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Road Test: HSV Comaro by GoAuto News

The effects of ending car manufacturing in Australia continue to loom large, with the shrinking automotive industry still finding its feet. Holden Special Vehicle was one of the companies impacted due to its strong connection with Holden and its Australian-made models.

Camaro inner

So, what does the future hold for HSV, a much-loved Australian success story?

While the days of its Commodore-based models with upgraded engines and aggressive bodykits are now a distant memory, a new light shines bright in Clayton South. The production lines are ticking over once again, but this time a different type of V8 beast is making its presence felt: the right-hand-drive, remanufactured Chevrolet Camaro 2SS. Is it any good?

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS

Did you ever expect to see a factory right-hand-drive Chevrolet Camaro on Australian roads? Neither did we, but it’s finally here… kind of. While it does come from General Motors’ Lansing plant in Michigan, it arrives Down Under with the steering wheel on the wrong side. Hello, Holden Special Vehicles.

HSV is very keen to point out that this is a remanufactured Camaro, not a converted one. What this means is the vast majority of its components either carry over from LHD to RHD or meet the same quality standards as the originals. Hence, this is not the cut-and-paste job that traditional converters do – and that’s important to note. We’ll save the full engineering story for another day, because the big question here is: how faithful is HSV’s Camaro to its LHD counterpart? Well, it is not new to this game, having also re-manufactured the Chevrolet Silverado, as well as the Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 under the guise of its American Special Vehicles sister company, which is now wholly owned by Ateco Automotive. Coming as no surprise to anyone with an understanding of the high-quality engineering taking place inside HSV’s four walls, the remanufactured Camaro is almost a carbon copy. It’s important to keep in mind that this impression comes from the pre-production vehicle we tested – it’s not even the finished product. Perfectionism abounds.

So, how does one tell the difference between an LHD and RHD Camaro, other than the obvious? The in-cabin microphone has swapped A-pillars, leaving behind cut-out, and the passenger’s footwell is wider due to pedal requirements. The other physical changes are imperceptible to the eye. A fairly flawless result, then.

Buyers will notice, however, that the Camaro’s 7.0-inch touchscreen MyLink infotainment system does not feature built-in satellite navigation. When questioned if an SD card with Australian maps could just be inserted, HSV told GoAuto that it’s that not simple, with research showing that its customers instead prefer to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Nonetheless, the real elephant in the room is the Camaro’s premium price. It’s only offered in the highly specified 2SS grade, matched to an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters. At $A85,990 before on-road costs, it is approaching European sportscar territory, not Ford’s Mustang. This is a bit of a worry, albeit an unavoidable one.

HSV broke the internet when it announced the pricing of the 2SS’ earlier this month, but it’s important to consider that this is a remanufactured vehicle. Chevrolet doesn’t build a RHD Camaro, so HSV had to put in the hard yards to make it happen, and that doesn’t come cheap. Once shipping costs, local taxes, research and development, labour and exchange rates are factored in, the price isn’t crazy. One way to reduce the cost of the 2SS, would be to offer its six-speed manual gearbox available overseas, but HSV has not been able to deliver on this due to its specific production allocation. It is, however, working on offering the three-pedal set-up with future Camaros, possibly as soon as the MY19 model. Red-blooded purists should not give up hope just yet.

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TRUE TO PEDIGREE

So how does the Camaro 2SS stack up on Australian roads? Let’s just say it is true to HSV’s pedigree. A 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol engine that produces 339kW of power at 6000rpm and 617Nm of torque at 4400rpm should be enough to satisfy even the keenest of HSV fans, after all, but it won’t be the only thing that draws them in.

While most high-performance vehicles have turned to turbocharging (and even electrification) in recent times, the Camaro stays true to its roots with the 2SSs’ atmo bent eight. If you’ve ever had the delight of hearing one in attack mode, you’d know that its engine note is intoxicating. Fire up the LT1 unit from a cold start and the fun begins. Boy, is it a lot of fun. Crackles, pops and all the other aural theatrics are there. The 2SS courts you in with its banging soundtrack. Its bi-modal exhaust system actually has four modes, allowing the driver to decide how friendly they want to be with their neighbours on any given day. Words cannot do justice to the pleasure derived from pushing the 2SS hard to hear it sing its best song.

This sound would not be possible, of course, without the V8 up front. While its redline cuts in at about 6500rpm, it is a free-revving engine that is happy to explore its limits . The LT1’s mid-range is epic, thanks to the well-timed thick wad of Sir Isaac’s best. But this shove is a precursor to peak power, which arrives soon after. As a result, performance is substantial, with the 2SS charging ahead at an alarming pace when under full throttle, the sharpness of which is dictated by four driving modes – Tour, Sport, Snow/Ice and Track. Occupants are pushed firmly into their seats as the bent eight is unleashed in all of its glory. It’s happy to be punished, too, so rinse and repeat.

Also impacted by the driver-selectable settings is the aforementioned eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. It is very receptive to accelerator inputs, kicking down when called upon. At the same, it is happy to cruise on highways, keeping the bent eight ticking along above idle. The self-shifter is also a smooth operator capable of taming the animal ahead. When the roads start to wind, the 2SS rises to the occasion. Its steering is perfect for a sportscar, providing enough heft to allow calculated, direct inputs. Weight can also be adjusted via the driving modes. Communication is top notch, too, with the driver constantly aware of what the front wheels are up to. Make no mistake, this is a well-executed setup.

The most surprising development is the level of ride comfort that the 2SS offers. Most sports cars punish their occupants with a firm, uncompromising ride, but that’s not the case here. While there is a degree of firmness to its suspension tune, the 2SS is rather comfortable on long highway journeys and rebounds quickly when encountering imperfections on country roads. We could live with this.With steering and suspension sorted, the 2SS must handle well, right? No surprises here, because it does. A surprising amount of grip is on offer, despite the Camaro rear-wheel-drive tendencies. This means driver confidence is high, with the 2SS begging to be pushed hard. It’s quite light on its feet and more than happy to dart through corners. We are looking forward to exploring its limits further.

Complaints? There aren’t many, actually. Those that we do have aren’t related to HSV’s efforts. Namely, the plastics used in the cabin are cheap and unbecoming of a vehicle at this price point, and we’re talking about the pre-remanufactured vehicle, while the two rear seats feel like an empty gesture. Adults and children alike will struggle to feel comfortable in the second row.

We’re keen to see where HSV takes its remanufactured Camaro next. It’s put its best foot forward and produced the strongest representation yet of a RHD 2SS. Who knows what the future may hold for the model locally, a manual gearbox or the 485kW/881Nm ZL1 flagship? Time will tell, but the latter is a tantalising prospect and would be a suitable follow-up to the 474kW/815Nm GTSR W1.