Reader Rant: A Trip in the 2019 Camaro

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Here’s the latest reader rant, along with my reply!

Mark writes: I’m awfully glad I rented a 2019 Camaro convertible because my extended test drive over the weekend revealed some serious dislikes on the car.

The worst thing about the car was the lack of visibility with the top up. You really get used to using the side mirrors while driving! The rear view mirror and window was useless with the top up. Head checks were fruitless. So this made changing lanes on the freeway an exercise in faith, especially with declining the damage liability waiver at the counter!

Likewise when backing the car out of a parking spot. The rearview camera display made up for this though. However, I’m old school regarding backup cameras.

The vents, too, were poorly placed. They blew the A/C on my arms vs. my body. However, the controls for it were nice. There is very little storage in the cabin for your stuff. Storage pockets in the doors are too far back and too small. There is no storage up front by the gear shift lever. The trunk too, is a joke. The saddlebags and luggage rack on my motorcycle have more storage! Years ago, I rented a Mustang convertible and found that the trunk space was very good, given the car was a convertible. The audio system on the Camaro is nice, with connectivity to the phone in order to play songs on the playlist. Sound is good with the top either up or down. With the top up, ambient/road noise was low. With the top down, road noise was not bad at all.

The seats were very comfortable, and with the top down, it is a nice cruiser. However, the door sill is too high, so I could not put my arm on the window sash. I found this to be annoying, because you want to cruise like Steve McQueen, with your arm hanging outside the car! The engine has very good power, but there is a turbo lag. Once you do punch it, there is a small delay, but boy does it take off! Cruising was good, but moderate acceleration while at freeway speed resulted in a kick-down of the automatic transmission.

A bigger engine would allow for passing in stride. The trip computer said 26 mpg combined, so that was nice. You’d likely never get that with a six or 8 cylinder engine. Overall, especially with the lack of trunk space, I would buy a Mustang (if I wanted a high-horsepower car) or a Fiat Spider for a good top-down cruiser.

My reply: I once loved Camaros. I no longer do.  Subjectively, I find the styling of the current car awkward; it looks like the offspring of a down-low encounter between a current Corvette and a ’69 Z28. A weird mishmash of “retro” themes and new supercar angularity.

It is also too big – and too small.

The car itself is physically enormous, especially in terms of width – so much so that it takes up most the lane and one finds oneself fretting the shoulder and the double yellow. Encountering a bicyclist means waiting until the opposing lane is clear to attempt a pass.

But inside, it’s comically cramped. Even for a muscle car, the back seats are preposterous. Literally unusable, except for a gym bag. And the trunk will barely take that gym bag, so it’s good the back seats can.

Visibility is glaucomic – as you’ve described. I am the farthest thing from a Safety Nazi, but this car is dangerous due to the sight blockage from the slouched-down seating position, Chiclet-sized rear glass, abbreviated door glass and girder-thick side pillars.

I would never buy or recommend a new Camaro to anyone. The Mustang is a much better design, as is the Challenger.

Or – as you note – a Miata.

. . .

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Mark, I don’t disagree with anything you wrote, and yet I bought a new (2019) Camaro 5 weeks ago, and I love it. It all depends on what it is you want from it. My other car is about the most useful thing on the planet; a Dodge Grand Caravan. So I didn’t need utility. I’m a (newly) single old fart with two dogs, so its fine that the back seat is an upholstered shelf. Visibility? My first car was a 1971 Mustang fastback, so I trained for this early (compare them side by side, or overlay them; they are within .4″ of each other in length).

    I wanted a fun and lively, rear wheel drive driving experience. I didn’t feel like I needed a V8 given the power specs of the V6, though the other car I considered was my brother’s 2010 Corvette Grand Sport, and it would have been fine as well. I might have been happy with the I4 turbo, but I didn’t like the Ecoboost turbo in the Mustang. Plenty of power, but no personality at all. Might as well be a tractor engine. The v6 in the Camaro is nuts, and it encourages you to misbehave. It revs to the moon, and someone must have really sweated over the exhaust note, because the sounds inspire (probably toward more misbehavin’). The car is balanced, with great brake feel and feedback, and better steering feel than anything I’ve driven since my manual steering Honda CRX. Shift action? The Miata’s got nothin’ on this car (and I’ve owned 3 over a 30 year span, so I get it). And under that big tunnel is a Tremec 6-speed with triple synchros and all the lessons learned in the last quarter century in Camaros, Firebrids, and Corvettes (and the Shelby Mustangs). I had to do some upgrades on my 99 Corvette track car after a couple of years. All of those durability upgrades involved parts that had become standard by 2010.

    Styling? Not worth discussion. I really love it, but then I loved the looks of my 71 stang (you’ll see what I mean if you compare them). What you like in styling is totally personal and subjective, and no one ever needs to defend their tastes. You like what you like.

    I’m sure I could find things to quibble about, but after a long and “interesting” year, I am simply happy to be driving a car that is just fun to drive.

    • Hi Mr. Bear,

      I’m most partial toward the second generation (’70–81) F-cars and wish GM had emulated that bodystyle rather than the ’67-69. But I get that opinions vary and no one’s is “right,” in that regard. I will give kudos to the current car for the performance you get even from the base four cylinder engine, which is on par with that of a second-gen Z28, including even the ’70-’72 LT-1 cars.

      But the current car is huge! I parked one next to my second-gen F-car (’76 Trans-Am, same basic car as a ’76 Camaro) and the new car dwarfed mine. Much wider and taller and just massive-looking in comparison.

      I’m still hoping to one day have another second generation Camaro. An oddball model (one you don’t see often) like a ’74 Z28/Type LT with the L-82 350 and a four speed!

      • Eric,
        I really do get this. Cars have gotten bigger than they need to be in general, and much of that has to do with regulation. I really like small cars, and I’m more comfortable in them. I had a 1990 Honda CRX SI, and I loved it. It was an unbeatable combination of fun, utility, and economy. That car cannot be built today. It weighed 2200 pounds, and only had 115hp, but delivered good performance due to the low weight. My ultimate dream car then, and still would be today, is that car with rear wheel drive and 200 HP (because with HP, too much is never enough :)). But saaaaaaafety… – seriously; do the regulations state something like “every vehicle must withstand being run over by CAT D10 with no more than 10% height reduction”? -Cause with pillars as thick as telephone poles and small cars weighing 3200 pounds, you’ve got to wonder.

        While at it, I love hatchbacks. They make any car twice as useful. If only that change were made to the current Camaro, many complaints would be reduced. You could exploit the storage space because the stuff you put in it wouldn’t have to through a mail slot. And, it might be possible to clean the inside of the rear glass, which I’m pretty sure is not possible today, at least for the lower 4 inches of it (unless you remove the glass). Not sure if hatch backs are just stigmatized like some very useful vehicles (station wagons and now mini vans), or if regulations make it difficult to do.

        All that said, my Camaro is providing me with an enjoyable driving experience, so I like it.

        PS: Size comparison to 2nd gen – My first new car was a 1980 Trans AM, of which I have fond memories. I’ve been geeking out on these stats now (I finally get why sports fans do it), and here’s what I have as a comparison to my 2019 Camaro:

        Wheelbase: Camaro 2.5″ longer
        Length: Camaro 8.5″ shorter
        Width: Camaro 1.7″ wider
        Height: Camaro 3.8″ taller (and the high belt line adds to sense of mass)
        Weight: Camaro 75 pounds lighter

        Styling can surely influence the sense of size. Ask anyone which they think is larger; a Porsche Boxter or a C6 Corvette – everyone will answer “Corvette”. In fact, they are nearly identical in size.

        Thanks for all you do Eric.

        Mike

  2. I remember renting a SS Convertible in San Diego with my sister back 2 January’s ago.

    Somehow, we made it work with all the luggage and it was fun to drive topless, and honestly, if it weren’t for Mary Barra, I’d consider one as a toy, but alas, other nice cars that are a ton cheaper to consider.

    Imo, best Muscle though is the Challenger, most retro and as of now, no turbo 4banger, though with the new guy there..

  3. The new Camaro has always looked like a Hot Wheels car to me, or maybe a child’s rendition of a car. The doors are too tall and the glass is too small. The other makers have done a much better job.

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