Chevrolet parent General Motors isn’t shy in pointing out the Camaro’s current domestic market sales lead over the car’s long-time rival, the Ford Mustang. Last year, the Camaro outsold the Mustang by some 18,000 units, making it North America’s most popular sports car. This success was no doubt aided by the Camaro's wealth of engine and body options, which includes a cabriolet also set for Britain.
The General is slightly less quick to admit that its Yankee Doodle good-time girl isn’t actually built in the US any more – particularly when every Mustang comes emblazoned with stickers about being ‘made with pride in the USA’. GM’s factory in Oshawa, Canada, is now home to Chevrolet’s pony car, which turns 45 years old this year.
However, in every other discernible way, the Camaro is 100 percent American muscle. That includes the most important respect: it’s powered by the descendant of the most famous V8 engine that the world has ever known – the ‘Chevy small block’. Go for an automatic transmission and your Camaro will come with a 400bhp ‘L99’ V8; with a six-speed manual, like our test car, you get an ‘LS3’ V8 with a slightly higher compression ratio, ‘big bore’ over-square cylinders and a headline 426bhp. Mounted longways in the nose, that engine drives the rear wheels via a standard limited-slip differential.
Modern muscle car design has developed a long way beyond live rear axles and leaf springs, mind. The all-steel unitary body of this fifth-generation Camaro is suspended independently at both ends by differing multi-link arrangements. And as part of the 2012 model-year revision, the SS version of the car, on which the UK-spec Camaro is based, has a more focused chassis tune, with progressive-rate springs, tighter damping and stiffer anti-roll bars than before. It also gets rack and pinion steering with variable hydraulic assistance levels.
It’ll need every scrap of extra body control to deal with the challenge of British roads, though. Full of fuel, the Camaro weighed 1775kg on our scales – a full quarter of a tonne more than most of its European rivals. And it’s as big as it is heavy. At more than 4.8m long, it’s almost 600mm longer than a Nissan 370Z and more than 70mm wider. Can any sports car come back from that kind of start?