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ROAD TEST: 2010 Camaro SS built for speed, not comfort

The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS with an RS

The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS with an RS appearance package Photo Credit: Wieck Media Services

It is often been said that New York City is "a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." After seven days with the 2010 Camaro SS, I felt the same way about it.

It's fun to drive - for a week. It's even fun just to listen to its V-8 burble at idle and its growl on acceleration - for a week. But the V-6 Camaro - discussed in this space May 29 - is better suited to a long-term relationship.

Forget that sexist "secretary special" slur that used to be applied to V-6-powered pony cars. Except that the V-6 Camaro has "only" 304 hp. under its hood instead of the SS' 400 or 426, the V-6 Camaro makes no compromises in performance and handling. It's as much fun to drive as the SS model and it doesn't beat up its driver and passengers with a rough ride - something that gets increasingly important after a few hours behind the wheel.

And the V-6's fuel economy is better: 18 miles per gallon city, 29 highway, versus 16 city and 24 or 25 highway for the two V-8's available. I averaged 20 in the SS I sampled. The 6 runs on regular gas, but the 8's prefer premium.

If you must have a V-8-powered SS, consider opting for the automatic transmission. Purists might scoff at that suggestion - maybe even rant and send nasty e-mails about it - but the Tremec 6-speed stick is at times balky and is paired with a heavy clutch that's difficult to engage smoothly and gets very tiring after several hours behind the wheel. Driving it in heavy traffic is a chore. The zero to 60 times for the stick and automatic were nearly identical in Car and Driver's testing: 4.6 seconds with the automatic, 4.8 with the stick.

Other gripes about the SS apply also to the V-6: Visibility is awful to the rear and to the rear corners, thanks to the short windows and wide rear roof pillars. The huge doors are a nuisance in tight parking stalls. The SS optional gauges on the forward end of the center console are too far from the driver's line of sight to be read safely while driving. The lenses over them and over the main gauges in front of the driver glare badly in sunlight.

Still, the revived version of the '60s icon probably is the best Camaro ever, with its personality intact and most of its handling quirks engineered out. Like the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger, the new Camaro evokes - but does not copy - the look and feel of the original, including the low-seating position, long hood, high fenders and the front-heavy/tail-light feel. The new independent rear suspension is most welcome. Nearly gone is the tendency for the rear wheels to hop over bumps.

Camaro V-6 prices start at $23,530 with freight. The SS starts at $31,595.

The new Camaro gets four out of a possible five stars from the federal government for its protection of passengers in frontal crashes - five out of five for side impact.2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS details

Engine: 6.2-liter V-8, 426 hp.

Fuel: Premium for best performance

Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Safety: Six airbags; 4-wheel disc brakes w/antilock and stability control, rear obstacle warning; OnStar telematics; tire pressure monitoring.

Place of assembly: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

Trunk: 11.3 cubic feet

EPA fuel economy estimates: 16 mpg, city; 24 highway

Price as driven: $36,190 with freight

Bottom line: "A nice place to visit ... "

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