market is probably limited to middle aged guys reliving their high school days – and younger guys who’d like one but can’t afford one. I did a little figuring – and factoring for inflation – and found that the current car, adjusted for inflation, is about $10k more than my Trans-Am was back in 1976 (and the Trans-Am was a top-of-the-line Firebird and the Firebird was more expensive than its sister car, the Camaro). That’s bad, but even worse is that gas is now twice as expensive as it was five years ago (and most people are not earning additional money to compensate) and I bet the cost to insure a car like the SS, if you are a male under 35, is astronomical. So, that leaves the Easy Fit jeans crowd. How many of them are left? How many will put up with the cramped seats and small trunk and all the rest now that they are 45 and married, maybe with kids, probably with a bad back – instead of 22, single and limber? I dunno…

  9. jay
    November 28, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I hesitate to call anything from the later 70s or 80s a ‘muscle car’. Eviscerated by CAFE and EPA, you were lucky if your car even ran right. It wasn’t till the 90s that computer technology started cleaning up that mess and cars started working properly again.

    In the American auto field, there was a spectacular burst of engine development in the late 50s to mid 60s. Reliability and performance changed drastically (Chrysler’s goal in the early 50s of an engine that would go 100,000 miles without a valve job was noteworthy). By the early 60s most mechanical problems were solved, and there was an orgy of development. We got bigger and faster engines in the late 60s but they were derivative of earlier work.

    Almost nothing of value happened till the 90s when engine management systems became mature.

    But I’d still say this: mechanically there is little new since the 60s. The big advances were control systems and manufacturing changes (CNC etc) that made sophisticated configurations possible on a cost effective scale. But not too much that did not exist in one form or another in the 60s

    • November 28, 2011 at 8:33 am

      “I hesitate to call anything from the later 70s or 80s a ‘muscle car’. “

      This is a great subject for bench racing!

      On the one hand, yes, you’re right – many of the ’70s and ’80s stuff popularly described as muscle cars (such as the very popular Trans-Am and Camaro of the era) weren’t as powerful in factory trim as the earlier versions of the ’60s and early ’70s. On the other hand, with a few minimal mods, most could be made about as quick (or even quicker) than the ’60s and ’70s stuff. For instance, a stock ’77–79 Trans-Am with the W72 400 made a reported 200-220 hp in factory tune. These were mid-low 15 second cars in the 1/4 mile, stock. Lose the single cat exhaust, install duals, jet the carb and wick up the ignition and you could get one into the mid-high 14s and that’s about as quick as probably two-thirds of factory-stock ’60s muscle cars, including big blocks. And quicker than some!

      The rest of the package, meanwhile, was as much a muscle car as, say, a 1970 model.

      And: There were several ’80s-era cars that were downright fierce in stock trim, such as the Buick Regal GN (and GNX), the ’89 Trans-Am turbo (quicker than a ’73 SD-455).

      However, these cars were almost fully modern in that they had computer engine controls and EFI. Also hydraulic-assist clutches and excellent brakes and very good suspensions. This allowed them to be both powerful and very smooth/civilized/reliable and maintenance free – as well as very easy to drive.

      All these things, a true muscle car is not as far as I am concerned.

      For me, the defining characteristic of a muscle car is that it is wild – and more than a little bit dangerous – because of the way the engine overwhelmed the rest of the car. It took skill and nerve to deal with one and even then, it was a challenge just to keep the thing pointed in the right direction.

      No “safety” aids; nothing to save your ass if you get in too deep… which was easy to do, given the big torque feeding small tires; the non-ABS disc/drum brakes; the often springy and too stiff suspensions, the vague, overboosted steering… and so on.

      On the other hand, even something as extreme as a new ZR-1 Corvette, which is a 200 MPH car, is also a pussycat that your wife – or grandma – could drive. Very few wives (and even fewer grandmas) could deal with something along the lines of a RA IV Trans-Am or Hemi ‘Cuda, especially if they were manual-equipped.

      In my opinion, the last real muscle car – a car with a big and crude V-8 engine, old-school manual box with leg-press clutch, not-so-great brakes and so-so-suspension with zero Get Your Ass Outta Trouble electronics all bolted in a mean-looking shell was the ’79 Trans-Am W72. 6.6 liters (400 cubes) of cast iron V-8, four-barrel carb, Super T-10 4-speed and burnouts a-plenty.

      They’ll never build one like that again.

      • getch36
        March 12, 2012 at 7:38 am

        I recently sold my 87 Buick Regal T-Type.I have to say that was an unbelievable car.It ran high12′s on street tires with just some bolt on modifications,my friends car runs 12.1 with drag radials a few more mods than me.My car could keep up with new cars up until the last6 or 7years when horsepower just went thru the roof.Not only that but it was good on gas and very reliable.I drove it every day during the summer and had very few problems.When it did break repairs were easy and fairly cheap.I’ve had alot of cars and that was my favorite…

        • March 12, 2012 at 9:45 am

          Those were great cars – and not just because of their performance. I miss intermediate-sized performance coupes. In addition to more spreadin’ out room up front, you had decent back seats and a big trunk. Have you driven a new Camaro? It’s a huge car with cramped front seats, useless back seats and virtually no trunk!

          • getch36
            March 17, 2012 at 2:28 am

            Yeah, the Camaro is huge and useless as far as space goes.My Buick was a pretty big car and weighed in around 3,500 pounds.The new muscle cars are absurd,4,000+ for a Camaro,4,200+ for a Challenger ,it’s crazy…..

          • March 17, 2012 at 10:08 am

            Yup – it’s a lucky thing they can compensate with powerful engines. Still, think how much quicker they’d be if they were 500 pounds less beefy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *