Like many American kids, I have fond childhood memories of attending baseball games with my dad. He served in the Army for 35 years, so we bounced all over the country, and we didn’t go to a ton of them, but I distinctly recall a birthday foray to watch the Dodgers when I was maybe 10. We brought along my buddy Mike, who prophetically proclaimed, “Pedro’s gonna hit a home run,” right before LA’s Mr. Guerrero did just that. In retrospect, Mike had probably been predicting homers all day, but that one stuck with me. Perhaps because back then, going yard was a little less common.
Fast-forward to 2018. My parents live in the DC area now, while I’m in New York City, and it’s been at least a decade since my dad and I went to a game together. So when Chevrolet presented the opportunity to test-drive a new Camaro 2SS Convertible and take a guest to the All-Star Game at Nationals Park, I knew it was time for me to return the favor.
As you may have heard, the game was a real blast. Ten blasts, really, one for each dinger the sluggers smacked as the AL topped the NL 8-6 in 10 innings. And while Pops and I enjoyed beer and hot dogs and Cracker Jacks while reminiscing about past sporting adventures, in the end, we agreed that the real highlight was not so much the destination but the journey… in the bucket seats of that bitchin’ Camaro. Maybe because, like a great five-tool player, it possesses not just home-run power but several outstanding traits.
1. Topless Transcendence: We actually had a choice between the convertible and a 50th anniversary Hot Wheels Edition Camaro, which was tempting thanks to this goosebumps-raising video. But we just couldn’t pass up the open-air prospects in the middle of summer, and boy does this beauty deliver. The touch of a button, even at 30 miles per hour, drops the top in under 20 seconds, and the feeling really never gets old. The moment we opened things up and felt the wind rush past our faces—and lift my beard!—during a pre-game joy ride with my mom, our worries scattered as our grins widened. The feature also made being stuck in metro traffic on the way to the game just a bit more bearable. Bonus: You can even trigger the roof retraction action remotely with the key fob, a bit of mechanical magic my gearhead dad couldn’t resist documenting (above).
2. World-Class Cockpit: One of the real acid tests of a top-notch vehicle is the level of attention paid to the interior. Is it simply a tweaked version of the manufacturer’s standard offerings, or does it feel unique to the vehicle in which you’re sitting? Here the Camaro passes with mostly flying colors, the only knock being a small, somewhat awkward console that leaves the driver no obvious place to put his phone. However, this hiccup is quickly forgotten thanks to eye-popping interior spectrum lighting, heated/ventilated leather-lined seats with substantial bolsters for high-speed twisties, a LeMans-worthy leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, an adjustable head-up display and a surprising coup de grace: these big, refreshingly retro silver dials that regulate airflow. They’re just super cool-looking and fun to adjust. It’s a little touch, but quite a satisfying one.
3. Star Tech: As I mentioned in my March review of the Chevy Equinox, the carmaker has really nailed it with the rollout of Apple/Android Car Play and available 4G LTE Wi-Fi across all models. That said, my dad really brought it home when he saw Car Play—which projects key smartphone features such as maps, music, podcasts and more onto the dashboard’s 7-inch diagonal touchscreen—in action. He’s been increasingly frustrated with his Subaru Outback’s navigational snafus, a welcome reminder of the elegance of Chevy’s approach, which will only improve when the anticipated enabling of Google Maps and Waze arrives.
4. Blurred Lines: I’d be remiss not to mention that the sixth-generation Camaro body style is a beaut. Super streamlined and athletic, the sculpted fastback profile garners compliments wherever you take it, whether the top is up or down. Funny enough, the Camaro was originally referred to internally as the Panther, way back in the late ’60s. Somehow that spirit seems to have carried through, as the current incarnations appear as lithe and lethal as those majestic predators.
5. Power Hitter: Of course, in the modern game, you’re nothing without the ability to get out of there in a hurry. And here’s where the new Camaro really shines. The 2SS version boasts a 6.2L 455-horsepower V8, 455 lb.-ft. of torque, 8-speed paddle shifters, 4 driving modes and the juice to hit 60 in 4 seconds flat. But those are just numbers. To really appreciate this ride’s capabilities, you’ve gotta pilot it. My dad and I got the chance to really put it through its paces in the thick of DC traffic, where being able to accelerate quickly and maneuver nimbly makes all the difference.
The moment I knew we were driving something special? Agonizingly close to our parking garage—and the first pitch—a traffic attendant denied us a left turn, forcing a gamble as we sped down to the next traffic light and whipped into a dramatic U-turn before nearby attendants could blink an eye. Moments later, we were pulling into a spot and my dad was complimenting my sometimes questionable driving skills, which made me beam. I’m guessing my face looked a bit like this goofy selfie from our sweet first-base line seats…
After the game, we got to experience another cool performance feature: active fuel management, a.k.a. switching to four cylinders when you’re driving at a consistent speed, which helps conserve gas. We found that notion quite handy when we got dangerously close to E and needed a pit stop in a hurry. Safely refueled, we hit the highway.
It was then, well past midnight, with all those homers in the books and the (galactic) stars lighting up the sky, that we got to make our own dramatic dash for home. Forget Aaron Judge, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. When I pushed the pedal to the floor and let that rumbling beast let out a roar, we were quite literally flying through time and space. As the speedometer climbed ever higher, we truly rode the wind. And when I caught a look of childlike wonder spreading across my dad’s face, I couldn’t help but feel the favor was well and truly returned.
Talk about a home run.