I-95 SOUTHBOUND @ Maryland Mile 58.6 — Of course I got a speeding ticket. It was preordained the moment the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS coupe with the “1LE performance package” arrived at our vacation home in Cornwall, N.Y.
The “package” meant the car came with a 6.2-liter V-8 gasoline engine delivering a maximum 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. That was bad enough. But the folks at General Motors, maker of all things Chevrolet, loaded this one with enough bait to attract all but the most inattentive of traffic police.
The car’s super-sleek body was painted what GM’s designers call “summit white” — a brilliant finish that alone would have given the Camaro SS a needed touch of innocence. But that would have betrayed the bad-boy DNA of the high-performance Camaro SS. So the designers fixed it with a matte-black hood, a black rear air spoiler and 20-inch-diameter, 10-spoke forged-aluminum wheels painted black. Behind those black spokes were flaming red Brembo brake calipers.
The car, well, “looks mean” — that’s how many spectators described it. And that wasn’t all. The Camaro SS had four chrome-tipped exhaust outlets that emitted a high-decibel “varrrooommm, pop-pop-pop!” in second or third gear.
“Why is that thing so loud?” asked my wife, Mary Anne, while we were staying in Cornwall. “I could hear you coming all the way up the hill!”
That summed it up. If the traffic police didn’t see me coming, they certainly heard me. “Varroomm, pop-pop-pop!” Bad actor here. Go on, give me one of your tickets.
Except, I wasn’t trying to be a bad actor. Aware of the naturally boisterous, raucous, police-taunting demeanor of the Camaro SS with the black-and-white “1LE performance package,” I was trying to play it cool, deliberately keeping the car within 10 mph of all posted speed limits, running mostly in third and fourth gear.
Other motorists, as even Mary Anne noted, were “running all over” me, zooming ahead at 75, 85 and 90 mph. Many, especially those drivers of high-powered Dodge Challengers and similar sports cars, were making sport of riding my tail. I remember thinking that those dangerously silly scofflaws would be cited for speeding before any officer bothered to stop me.
I was silly. My Camaro SS was being tracked by traffic cameras all along the New Jersey Turnpike to Interstate 95 moving south through Maryland. At an average speed around 70 mph on the turnpike, still in violation territory, I was being outrun by much faster traffic. No law enforcement officer bothered to stop me.
I figured I could lag behind the
high-speed leaders ticket-free until I reached home in Northern Virginia, where I vowed to park and forget the Camaro SS.
No such luck. My comeuppance came at the behest of a Baltimore County traffic officer who cited me for moving 80 mph in a 55-mph zone. I told him that I was accelerating at 75 mph, trying to evade yet another tailgater. He wasn’t buying it. I don’t blame him. I remembered hearing that tattletale, please-arrest-me, high-decibel “varrrooomm, pop-pop-pop” as I pushed the clutch, tapped the gas pedal and shifted gears.
I graciously accepted the $160 speeding ticket, apologized to the officer and thanked him for his service. I drove off — “varrrooommm, pop, pop, pop!”— with an enraged Mary Anne in the front passenger’s seat. “Everyone else is driving faster than you!” she said.
“Look at all of those cars that zoomed past him while he was giving you that ticket.”
I smiled, told her “It doesn’t matter. . . . It was preordained, babes. Preordained.”
Bottom line: The Camaro SS with the “1LE performance package” is more at home on a racetrack than it is on a city street or interstate highway. It is a speeding ticket waiting to happen, no matter how hard you strive to keep it within posted limits. Better to get a less-expensive Camaro LS with a V-6 gasoline engine, modest performance and a reasonable exhaust note. Anything truly high-performance in the multi-layered Camaro line is just asking for trouble.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The ride is bumpy, especially on poorly maintained city streets. Acceleration is zero to 60 in under five seconds. You can brag about that as you are collecting a ticket or being led to a jail cell. The car hugs curves. You can brag about that, too.
Head-turning quotient: The appearance is menacing. It attracts the wrong kinds of attention.
Body style/layout: The SS/1LE is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe. Like most sports coupes, it makes little sense for daily family transportation. The Camaro line includes coupes and convertibles.
Engine/transmission: The car comes with a 6.2-liter gasoline V-8 engine delivering 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. The engine is linked to a short-shift six-speed manual transmission.
Capacities: Comfortable seating for driver and front-seat passenger. Rear seats for small people only. Cargo capacity is 11.3 cubic feet. Fuel tank holds 19 gallons of gasoline; regular grade is okay.
Mileage: It delivers 15 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway, substantially less than the V-6 Camaro LS’s 17 city and 28 highway. But no one buys the SS version for fuel economy.
Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes, four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, emergency braking assistance, stability and traction control, front and rear head air bags, and OnStar emergency communications.
Pricing: Base price for the 2015 Camaro SS is $33,505. Ad $3,500 for the 1 LE performance package. Price as tested is $38,000 including a $995 factory-to-dealer transportation charge. Estimated dealer’s price as tested is $35,000.