- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

My favorite test-drive road has very little traffic, lots of twisting curves, plus long straight-aways. This road is ideal for driving the powerful Chevrolet Camaro Z28 coupe.
Over the years, I've been down this road many times in Camaros, and each time the reunion compared to visiting with an old friend that has a gruff, nasty personality.
The 2001 Camaro offers the choice of a V-6 or V-8 engine, but my tester included the SS package, which is only available with the powerful 5.7-liter V-8 engine. This package has many other advantages, too. For example, there is a forced-air scoop on the hood that not only gives the coupe a meaner appearance, but also is partially responsible for boosting the horsepower from 300 to a whopping 325. Another SS feature: a six-speed manual transmission.
The package includes mammoth 17-inch tires mounted on attractive aluminum wheels. Best of all is the low-restriction, dual-exhaust system, which produces the sound of a throaty growl that reverberates throughout the car, adding to the excitement while behind the wheel.
There are similarities between the SS and the Corvette. When the Camaro was introduced 34 years ago, the Corvette held the coveted position of King of the Road, but now little brother is catching up in areas such as the six-speed transmission and the powerful V-8 engine. The Camaro SS even sports numerous interior luxurious features that were once Corvette's domain.
Little brother has an eight-speaker sound system and amplifier with 500 watts of peak power. The Monsoon stereo, with a CD player, has large buttons for easy tuning while driving. In addition, buttons on the steering wheel allowed me to make quick change of volume or station without having to take my hands off the wheel.
Controls for the heating and air conditioning system are very basic and simple to operate. They can be regulated without even looking at them.
The two most fascinating analog instruments are the tachometer and speedometer. In sixth gear, this car cruises at 50 miles per hour while the engine is mildly loping at about 1,200 rpm. Yet gear down and floor it, and it is unbelievable how quickly the Camaro responds.
The Chevrolet engineers changed the camshaft and intake manifold so there is a quicker response to peak midrange torque. On my favorite road, a simple nudge on the gas pedal and the reaction was immediate. That's where the real fun of a Camaro begins.
This four-seater has two comfortable bucket seats in the rear and offers decent legroom. Or, with the backrest lowered, there is plenty of storage area with access through the rear deck lid.
Base price of the Camaro Z28 is $21,645. The SS package is an additional $4,000, but it doesn't end there. My tester had leather bucket seats, a short-throw shifter, plus a 12-disc CD changer. Other options included cruise control, fog lamps, power windows, power door-lock system, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent alarm system, and six-way power driver's seat. Toss in the standard destination charges and the total is $30,025.
However, there is a downside. Simply put: getting in and out of the car. When driving any sports car, it is important that the seat and the steering wheel be adjusted to the proper position. Getting past the steering wheel when getting in and out requires wiggles that my pelvic region normally doesn't use. But once I am in the driver's seat, the fun of driving my mean, gruff, nasty, old friend is simply unforgettable.

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