Bombastic, disarming, fast and great fun on the right road – but not as vivid in automatic form as the manual

What is it?

The latest version of the Chevrolet Camaro. And you don’t have to be an excited eight-year-old to fall for it. Even sensible, middle-aged road testers can be won over by the vivid charms of this in-your-face American muscle coupé. For evidence of that, look no further than the four-star road test verdict we awarded when official imports began in 2012.

We’re revisiting the Camaro now for two reasons: primarily because General Motors has updated it for the 2014 model year, changing its exterior styling and augmenting its specification. But secondly, to find out if the car’s grand touring manners – which were a big part of the appeal of our manual-equipped road test car last year – could be any greater in a six-speed automatic.

What's it like?

New front and rear bumper panels, head- and tail lamp designs, a new bootlid spoiler and a new bonnet with an enlarged cooling louvre comprise the exterior changes to the car. Inside there’s a new multimedia navigation system called Chevrolet MyLink, a new colour screen for the drive computer and a colour head-up display system.

The styling changes seem a bit muddled, but thankfully they don’t undermine the Camaro’s jaw-dropping visual impact. The new bonnet adds even more aggression into the Camaro’s look, which suits it – but the chrome trims on the headlights and radiator are an attempt to add classiness at the same time, which simply doesn’t work.

This is a brash, brawny right hook of a car that needs ornamental brightwork about as much as a power lifter needs an anklet. The new multimedia system and instrumentation changes are more welcome, though – a much-needed injection of up-to-date technology in an interior that still lacks richness and tactile quality.

The mechanicals of the Camaro haven’t changed, and neither has the driving experience. The automatic gearbox functions well enough. It upshifts early in ‘D’, but has a manual mode with wheel-mounted paddle-shifters that deliver gearchanges slightly ponderously, but still quicker than you could change cogs in the manual. It will also hold a gear even at the redline in manual mode, which is the way we prefer it.

We still prefer the manual version though, not just because it’s more powerful than the auto, but because the more absorbing sense of interactivity it offers is a vital constituent of the Camaro’s mystique. This isn’t a sports car. It’s much too wide for even slightly narrow B-roads, it feels cumbersome in tight confines, and it has a very unyielding ride on bad surfaces, too.

The latter flaw is baffling, since it isn’t a problem our road test car suffered with nearly so badly. But, whether due to its particular wheel-and-tyre specification or something else, the 2014 Camaro seemed significantly firmer than our 2012 test car, and had a much less well-resolved ride. It skittered and pitched over uneven topography, even at fairly moderate speeds.

But, tackle a smoother, wider bit of tarmac and there’s still a rewarding experience to savour here. The engine serves up a wonderfully constant spread of accelerative pace from 3500rpm upwards, the car steers precisely and controls body roll well, and there’s enough power through second and third gears to alter your direction with the rear wheels as well as with the front ones.

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The hydraulic power steering offers some feedback, though not quite as much as you might expect, and less at low speeds as the speed-dependent assistance levels ramp up. Brake pedal feel is good, but it’s when you’re stopping the car that you’re most aware of its considerable mass.

Should I buy one?

Assuming you have the hankering. And you understand what you’re getting into. But buy the manual version..

Cars like these have never been about delicacy and finesse, but rather an immersive mechanical connection with an oversized combustion engine, and a strong sense of reward when you master that venerable old lump and make it – and the car it’s connected to – come to heel. 

And, chrome and all, the Camaro’s still the same old brute it always was. It’s enormous, it’s short on rear cabin space, it’s got a plasticky fascia, it’ll cost you a fortune in road tax and it’ll do 20mpg on a good day. But for those who want a more eccentric option than the typical two-seater, it’s a car to embrace warts and all.

Chevrolet Camaro Coupé Automatic

Price £36,820; 0-62mph 5.4sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 21.5mpg; CO2 304g/km; Kerb weight 1795kg; Engine V8, 6162cc, petrol; Power 400bhp at 5900rpm; Torque 410lb ft at 4300rpm; Gearbox 6-speed automatic

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Bobstardeluxe 11 December 2013

Prefered the old one

What have they done to the rear lights... in profile it almost looks liek the late 90's MR2! The old car had presence..this one is just big!..EVen the new mustang is confused styling wise..somemtimes you wonder of the deisgn get signed off
scotty5 6 December 2013

Retro 1980's?

Jaw dropping visual impact? Must admit when I saw the price tag and then those interior shots, my jaw dropped.
Peter Cavellini 6 December 2013


Stopped looking at image 14, if you like go faster stripes,if you like retro then it's the car for you, but, really, it's not all that, is it?