2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS Hot Wheels Review – The Pony Car Die Is Cast

There is absolutely nothing subtle about a bright orange, V8-powered Camaro. Press the starter button, and dogs cower for their thunder shirts. Neighbors alternately complain or crane their necks to listen and see more intently. Children swoon.

I’m not kidding. A neighbor kid, friend of my daughter, rolled down the school bus window to yell out to me — “Mr. Tonn? I love your new car!”

So, at very least Chevrolet has the 11-year-old boy market covered.

Is this 2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS Hot Wheels edition a toy that can only be appreciated by those who would have bought the original dollar diecast in 1968? Or can all generations play?

The noise. Oh, god, the noise. I’m certain that the 6.2-liter Chevrolet LT1 V8 under the hood of this Camaro SS sounds as close as any new car can get to a vintage Trans-Am racer. A guttural, lumpy idle builds to a staccato roar as the tach climbs to the 6,500 rpm redline. Drop a gear or two — an action made easier by active rev matching that blips the throttle — and the exhaust pops and crackles like a vintage Trans-Am racer. No need for a stereo if your commute includes a tunnel or two; just open the window and enjoy the music.

When driven conservatively, however, the Camaro can be somewhat civilized. Keep the revs low with the gear lever in the upper ranges, and the sound is inoffensive. Such civilized behavior is aided by the skip-shift programming for the transmission, which guides the shifter into fourth gear under light throttle acceleration from a stop, rather than second gear. It’s ostensibly a fuel saving feature, too, but it’s easily defeated when performance is desired. Just maintain hand pressure, and second is once again available.

Of course, the bottomless aftermarket offers skip-shift eliminator devices once your warranty period has expired.

As for the Hot Wheels package… if you are a diehard diecast collector, I can see it being a fun choice. But the package runs $4,995, for which you get the orange paint, special grey wheels, the pair of grey stripes down the center, special badging, and the orange trimmed interior — including orange seatbelts. Orange brake calipers and a black Chevy bowtie are part of the package. That’s a big chunk of change and, as far as I can tell, you don’t get the diecast version of the car for your $4,995. I went full geek and bought one. Wonder if our managing editor will notice if I put a one dollar toy on an expense report.

The styling is, well, retro. Ever since the fifth-generation Camaro debuted in 2010, and this sixth-gen car in 2016, Chevrolet has done plenty to play up the connection to the iconic original from 1967. The vents, scoops, and gashes that make up this car’s front end are definitely not retro, however — they are modern concessions to the airflow requirements of a high-powered sports car.

If you aren’t a fan of the look, the coming 2019 Camaro has a restyled facia that is even more aggressive.

Critics love to complain about the high-sided look that raises the beltline while lowering the roof, leading to miniscule slits for windows. I’ll grant that it takes some getting used to, and that the massive C-pillar gives a nasty blind spot that requires caution when backing out of the driveway in the morning. Further, the high door line means the door mirrors are placed accordingly high — adding another blind spot when maneuvering in tight parking lots. I can’t imagine how shorter drivers manage to see out. Plus, that high beltline means I can’t comfortably rest my elbow on the windowsill while driving sedately. Once underway, however, the view is acceptable.

I’m oddly in love with the suede steering wheel fitted to this Hot Wheels edition. It’s not the material itself, as I’m not convinced the surface will hold up to sweaty hands over time. But the diameter of the grip itself feels a touch smaller — less girthy? — than most cars I’ve driven. It’s a firm grip with little padding, which means a touch less slop in the steering response than in a more plush wheel.

I’m quite pleased with the handling and steering response, as well. Cornering is flat and neutral, with the ability to steer with the right pedal as needed. It is a bit darty on the highway, and the Goodyear F1 run-flats want to follow grooves a bit, so a steady hand is needed on long drives. But the ride, while firm, is comfortable and not jarring.

While a younger, childless Chris would revel in the performance of this V8 Camaro, I struggle to see this as an ideal daily driver for someone like current Chris, who has a pair of kids to cart around. My daughters required significant contortions to sit in the rear seat behind me — they’d sit cross-legged with their feet on the seat cushion, rather than risk getting feet and knees crushed by the front seatback. Further, the wireless phone charging pad is located behind the driver, in a pod between the rear passengers’ knees. It’s an odd placement, out of sight, which meant I occasionally left my phone in the car — requiring a quick walk of shame back to the parking lot from the office.

This 2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS has a few minor niggles that stem from a focus on performance and style, rather than family hauling. For a driver who doesn’t need to haul offspring, it’s a magnificent daily driver that will not go unnoticed. It’s a toy that can be used every day.

a version of this review first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com

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