GM EFI’s Year by Year Guide to the 5th-Gen Camaro

CAMARO 5-28

2012 COPO Camaro Number-69 is the only convertible of the breed ever built. Although we’re going to skip the COPO story for this segment, we will bring you the full story in an upcoming feature.

The year 2015 is going to be bittersweet for 5th-Gen Camaro enthusiasts everywhere. Marking the final year of production for the fifth installment of Chevrolet’s pony car, it’s been a wild ride!

So much so, that we’ve decided to compile this year-by-year guide to help you, the reader, decipher the changes between the different styles, options, and features of the 5th-Gen. We also threw in any potential mechanical or electrical problems each model year had faced. Whether you’re a current owner looking for more insight, or you’re a potential buyer, this article is for you!

To get a closer look and additional insight at the Camaro that Chevrolet had given us over the last six years, we sat down with our friend, Chris Frezza, for a quick 5-question interview regarding his thoughts on the current Camaro, and what we can expect from the next generation.

Being a long-time Camaro fan and owner of several late-model Camaros over the years, as well as being the founder and owner of CamaroZ28.com, we would like to consider Chris an expert on the matter.

Before we get started we should point out that we’re also going to emit the COPO Camaro from this particular article, as we’re strictly going to focus on the cars that the average person can buy.2006 Chevrolet Camaro Concept

With the COPO being a super expensive, unregisterable, drag-only missile that you order over the counter from Chevrolet Performance, it really doesn’t fit into the same category as the rest of the Camaro lineup. However, we will delve deep into those in another upcoming article soon, right here at GM EFI.

2006 Camaro Concept: The Beginning

It might not seem like it, but in reality, the 5th-generation car has been around in one form or another since the end of 2005. Officially unveiled at the 2006 North American International Auto Show, it blew the crowd away, instantly gaining fanfare from loyal Camaro fans (who longed for a replacement for their then recently-deceased F-bodies) and media types alike.

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From the top to the bottom, inside and out, it was an all-new machine from the car that went out of production in 2002. No longer an F-body, the Camaro Concept was built on the then-new Holden Commodore’s Zeta chassis that would also serve as the foundation of the Pontiac G8, Caprice PPV, and ultimately, the Chevy SS sedan here in The States.

Featuring a 6.0-liter LS2-based V8 with cylinder deactivation, the 2006 Camaro Concept was certainly a look into the future of pony car performance from Chevrolet. Painted in a sexy silver metallic, the look drew heavenly upon GM VP of Global Design Ed Welburn’s personal ’69 Camaro SS, but with a very modern 21st Century twist that gave it a look all its own.

Camaro 5 History-3Suffice it to say, it became an instant smash, and once it finally hit the market in 2009 as a 2010 model, it has sold extremely well ever since. Even with the 6th-generation car just around the corner, buyers continue to flock to Chevy dealerships to place their order for the current outgoing car.

Year-to-Year Model Changes: Production Begins

2010

After seven model years of absolutely nothing from Camaro, it was finally back for 2010 – and boy, did the automotive press eat it up! Only available in a solid roof coupe or with a sunroof, the car was a complete departure from the 4th-generation car.

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The entry level Camaro brought with it a 304 hp 3.6L V6 – or one [factory-rated] horsepower short of the 2002 Z28’s LS1 V8 – although the LS1 had it beat substantially in torque output. Most performance-minded enthusiasts picked up an SS, anyway, although the aftermarket has taken a liking to the V6 offering bolt-on performance parts and turbo kits alike.

Camaro 5 History-6The automatic-equipped SS featured a displacement on demand 400 hp 6.2L L99 V8, while those enthusiasts who chose to select their own gears manually, earned the right to pilot the 426 hp LS3 borrowed from the Corvette. As with any LS-powered vehicle, both the L99 and LS3 variants are supplied with massive amounts of performance potential.

All models came equipped with independent rear suspension, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth, XM Radio, and OnStar – most of which was completely absent from the departed F-body. Sure, you could make a case for T-Tops being MIA from this generation, but even in 2002, they were seen as a throwback relic to the disco era. It’s not the type of image GM wanted for a 21st Century Camaro.

A Transformers Edition was offered, due to the immense amount of popularity from the film tie-in of just a few years earlier. For the first time since 1993, Camaro had been chosen as the Official Pace Car of the Indianapolis 500. This would be the fifth model year the car was was chosen to do so.

Potential Problems:

  • Battery cable issue on early build cars
  • Speedometer and tachometer flaky on early build cars
  • Rear spoiler vibrates loose (wrong torque specs from factory)

2011

Chevrolet and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that a special Chevrolet Camaro Convertible has been selected as the Official Pace Car of the 2011 Indianapolis 500.

Already wanting to take the newly-released Camaro up another notch, the entry-level V6 earned an eight horsepower-increase from 304 to 312, with nothing more than some “fine tuning” on GM’s end.

Mechanically, the V8 cars were carryover, but Chevrolet introduced both the convertible option, and head-up display. Once again, Camaro was chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500, now sporting the convertible body for 2011. it was painted to mimic the 1969 Pace Car – a classic in and of itself.

There were also three appearance packages in addition to the Indy 500 Pace Car for 2011; including an XM Radio Edition, another Synergy Edition, and a $75,000 Neiman Marcus convertible of which only 100 were built.

Potential Problems:

  • Premature wear on convertible top

2012

With only two years of production under its belt, Chevrolet felt that they wanted to tweak the Camaro to make it more competitive than it already was with its rivals. So a number of things happened this year. Inside, the interior was upgraded with the following:

  • Revised instrument panel appearance with new instrument graphics and trim
  • New steering wheel design intended to support performance driving
  • Power lift feature for the front passenger seat
  • Rear Vision Package that consists of a rear view camera inside of the auto-dimming rear view mirror in the existing Rear Park Assist feature

Camaro 5 History-14The V6 earned yet another bump in horsepower from the previous year’s 312 hp rating, to 323 hp. The steering wheel found in the two previous model year Camaros, and dating back to the 2006 Concept Car, was replaced with a piece more race-oriented and user friendly across the model range.

The SS received an update in the rear suspension department, too, thanks to a revised FE4 suspension design that allowed even better handling, body control, and provided the driver with more precise control and confidence.

The FE4 suspension modifications included:

    • Retuned front and rear dampers
    • New solid front (23 mm) and rear (24 mm) stabilizer bars
    • Twenty-inch aluminum wheels and P245/45R20 (front) and P275/40R20 (rear) tires (SS)2012-chevrolet-camaro-se-01-synergy-gallery-04-980x530

Al Oppenheiser, Camaro Chief Engineer was once quoted as saying, “Our objective was to create a more precise sport suspension for the SS coupe, with greater road-holding capability. We applied lessons learned from extensive track testing to better refine the suspension geometry for flatter cornering, a more neutral balance during hard turns, and minimized understeer at the limit.”

He continued, “with adjusted suspension geometry and reshaped stabilizer bars, the FE4 has its roots in the ongoing development of the king of all Camaros — the ZL1.”

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

The ZL1, would be a a supercharged LSA V8 powerhouse, with 580 hp on tap. With 30 more ponies than that year’s Shelby GT500 and with a much more refined and balanced magnetic ride suspension system, it would make mincemeat out of it, and Ford’s track-oriented Boss 302. At the time, it was the ultimate track Camaro, and the best-handling Camaro ever made.

There for four special edition packages available this year, such as another Synergy Edition, an updated Transformers Edition, a 45th-Anniverary SS, and an Honor and Valor Edition.

Potential Problems:

  • Premature wear on convertible top

2013

If the ZL1 was a little out of your price range, Chevrolet’s encore presentation of track-prepped Camaros were just getting good. New for 2013, Chevrolet rereleased the 1LE suspension package for the SS Camaro.

Only available in coupe form and with a TR6060 6-speed manual, it too got a brake and suspension upgrade, quicker steering box, transmission cooler, larger front and rear sway bars (27mm front/28mm rear), ZL1 end links, ZL1 rear shock mounts, and ZL1-style 20×10 and 20×11 wheels. Goodyear Eagle SuperCar G tires in 285/35/20 dimensions sat at all four corners, while a set of 3.91 gears sat out back.

It also featured a matte black hood wrap for a distinctive look that matched the super wide black wheels. Otherwise mechanically identical to the SS, with no power increase, it would go on to become the perfect balance of affordability of road racing prowess in an affordable package.

For 2013, Camaro is available with the 1LE performance package, inspired by road racing. Offered on SS coupes with manual transmissions, the 1LE package features unique gearing, suspension tuning, and tires, the Camaro 1LE is capable of more than 1 g of lateral acceleration, and lapping the Virginia International Raceway's Grand Course in under three minutes.

There were a pair of cosmetic packages for Camaro available this year, too, such as the Hot Wheels Edition and the Dusk Edition. Both were mechanically identical to a standard SS Camaro. Also, a gaggle of updated features and optional equipment across the range appeared in 2013 as well.

New and standard features included (depending on trim level):

  • Chevrolet MyLink1 Color Touch radio with 7″ diagonal color touchscreen display includes Bluetooth streaming audio; hands-free smartphone integration; Pandora and Stitcher smartphone compatible; voice activated technology
  • USB port and (KTB) PDIM now standard on 1LT and 1SS models
  • Rear camera on equipped models now projected in touchscreen display
  • Chevrolet MyLink Color Touch radio with 7” diagonal color touchscreen display and all the features of MyLink system plus GPS Navigation option on all LT, SS and ZL1 models
  •  Mojave leather interior
  • Frameless, Auto-dimming inside rearview mirror
  • Floor mats now standard on LS model
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and (VY7) leather-wrapped shift knob now standard on 1LT models
  • Windshield wiper stalk changes: replace symbols with words “off,” “int,” “lo” and “hi”

Potential Problems:

  • Premature wear on convertible top

2014

At this point, the 5th-Gen was in need of a new look. Having outsold the Mustang and the Challenger every month, almost consecutively, since the Fall of 2009 modern Camaros were seemingly now on every corner. With the next-generation car at least two years away, GM felt the Camaro was in need of an update to keep it looking fresh.

As a result, all Camaros received new taillights more reminiscent of the 1969 car in which the body-style was based. They were available in two varieties, like before, although the non-RS equipped models received a version almost identical to those found in their 1969 counterpart – which is what your author feels the car should have had from the beginning.

The taillights as seen on this Z/28 are what standard, or non-RS package Camaro models receive...

The taillights as seen on this Z/28 are what standard, or non-RS package, Camaro models receive…

The RS models, and those with the RS appearance upgrade, featured an LED design that many enthusiasts jokingly refer to as “Honda Prelude” tails. We think they both look good, although we do have to say that the “base taillights” look more at home on the Camaro.

The front end was changed as well, giving Camaro almost a completely new fascia that updated the bumper cover, hood, headlights, and grille. It provided a more aggressive look, but limited potential engine cooling as a result – which is exactly why the 2014 (and ’15) ZL1 model used the older, more open grille design.

...while RS, RS/SS, and other Camaro models with the RS trim upgrade get this controversial LED tails.

…while RS, RS/SS, and other Camaro models with the RS trim upgrade get these controversial LED tails.

There was a Spring Edition limited-production model that featured a summit white paint scheme and a blue stripe down the center of the car, a la’ ’70-72 Trans Am. With 2014 being what would have been the high performance Pontiac’s 45th-Annversary, we can’t help but wonder if some of the guys in the design studio were reminiscing over the old bird when they cooked this one up.

The only issue that has surfaced with the 2014 model, is the switchblade key that all Camaros had up to this point. As per the recall notice, there were issues with drivers bumping the key fob with their knee. Your author, being of average height and having driven many 5th-Gen Camaros myself, just doesn’t see how this could happen. Apparently, many owners agree, foregoing the recall “and taking their chances” with the original key fob.

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But the real news, or the big news we should say, was the reintroduction of the Z/28 model. No longer the entry-level V8 car that it was stuck living as for the three previous generations, the all-new Z/28 was, and is,  the ultimate Camaro. Period. End of story.

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427 ci. of LS7 is what you’ll get from Z/28. Less powerful than a ZL1, sure, but that’s not the point. The LS7 is the perfect balance of low weight, high revs, and big power. Remember, despite its cubic inch displacement, it’s not any heavier or physically larger than a 5.7L LS1.

This no-holds barred thoroughbred is Chevy’s idea of a supercar Camaro. Just with rear wheel drive. And a naturally aspirated V8. And with the attitude of Clint Eastwood in his prime. Sporting massive Brembo carbon ceramic 15-inch brakes (that would later be used in the 650 hp C7 Z06), the legendary, high-revving 505 hp LS7, DSSV shocks straight out of a Formula-1 car or Aston Martin One-77, superb suspension components, and 305mm-wide tires at all four corners it wasn’t taking any prisoners.

Add a heavy-duty transmission, rear axle assembly and engine, transmission, and rearend coolers to the package, and this car is serious business. Throw in the fact that it beat some of the most expensive super cars in the world around the Nurburgring, and you can get a pretty good idea how impressive this machine really is. For $75,000, this is a Camaro that won’t have to worry about competition from the road racing set.

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Potential Issues:

  •  Switchblade Key Recall
  • Premature wear on convertible top

2015

With the 6th-generation car just around the corner, 2015 would serve as the perfect bookend for the controversial 5th-Gen. With all models being largely carryover from the 2014 refresh, many enthusiasts feared that the car would get completely embarrassed by the all-new 2015 Mustang.

It didn’t. In fact, when Motor Trend ran a full comparison between the Mustang GT Performance Pack (PP) and the Camaro SS-based 1LE, the results were a huge surprise to everyone.  Despite the  horsepower increase of the new Mustang, and a switch to independent rear suspension that apparently hadn’t been completely sorted out, the 1LE out-braked, out handled, and overall outperformed the Mustang GT PP on the road and on the track.

Camaro 5 History-15However, the ‘Stang did manage to run a full tenth of a second quicker in a straight line quarter-mile test – which we would chalk up to a combination of a curb weight that’s 70-pounds less, and a slight power advantage over the LS3 Camaro. We think if the Mustang had wider tires and a better-tuned suspension it would have been much closer. But then again, when you consider that it was being compared to a car that’s essentially ten years old, we’re pretty confident that Mustang will be playing catch-up with Camaro throughout the next generation.

Chevrolet would go on to release a 2015 Spring Edition, called The Green Flash, painted in Emerald Green Metallic, the first Camaro to ever sport the hue.

Potential Issues:

  • 1LE beating up on the 2015 Mustang GT

Take Five: With Chris Frezza

GM EFI: In you opinion, Chris, what was the best all-around 5th-Gen in terms of features, quality, styling, performance, etc., and which model year is your favorite – why?Camaro 5 History-1

Chris Frezza: The 2013 Camaro SS with the 1LE package.  I choose the 2013 because this was the year before the refresh of the front and rear fascias of the car, and it’s also the first year of the 1LE, which was the least expensive [of the road race package cars].  Two-thousand thirteen also introduced the MyLink system and navigation to Camaro, and the new frameless rearview mirror.  There was much debate over the new-refreshed look of the 2014 model year Camaro, which is also why 2013 is my pick.

GM EFI: What are your thoughts on the 1LE, ZL1, and Z/28?

CF:  To this day talking to Camaro folks all over the world, I still say the following: if the 1LE Camaro would have been introduced before the ZL1, I would have bought that instead of my ZL1.  The 1LE is the biggest bang for the buck Camaro ever produced.  The ZL1 is the best all-around model for Camaro – which is why I chose it for myself.  It can dominate on both dragstrip, road course, and then very comfortably drive you to work. The Z/28 is the ultimate racing machine.  I think this car goes back to the roots of Z/28, and should live at the racetrack.  If you’re looking for a nice easy cruiser, this car isn’t for you.

Camaro 5 History-22GM EFI: You were a long-time 4th-Gen LT1 owner until you finally pulled the trigger on a 2012 ZL1. What was it about that car that intrigued you, Chris?

CFThe new design, technology, and performance. After owning numerous 4th-Gen Camaros over the years, [new owners] will really appreciate getting into a 5th-Gen. The 5th-Gen is just so incredibly comfortable to drive on long trips.  The 4th-Gen felt more raw, the 5th-Gen is more refined.  The comforts of a new car are great too; heated seats, USB port/MP3 support, and OnStar that works with my iPhone.  Oh yeah, and 580 HP to boot on a very streetable car!

GM EFI: Without taking the race-only COPO into account, how do you feel about GM’s focus more on handling, rather than drag racing, with this generation?

“The 4th-Gen felt more raw, the 5th-Gen is more refined.”  -Chris Frezza

CF: I like how the Camaro is dominating on the road courses after the good folks at Chevrolet have focused on making this car a force to reckon with in terms of its handling.  I think they have learned from years past that going in a straight line can only create so much publicity.  The current leadership for Camaro has a vision and seems to be accomplishing everything they have set out to do with this car so far …maybe even more!

GM EFI: What changes would you like to see from the 6th-generation car, and what direction do you think GM will take with it?

CF: The 6th-Gen Camaro will be moving to the Cadillac [Alpha] platform that they build at the Grand River Assembly Plant in Lansing, Michigan.  The move to this platform should allow the car to lose some weight – one of the biggest complaints since the car was introduced.  I think GM will be looking at building on the wild success of the 5th-Gen, and improving on it with the new platform.  They could possibly be introducing a 4-cylinder turbo motor, or maybe even the twin-turbo V6 that they have in the V-Sport Cadillacs.

“Chevrolet [has] focused on making this car a force to reckon with in terms of its handling.” -Chris Frezza

Conclusion:

Now that you’re more familiar with the 2010-2015 Camaros, as well as their various trim and performance combinations, you should feel more comfortable picking up a 5th-Gen of your own. We do. That 1LE is looking more and more inciting by the minute…

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Being infatuated with cars since he was a toddler, GM EFI Founder and Editor, Rick Seitz, has a true love and passion for late-model GM vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.

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