If you’re a fan of the sci-fi Transformers movie franchise, you’ll know all about the latest version of Bumblebee, the acid-yellow Chevy Camaro that stars in the series.
If you’re on director Michael Bay’s Twitter feed, you’ll have had the photo of the car delivered straight to your smartphone earlier this week. Sadly, Michael and I don’t share Tweets.
With Chevy having just launched a brand new Camaro, it was hardly a secret that it would be featured in the upcoming fifth installment Transformers: The Last Knight due in a multiplex near you in June 2017.
But already the Twittersphere is in a tizzy about the sheer awfulness of the new Bumblebee with its ugly Pep Boys bolt-on appendages, cheesy power-bulged hood and crazy front-end spoiler. My response? It’s a Transformers action car, what do you expect?
Had Mr. Bay preferred a more subtle, yet still in-character vehicle to play Bumblebee, he might have been better off taking a brand new stock 2016 Camaro SS, just like the one I’ve been driving, giving it a yellow vinyl wrap and shouting ‘action’.
Even if you’re not a Camaro fan, it’s worth giving this latest SS a closer look. As fun, high-value, hugely-entertaining, and surprisingly sophisticated sports cars go, this $43,000 Camaro SS is a steal.
How come? Firstly it shares its underpinnings with the technically-advanced Cadillac ATS two-door coupe. That’s big for a humble Chevy. And with it comes the option of adding the latest, fast-acting Magnetic Ride Control adaptive dampers with selectable Tour, Sport and Track modes.
Second, the new SS features to same honking 455-horsepower 6.2-liter LT1 V8 used in Chevy’s awesome Corvette Stingray. That means 0-to-60mph sprinting in an insanely-rapid 4.0 seconds.
The beauty of using the Caddy chassis is that it allowed the Camaro to shrink in size. It needed to. Not only is it now 2.1 inches shorter overall and 0.8 inches narrower, it’s a non-trivial 223 pounds lighter than the last SS.
It all adds up to a truly fun-driving car with precise, responsive electric-assist steering, a ton of grip from the 20-inch gumballs at each corner, standard Brembo brakes capable of stopping time, and the kind of handling balance that five-link independent rear suspension brings.
My tester came with the Tremec six-speed stick, which was frankly a pain to use. The shifts are clunky and the action overly weighty. But it’s the truly awful first-to-fourth skip shift – used to theoretically improve fuel economy – that takes the pleasure out of using the Camaro as a daily driver.
Me, I’d opt for the terrific eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters every day of the week.
Inside, Chevy has really raised its game by upgrading the materials and fit and finish. It’s still no Audi, but at least everything is soft to the touch, looks pleasing and fits together well.
Yes, all-round visibility is still a nightmare courtesy of that low, low roofline, thick rear pillars and tiny rear screen. And all the black cloth covering the roof and pillars does make the cabin feel like the inside of a Kentucky coal mine. If any car needed a panoramic glass roof, it’s this.
But there’s a huge bang for the buck here – our loaded SS test car stickered at a highly-competitive $46,000. For a two-plus-two with the heart of a Corvette, that’s a steal.
As for knowing your car looks so much better than Bumblebee? Priceless.