It’s often said that there are few absolutes in life, but that doesn’t hold true when it comes to pony-car brand allegiance. Chevy guys would sooner be seen in a Mary Kay pink Mazda Miata, complete with leopardskin velour seats, than in a Ford Mustang. Ford guys, for their part, would cheerfully jump feet-first into a wood chipper before they’d drive a car with a bow tie on the grille.
Luckily for both automakers, a large segment of the car-buying population isn’t brand loyal, since both build an astonishing variety of pony cars. In the case of the Camaro, the product line includes LS, LT, 1SS, 2SS, 1LE and ZL1 trims, most of which come in coupe or convertible body styles. Base models can be had with either a 323-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 or a 6.2-liter V-8 that puts out up to 426 horsepower if you opt for the six-speed manual. Go for the six-speed automatic (also available throughout the range), and V-8 output in SS models drops to 400 horsepower.
Atop the Camaro range is the take-no-prisoners ZL1, which gets a 580-horsepower supercharged version of the 6.2-liter V-8, along with heavy-duty everything. Unlike some earlier generation Camaro variants, which were track-ready in appearance only, the Camaro ZL1 is ready, willing and able to tackle any drag strip or road course you care to put under its meaty tires and lowered suspension.
As you’d guess, that puts the Camaro across a wide range of price points and performance categories. Bargain hunters can take home a V-6 Camaro for as little as $24,245 (including destination charge), which gives them more than sufficient thrust while returning as much as 30 mpg on the highway. Step up to the V-8, and you can park a 0-60-mph-in-under-5.0-seconds Camaro in your garage for $33,180, and it still returns a semi-respectable 24 mpg highway. The ZL1 is a bargain in its own right, since there aren’t many cars that accelerate and handle as well for less than $55,000.
Perhaps the most appealing Camaro in the current lineup for drivers is the 1LE, which really is nothing more than an option package that can be added to SS models. Checking the option box will cost you $3,500, but that nets you the wheels and tires from the ZL1; 3.91 rear axle ratio; an upgraded suspension (but not the Magnetic Ride Control version); bigger stabilizer bars front and rear; stronger rear axle half-shafts; a strut tower brace; a high-capacity fuel pump with additional pickups and a unique six-speed transmission. It’s track ready out of the box, and it costs noticeably less than the Ford Boss 302 Mustang.
While the Camaro’s retro-modern lines are appealing, you pay a price for looking cool. If you actually track your Camaro, don’t even think about donning your helmet before you climb in the car. If you’re average height or taller, prepare to smack your head on the roof until you master the human origami the Camaro demands of those entering the car. Like the Ford equivalent, the back seat is really for pets, parcels and insurance purposes only. There’s also the challenging outward visibility and diminutive trunk to consider, which may make the Camaro a poor choice as an only vehicle.
Those caveats aside, the Camaro’s interior is a bit more upscale than its pony car competitors, and the car comes with standard or available features like OnStar, Bluetooth phone connectivity, iPod integration and even a heads-up display. Opt for the convertible version, and the canvas top (with glass window) folds at the press of a button. All topless Camaros also come standard with a rearview camera.
For complete details on the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection