Test Drive Review: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS

 

The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS is fun, slightly less so when equipped with the 6-speed autotragic I had. However, driving the SS makes me have interesting feelings about another trim level…

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The Camaro just looks great. The entire time I had it I was hoping that Bumblebee would transform out of it and give me a high five. But no… of course I’m not that lucky. Damn you, Shia LaBeouf. I wanna be in those movies.

But I digress. In all reality, the 2014 Camaro SS isn’t really an exotic car, but people seem to flock to it. Part of that has to do with living in the deep south of North Carolina, and the other parts have to do with the terribly successful Transformers franchise. However, nearly everywhere I turn I see a V6 or SS Camaro. They’re extremely popular, and also a very polarized and bitter customer when it comes to Mustangs and Challengers. Arguing over the better modern “muscle” car can get as heated as the same-sex marriage debate down here.

I’ve grown up a GM car guy, having driven, ridden in, and seen pretty much any car you can think of from the last 50, 60 years. Interestingly, I’ve become more of a Ford guy as of late, opting to buy a 2008 Bullitt Mustang when they first came out. I’m still a Mustang guy, but I’m just drawn to the Camaros, especially an SS with the RS package. I love the look of the HIDs with the halo rings. To go with that angry face are the new taillights that don’t look like a drunk man squinting to see if his car’s still in the parking lot. No, now they’re beautiful LED rectangles that, I think, flow with the lines a hell of a lot better, more so in Z/28, ZL1, and 1LE trim. Also new is the hood vent that, for me, looks the business. I know it’s functional on the Z/28 and ZL1, but it doesn’t seem to do anything but add style on the Camaro SS. The rear diffuser and dual-exhaust tips are all-new, too. I do not like these new 20″ wheels, however.

For 2014 Chevrolet have given the Camaro a more menacing face. It’s mad, and you know whatever’s under the hood is only going to make it worse. It hates sitting still, and sometimes doesn’t like making hard corners. Yet it’s easy to drive and feel every horse being used of its available 400. The automatic Camaro SS (L99 engine code) gets, for some reason, only gets 400-horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque from the 6.2-liter V8, compared to the manual’s 426/420 LS3 6.2-liter. Don’t ask me, I just drive the suckers. The Camaro suffers from heavy weight that allows the car to roll into corners more than I’d like, but the suspension does do a nice job of soaking up bumps, even mid-corner. And the standard Brembo brakes do their single job well; they scrubb off speed from a heavy, nearly 4,000 lb car. With a standard limited-slip diff you should feel at ease, also.

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Going along with that six-speed automatic gearbox are paddle shifters, which work as they’re supposed to. However, sadly, the transmission just isn’t fast enough for my sporty tastes. I’d like something with a little more gusto when I downshift and then bang-in a high revving upshift. The exhaust can get loud enough for a audible confirmation, but I’d opt for the dual-mode exhaust, which my test model did not have.

Speaking of what my press car had and didn’t have, it was simply a $36,755 base 2SS that comes standard with things like SiriusXM and a head-up display system, along with power leather seats that are heated, Chevrolet MyLink, auto-dimming mirror, etc. as standard options. The options list is short: RS package ($1,350) – HID headlights, LED halos, and LED taillights; six-speed automatic with “TAPShift” ($1,185); and a $795 navigation system. Chevy’s MyLink works perfectly in the Camaro SS, and I think the backup camera is one of the widest angles and best quality units I’ve ever tested. Since it’s very difficult to see out of the Camaro -even when looking forward- the backup camera is a lifesaver.

The 2014 Chevy Camaro SS is comfortable to sit in and relax, and actually feels rather spacious in the front two seats. They’re comfortable and big, but I feel like they’re just really big and bulky overall. The rear two, on the other hand, are a totally different story. One that you’d expect to tell tales of uncomfortable getting in and out. It isn’t easy for anyone over, about, 5’8″ to ride in the back. I’m 5’9″. Still, when people aren’t in the car with you, the SS can be fun, but with a tad too much body roll and some safe understeer that helps to make sure you’re not making the rear go too wide around any corners. You’d actually have to try really hard on a back road to force the tail out on the Camaro without either crashing or being a pro. I say this Camaro SS needs two things: the LS3 in every SS trim, regardless of transmission, and the new 8-speed fast shifting auto from the 2015 Corvette. I mean, all sports cars need to be manuals anyway. But if you have to go for the auto, at least let it be a good one.

The interior really started to grow on me after the week, too. I was never a big fan of the Camaro’s bleh styling on the inside, but now I don’t really mind it. I still don’t like the placement of the cupholders, and the trunk is incredibly small, even for this type of automobile. But the steering wheel is nice, and the weight during slow and faster driving is nice. The Boston Acoustics sound system is pretty damn good, too. Also, the new rimless rearview mirror is great to look at, and it takes up less space. However, on the minus side of that, the blue OnStar and red SOS lights that dim as you start driving off can give off a scary feeling when you look in your rearview and see what? Blue and red lights… I can’t tell you how many times I nearly lost my lunch thinking a cop was tailing me. Those lights need to be so dim they turn white.

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At the end of the day, would I buy a new Camaro SS? No, I honestly wouldn’t. Except, I would buy a Camaro 1LE. In fact, I’m actually looking at doing so. This Camaro SS made me realize that I wouldn’t have a problem living with a modern Camaro, as much as some of the modern drivers can be tool bags that always gave me dirty looks driving my M3 or 911 around. The Camaro SS 1LE is the car for me. That’s what was so interesting to me about driving the SS; it just made me want to own a Camaro with some go-fast bits and manual gearbox that much more. I absolutely loved coming out and just looking at it. Sometimes I’d sit on my front porch at night and hit the unlock button just to watch the LED halo rings turn on to show that angry and mischievous face. The harder I drove the Camaro SS it made me yearn for a manual gearbox, louder exhaust, and the sound of that old-school LS3 motor pumping insane amounts of torque to the rear wheels. So there it is, driving an SS Camaro will make you want a 1LE.

[Photos by Corey Privette]

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I'm a car, music, and Howard Stern aficionado. I also love planes, trains, anything to do with science and engineering, as well as politics. I'm working on my screenplays, TV shows, and a book or two. Stay tuned to when I'm really famous and even more awesome.

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