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Bankruptcy Baby: 2010 Chevrolet Camaro coupe

2010_chevrolet_camaroHow did Bob Lutz let the Camaro out of the design studio?

I can claim only a shrunken six feet in height, and my close-cut and thinning hair is the opposite of Conan O’Brien’s pompadour, yet the top of my head scraped the roof of the sunroof-equipped Camaro. Lutz, General Motors’ legendary, and now retired, head of product development, is about four inches taller than I am, and his posture is much more erect. How does he squeeze into the driver’s seat?

Okay, I’ve gotten seated in the car, and adjusted the seat — which is the same sensation as sitting in a well. I feel like I’m scraping the pavement, the beltline easily rises to my shoulder, and my view forward includes more instrument panel than windshield.

Some of that’s good. The chunky gauges on the instrument panel are retro-themed but readable, and the surrounding pebble-grained plastic is well-done for this class of vehicle.  I turn the steering-column mounted ignition key and pull back the shift lever with a hefty yank. You would never confuse the unyielding feel with a Lexus, but the stiff action is to be expected from a vehicle that attempts to recapture the ambiance of an original from 40 years ago.

Underway, the 3.6 liter, V6 engine makes all the right noises in producing 304 horsepower and launching the Camaro to 60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds. This is a heavy car for its size — 3719 pounds — and wouldn’t be my first choice to navigate the twisty country paths of Connecticut’s Litchfield County, but it does just fine on the open road.

GM revived the Camaro in response to the sustained success of the Ford Mustang, and it arrives on the market a year after Chrysler’s similarly-inspired Dodge Challenger. It is no coincidence that the two laggards in this product segment have both entered bankruptcy court.

The Camaro makes its debut just as the Obama Administration has imposed strict new fuel economy standards for 2016. The Camaro is no slacker in this category by today’s standards. The V-6 is rated at 18 mpg city/ 29 mpg highway, and I recorded 26 mpg over several hundred miles of driviing.

What the future holds is something else. The whole pony car concept — big engine in a low-slung coupe body — seems dated and I can’t imagine a General Motors (GMGMQ) now largely owned by the U.S. government renewing this car at the end of its life cycle.

With an as-tested price of $31,485, the 2010 Camaro could appeal to those who owned an original and want to relive the experience, or to those who wanted an original but couldn’t afford one. Its attraction for the rest of us is limited.

And it would be non-existent for younger drivers. A 15-year-old enthusiast of my acquaintance all but sneered when he discovered what car I was driving. “Mr. Taylor,” he said, “I’m not into Camaros.”