The updated 2019 Camaro SS might be the third-best-selling muscle car, behind the Dodge Challenger and the Ford Mustang, but it makes a mighty bid for relevance. That’s due in large part to the enthusiasm of guys like Mr. Camaro himself — Chevrolet chief engineer Al Oppenheiser, sitting with me at breakfast ahead of my first drive of the new 2019 Chevy Camaro SS 10-speed.
“Here are a few pics of my garage,” he gushed, sharing cellphone snaps of his multi-generational stash of Camaros, which include the crown jewel, a lovingly restored and gorgeous 1968 SS convertible. So he knows muscle. And the 2019 SS ($37,000) is a large-displacement monster stalking the land that turbochargers forgot. We’re talking 6.2 liters of growly, burbly, naturally aspirated V8 power producing a stout 455 hp and 455 lb-ft. And yes, you can pair the mighty mill with a good old-fashioned manual transmission.
The Camaro SS’s cabin is immersive — and not necessarily in a good way. Shut those big heavy doors, and the high sills makes you feel like you’re sitting deep within the vehicle, with large haunches and C-pillars obscuring quite a bit of rear visibility. New for ’19 is an available digital rearview mirror that goes a long way towards remedying those notorious blindspots.
Perhaps the Camaro SS’s biggest surprise came on the twisty roads that snake from Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu’s rolling hills. My first go came on a media drive organized by Chevrolet, where 50 or so miles of highway and canyon driving were devoured with ease. My Magnetic Ride Control-equipped tester glided smoothly over bumps and ridges, and body control felt exceptional at elevated speeds; the option is well worth the $1,695 asking price.
And yet, despite endless left-brain analysis that could be satisfied by a quick, smooth-shifting transmission and a powerful but efficient drivetrain, most shoppers will likely gravitate to their favorite brand based on their hearts, not their minds. I should know; the 2019 Camaro SS sold me on its performance merits and charismatic capabilities, but neither it, nor any other force of sports car nature, is likely to alter any fan’s brand allegiance. Go figure: Sometimes blood is thicker than fuel.