Driving the Chevy Camaro
"I bet people stare at you in that," says the man. They do indeed stare at the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, a car so American that - when I turn over the engine - Starship's We Built This City (On Rock And Roll) is playing on the radio.
The Camaro is surely the ultimate American muscle car (OK, the Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang can stake a claim too)? A car with a 6.2-litre V8 petrol engine. A car that emits over 300g/km. A car that return under 10mpg in town. A big, wide, near-two-tonne car that nevertheless sprints to 60mph in well under six seconds.
Get a FREE CHEVROLET CAMARO Brochure
Looking for a new car then why not start with a glossy CHEVROLET CAMARO brochure?
The Camaro Convertible is fast, but it never really feels fast. The beautiful, burbling engine never sounds especially busy - even when accelerating hard. Instead there's a lovely smooth 'whoosh' of power that just seems to happen - and before long you're travelling at 70mph with the promise of double that figure for not much more pressure on the gas.
Chevy is importing a couple of hundred left-hand-drive Camaros into the UK on the basis that it knows it can easily sell that many. There are celebrities already putting down orders, including a footballer who is eschewing the usual Ferrari-or-Porsche axis and choosing something rather more interesting.
Because while there are lots of things the Camaro is - powerful, aggressive, wonderfully refined - there are lots of things it isn't. It isn't especially good at turning corners, for example. It's simply too big for anything too frantic. The Camaro feels like a big, sleepy lion asked to paw at a dangling piece of string. It can't be bothered - and nor should it be.
Instead there's a lovely languid feel to the car. It's a yacht in a world of speedboats - at home cruising on a freeway but with enough power and torque (400bhp and over 550Nm respectively) and roar to discourage anyone from trying it on if required.
With the roof down and the stereo on people did look at this outrageous American car. People slowed down on country lanes when they saw it approach. And I did too. With a wide car, a very low seating position that has you peering out over the bonnet and a left-hand-drive position that always makes gauging widths that little bit more difficult I drove very slowly for the most part.
But opening it up on the motorways, to keep the Audis and Mercs honest, was a joy. A feeling of effortless, depthless speed that is to be used responsibly, in an almost gentlemanly manner.
The interior is a little disappointing. There's some familiar Chevy switchgear and rather drab dashboard, though some analogue dials are lovely. The roof is semi-automatic but has to be locked into position by hand. They key could be something you'd use to open the doors to the Spark.
Try and park the thing. It's difficult, despite parking sensors. Try driving it around narrow country lanes. Breath in. Try to navigate around a small car-park. You'll long for an Aveo.
Does this matter? Not a bit. You can buy this car (well, the Coupe) for a smidge over £35,000. And with it you get 20-inch alloys, four decent seats, launch control, cruise control, Bluetooth,
and a Head-Up Display.
But most of all you get that rare feeling of driving a car that isn't really like any other on the road. A faintly ridiculous car; a car from the movies; from the fantasy world of Americana.
Fast, lazy, big and very, very rare. I loved it.