Car Reviews

Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review 2018

Toby Hagon’s first drive Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.

In a nutshell: Excellent local conversion of iconic Chevrolet Camaro allows Holden fans to stay within the GM family with a fun and exciting two-door V8-powered muscle car.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Specifications

Price $85,000+ORC Warranty 3 years, 100,000km Service Intervals 9 months, 12,000km Safety Not rated Engine 6.2-litre V8 Power 339kW at 6000rpm Torque 617Nm at 4600rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Drive Rear wheels Dimensions 4784mm (L), 1897mm (W), 1348mm (H), 2811mm (WB) Kerb Weight 1710kg Gross Vehicle Mass 2120kg Boot Space 257L Spare None (runflat tyres) Fuel Tank 72L Thirst 11.5L/100km

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The Australian V8 may be dead, but a new breed is taking over, with the Chevrolet Camaro the latest to appeal to those yearning for the sound and performance of a classic muscle car. Adhering to a fairly simple formula – big V8 in an aggressively-styled two-door body – the Chevrolet Camaro arrives in Australia with the steering wheel on the left before undergoing a top notch local conversion by Holden Special Vehicles. The result is a fun and exciting American muscle car to rival the Ford Mustang.

What’s in the range and how much does it cost?

It’s a simple single-model range for the Camaro that’s just gone on sale in Australia. The only variant we get is the V8-powered 2SS, the second model from the top of a far broader American lineup that also includes four-cylinders and V6s. Even then, we don’t get a choice of transmissions; an eight-speed auto is the default.

All of which equates to an $85,000+ORC spend. That’s more than the rival Ford Mustang ($66,259 as an auto), with a decent chunk of the spend going into the local conversion. In converting the Camaro locally HSV replaces 357 components with new ones – including the mirrors and dashboard – and reworks dozens more, including the wiring harness and various engine bay components.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

There’s also an exclusivity element to the Camaro. Whereas Mustang sales are determined by demand, the Camaro will be limited to just 550 cars in the first year (Ford sells that many or more Mustangs per month in Australia). Before the first car had been delivered, more than 300 had been pre-ordered, leaving just 150 to be snapped up.

Even for that price, there’s plenty included in the deal, such as heated and ventilated electrically-operated front seats, leather trim, dual-zone ventilation, wireless phone charging, nine-speaker Bose sound system, 7.0-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and ambient lighting with a choice of 24 colours. 

While we miss out on the head-up display offered in America (the curvature of the windscreen means it won’t work on the opposite side of the car, so it was removed) Australian cars get a standard sunroof.

While there’s rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and blind spot warning, one notable omission is auto emergency braking, something now common on mainstream cars. For the Camaro it’s simply not available. Other things missing include digital radio tuning and sat-nav (the latter accessed via smartphone connectivity).

There’s a selection of nine colours, including bright yellow that’s proving popular on early orders (white is also popular).

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

Enthusiasts will be aware of the 2019 Camaro already on sale in the US, bringing with it notable styling changes, including a broader grille, new tail lights and new bumpers. Social media is in a frenzy as to which looks best, with many siding with the 2018 car (the one tested here). The biggest mechanical update to the newer Camaro is the addition of a 10-speed automatic. Expect HSV to begin work converting those cars some time in 2019.

What’s the interior and practicality like?

Like any two-door car the emphasis with the Camaro is on the front seats. Sure, there are two nice bucket seats in the rear, but there are no headrests and legroom is super tight so be prepared for plenty of whinging from the back.

Even up front, there’s a feeling you’re hemmed in. Blame that on the high windowline that helps give the car its sporty look from outside. Head room is fine and it’s a comfy space, but there’s a sensation you’re sitting low.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

In some ways, it suits the sports car theme, reinforced by some classic Camaro cues, such as the square-edged humps over the instrument binnacles. There’s also some nicely placed silver touches on the doors and dash to liven things up.

Of course, one of the big things to check with any car that’s had its steering wheel relocated is the quality and detail of the conversion.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

The deeper you dig with the Camaro the more you realise this is a top notch transformation. Engineers and production line workers take genuine pride in applying factory-like levels of attention to detail. The locally-made dash stands up beautifully with the rest of the car, the materials and finishes almost perfectly matching what was originally in the car. There are also some clever solutions, such as the Camaro badge filling the hole on the passenger side door where memory buttons for the seats were once housed.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

HSV even widened the driver’s footwell by cutting and adding in an extra sheet of metal, so that it matches the foot space offered to the driver in left-drive markets. Headlights, too, have been switched to right-hand drive, ensuring they don’t glare for oncoming cars.

And things hidden from view – such as the firewall – have been brought back to factory levels, right down to the paint primer to ensure longevity and rust protection.

However, not everything has been diligently switched. The most obvious one is the centre console. The placement of the two cupholders means the driver will be arguing over real estate with their elbows. Plus, they miss out on the arm rest, which is over on the passenger side. It’s no deal breaker, but makes the cupholders less useful than they may otherwise be.

The mirrors, too, have the original coloured casings but there’s new glass that pokes out slightly because they need to be on different angles to account for the driver being on the opposite side of the car.

As for the boot, it’s relatively deep but quite narrow. Great for a weekend away, not as good for a trip to the airport.

What are the controls and infotainment like?

 

It’s a mix of traditional and modern with the main controls, which are clustered in logical groups and easy to access. The main 7.0-inch touchscreen looks after most functions, a quartet of buttons and a volume knob helping toggle between the various menus. Anyone familiar with recent Holdens will notice the similarities. Integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make for easy smartphone connectivity, while also bringing additional functions, including satellite-navigation.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

Below that is a strip of buttons to control everything from the ventilation to the heated and ventilated seats.

But it’s the large circular air vents that deliver a touch of clever thinking; spin the outer ring and it adjusts the temperature of the air coming out, simultaneously displaying the selected temp on the infotainment screen.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

Sound buffs will like pumping bass from the nine-speaker Bose sound system, although it’s not as tight and composed as some other Bose systems we’ve tried. Loud and proud, like the styling of the car, but lacks some finesse.

Except for the air-con, most of the functions can be controlled on the multi-function steering wheel, which also incorporates paddle shifters for those wanting to take control of the gears.

The instrument cluster includes a traditional tacho and speedo split by an 8.0-inch digital display. That display can be toggled between three basic themes – Standard, Technology and Media – which rearrange things such as the fuel gauge and engine temperature gauge, while also allowing you to tailor what other functions you want in front of you (performance parameters or details of what audio you’re listening to, for example).

What’s the performance like?

The Camaro is not just about good looks. As one of the most iconic American muscle car it’s expected to deliver in the engine department. Fortunately, it doesn’t disappoint. There’s a healthy 339kW of power – identical to that of the rival Ford Mustang – with torque peaking at 617Nm.

It’s that torque number that adds to the fieriness of the Camaro. Even half a foot of throttle can have the rear wheels fight for traction, the near-instant torque rush doing its best to overcome the 275mm-wide rear wheels.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

Push the accelerator to the ground and the result is even better. Key to that performance is a sensitive yet easy-to-modulate throttle response, which teams with the near-instant response of the 6.2-litre naturally-aspirated engine for brisk acceleration. It’s an easy car to extract the most out of, the engine ever-willing and the major controls user-friendly.

It also has a bark to match its bite, the bi-modal exhaust letting out a raucous metallic-edge roar in keeping with the car’s demeanour. It’s an intoxicating sound that lacks the initial deep burble of a Mustang but builds revs with the sort of ferocity in keeping with its character.

The eight-speed auto is slick enough in its shifts but not particularly intuitive when it comes to holding gears during a spirited drive. Occasionally it’ll take a second or two to recompose itself and get on with the business of going fast. For those keen on more control, the paddle shifters fixed to the back of the steering wheel allow easy manual override.

What’s it like on the road?

There’s plenty more to the Camaro than straight-line talent, helped by a suitably broad set of Goodyear Eagle tyres. While the engine does its best to overwhelm them, there’s ultimately decent grip that ensures predictable, pacey cornering.

A substantial 1.7 tonnes of metal means the Camaro doesn’t feel as lithe as some, a feeling of solidity blended into its chuckable dynamics. But the variable ratio steering is responsive, tending to lean on the front tyres when pushed hard into bends. Only when you squeeze the throttle do the rears try to break away, the stability control stepping in to quell things, sometimes with too much enthusiasm as it cuts power dramatically. On a skid pan or race track it’s clear the Camaro could be a real hoot.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

Lumps in the road are disposed of well enough, although multiple big hits can test the patience of the suspension, which is generally obedient in a relaxed sort of way.

As you dial up the pace some of that competence falls away, too, the body control good rather than great. Smoother, sweeping bends are where the Camaro feels more at home, its easygoing demeanour on display.

When it comes time to stopping Brembo brakes do a decent job of slowing things, although an enthusiastic thrash down a mountain pass will eventually cook them, the pedal getting squishier beneath your foot as retardation begins to falter. Again, think eight or nine tenths rather than lap record pace and it’ll look after you fine.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

A Drive Mode selector aft of the gear selector allows the choice between four modes: Tour, Sport, Track and Snow/Ice, the latter barely applicable to Australia. Each offers subtle variations on steering feel and throttle sensitivity, with the most notable difference being to the shift mapping of the transmission; in Track, for example, it’s keener to use a lower gear sooner, in turn tapping into the peak outputs sooner.

Does it have a spare?

The Camaro rides on runflat tyres, so there’s no spare. If you get a puncture you’ll need to slow your speed to 80km/h or less and head straight for a repair place. While many modern runflats claim to be repairable, however if you drive on the deflated tyre you’ll almost certainly do irreparable damage.

Can you tow with it?

No, the Camaro is not rated to tow.

What about ownership?

Whereas Holdens now come with a five-year warranty, the Camaro that will be delivered in the same dealership makes do with a three-year, 100,000km warranty. There’s also three years of roadside assistance. Service intervals are every nine months or 12,000km and there are no capped price service plans, so it’s worth asking for a quote from a few dealers before diving in.

What safety features does it have?

HSV crash tested four Camaros as part of the local compliance procedure (previously imported versions were brought in under a low volume compliance scheme with less stringent requirements), validating that its conversion work had not impacted the original car’s occupant protection.

Key to that is airbag protection all round. Dual front airbags have been switched over and electronically reprogrammed to know which side of the car they’re on. There are also side airbags built into the front seats (to protect the thorax), side curtain airbags (to protect heads) and a driver’s knee airbag.

Active safety gear amounts to everything from the reversing camera and sensors to blind spot warning. But there is no autonomous emergency braking.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Review

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the infotainment and controls?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
Practical Motoring Says: The addition of not just another muscle car but the Chevrolet brand makes for much-welcome excitement in the muscle car class. An excellent local conversion provides factory levels of fit and finish and the reassurance that bespoke components have been engineered to the highest level.  The Camaro brings impressive and easily accessible performance in a terrific looking package, one with seating for four but best suited to two people. Its V8 heart is the standout, backed up by a raucous exhaust that reinforces the driving excitement. Sure, it’s more expensive than the rival Ford Mustang, but it brings a unique flavour that helps justify its price premium.

Toby Hagon

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.