There’s another strategy at play, though. Oppenheiser believes the key to taming the Ford Mustang, which far outpaces Chevy’s sales on the low end of the market, lies in broadening the company’s offerings in a way that will bring down the average transaction price. He pointed to the base LS model, which starts at a cheaper $25,995 and benefits from a lower curb weight, better balance, and a few more standard features. You might cock an eyebrow at this, but the company believes the manual-equipped LS might steal sales from the dwindling world of hot hatches.
But it’s the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro SS that everyone’s talking about—for reasons good and bad. Paired with the reliable LT1 V-8, the 10-speed transmission is a notable addition; co-developed with Ford, it’s one of the few ‘boxes with a double-digit gear count in the passenger car market. Chevy wants it made very clear that it’s made it distinct, however, with unique software, controls, and some cool add-ons that exist purely for fun.
A new function called “Liftfoot Gear Hold” does exactly what it says in Sport and Track modes: holding the gear you’re in when you lift off the throttle to prevent excessive shifting. Shift behavior itself is algorithmic, responding to how you’re driving; the car’s computer can even read data like g-forces to snap off shifts when it knows you’re trying to have a good time. In manual mode, holding the downshift paddle for 1.25 seconds will force the car to drop the maximum amount of gears for a blast of strength right in the middle of the power band.
There are purposeful pops and crackles in the exhaust—Oppenheiser advised keeping it between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm to enjoy the music—and it automatically downshifts to rev the engine when you put it into Sport or Track mode as if to say, “Okay, let’s do this.” Line lock and launch control make triumphant appearances. It’s supposed to “not feel like a Mustang,” Chevy says, and a classic So-Cal loop in a Crush Orange 2019 Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible confirms the modus operandi here.
I drove the Camaro up the Pacific Coast Highway before turning up a freshly-paved Mulholland Highway and giving it the beans, and two things immediately stood out. One, few cars make more sense as a convertible than the mighty ‘Maro. Its bunker-like cabin is markedly improved by removing the roof—doubly so when you’ve got a jewel-like ocean glittering just off the road. And two, the 10-speed is good enough to stand up in a car that most enthusiasts would insist come with a row-your-own manual transmission.
With the slushbox, the engine never felt like it was hunting for any of those 455 horses. At no point did the gear count feel excessive or cumbersome. The ratios are closely spaced in a way that aims to maximize power delivery; more importantly, the algorithmic behavior means the car swaps cogs unobtrusively around town while retaining the racking-a-shotgun shifts you want under heavy acceleration. That learning goes deeper in different performance situations: straight-line speed and technical turns yielded noticeable (and helpful) variances in shift feel.
In general, the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro SS a fun, lively thing, a competent athlete that’s completely comfortable with its semi-pro status. The handling is predictable enough to wring it out with confidence even with its propensity to push through tighter turns. I’ll need to spend more than a couple hours with it to give a final verdict, but the 10-speed transmission is looking like a great addition to a classic badge.
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