2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS Hot Wheels Edition Review: Solid Muscle Car, Curious Option Package

It's hard to quibble with the inherent qualities of the V-8-powered Camaro. The $4,995 Hot Wheels package, on the other hand...

Two of The Drive’s staffers—Kyle Cheromcha and Will Sabel Courtneyrecently spent time with the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS Hot Wheels Edition, a muscle car which endeavors to replicate the looks of a tiny toy. They discussed the finer merits and detractors of this Chevy via Slack, an instant message program with a fun ability to summon random gifs based on what users type. The following is a partial transcript of that conversation.

willscourtney
Oh, hi Kyle.

kylecheromcha
CAMARO

willscourtney
Yes
But not just any Camaro

kylecheromcha
Do I dare finish this line?

willscourtney
Do it.
/giphy do it

GIPHY

kylecheromcha
A bitchin' Camaro.

willscourtney
The most bitchin' of Camaros: The Chevy Camaro SS Hot Wheels Edition.

Sam Bendall

willscourtney
I kind of feel like this review needs to be divided into two parts: one discussing the Camaro itself, and a second about the Hot Wheels package. Because the Camaro itself is great, but the Hot Wheels setup...

kylecheromcha
Yeah, let's start with the Hot Wheels stuff. BAH GAWD is it unsubtle.

willscourtney
I remember driving a previous version on the fifth-gen Camaro. At least that one had the decency to be a nice shade of blue.

kylecheromcha
The V-8 in the SS itself is loud, then you add a screaming orange paint job with a fat racing stripe...

[After-the-Fact-Check: The Hot Wheels package also adds Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary fender badges, unique wheels, orange brake calipers, and an orange-and-black interior scheme with more Hot Wheels touches.]

willscourtney
Is that how you get bad looks from Brooklyn hipsters, Barry? Yes it is, Other Barry. Yes it is.

kylecheromcha
Know what the paint is called?

willscourtney
No, what's the paint called?

kylecheromcha
Crush.

willscourtney
/giphy r.e.m.

GIPHY

kylecheromcha
Again, exactly zero f*cks given by this car.

willscourtney
"Guys, you know 'Orange Crush' is about the horrible pesticide that killed thousands during Vietnam, right?" "F*ck it, we're naming the paint that anyway!"

Sam Bendall

kylecheromcha
I feel like I'm dancing around the point. It's a really confused special trim—I really don't know who this is supposed to be marketed towards. Are there that many people who can afford a new Camaro who ALSO love Hot Wheels loud and proud?

willscourtney
Well, it's hardly the first time Chevy's done one of these special editions, so...I guess? I have to think most people who buy it do so because they like how loud and unsubtle it is, not necessarily because they traffic in Hot Wheels memorabilia. I could see plenty of well-to-do rednecks picking this thing up.

[After-the-Fact-Check: Chevrolet previously offered a Hot Wheels Special Edition on the 2013 Camaro 2LT and 2SS.]

kylecheromcha
I don't know, the exterior Hot Wheels badges make it seem kind of childish to me, rather than out-and-out "cool." I can see it with just the paint job, the orange seat belts, and maybe a custom set of alloys to make the wheels look more like the die-cast model.

willscourtney
I mean, the Hot Wheels badges are kind of subtle.

By NASCAR standards, at least.

Sam Bendall

kylecheromcha
To your Brooklyn hipster joke, we both drove this car around the borough. I actually parked it in Williamsburg, a.k.a. the artisanal mayonnaise capital of the world, for three nights and I did not make any friends. It's a very polarizing look, and you look polarizing climbing out of it. It's a car that invites instant snap judgments on the driver.

willscourtney
Oh, for sure. Any car with this paint job would do that, but the fact that it's a Camaro only adds to the assumptions people make.
In all honesty, I can see why people might go for this color scheme. It is brash, and if you want a Camaro for a fun car to stunt and floss in, it draws in eyes like nothing else.

But I really can't get my head around the price. $4,995. For the crazy paint, the orange-and-black interior and trim bits, and the toy car-looking wheels. And the Hot Wheels badges, of course. That's almost enough to jump from the 2LT V-6 version to the 1SS V-8 version.

kylecheromcha
/giphy that's too much

GIPHY

willscourtney
That GIF is hypnotic.

kylecheromcha
Cosmetic-only upgrade packages at that price point have never made a ton of sense to me (unless we're talking something with a small amount of functionality, like carbon fiber parts for weight savings), so I guess I'm not the most impartial judge here. It's just, man, it seems like such a frivolous addition. I'm not opposed to a Hot Wheels Camaro in principle. But I wanted this one to feel more special than it did.

willscourtney
It was special enough for me, considering it's basically designed to ape a tiny toy car. Which it does well enough. Especially thanks to the wheels, which look very much like the ones on a Hot Wheels car.

Sam Bendall

kylecheromcha
I disagree there.

willscourtney
/giphy them's fighting words

GIPHY

willscourtney
Explain your disagreement, sir

kylecheromcha

Redlinecollector.com

kylecheromcha
Those wheels. I wanted it to have those wheels. I know they were going for a similar look with modern flair, but it took me out of the illusion.

willscourtney
Those are the old, shitty knockoff Hot Wheels wheels.

willscourtney

Google


willscourtney
See that? That's not too far off from the 'Maro. Those ones you posted are basically crappy Porsche Fuchs rims.

kylecheromcha
Know your Hot Wheels history, William. Those are the original Redline wheels

[After-the-Fact-Check: The earliest Hot Wheels are known as "Redlines" thanks to their distinct red-striped wheels. Of the 16 models that launched the brand in 1968, the Custom Camaro was the first to be produced; surviving examples are worth thousands of dollars today.]

willscourtney
My name's not William, Kyleiam

kylecheromcha
From the 1968 launch year.

willscourtney
Also, I was always a Matchbox man myself

kylecheromcha
AKA, the 50th anniversary!

willscourtney
/giphy lah-tee-dah

GIPHY


kylecheromcha
/giphy milford man

GIPHY

And Buster moves to the kitchen.

willscourtney
Speaking of Matchbox—I'm shocked that Ford hasn't commissioned a Mustang Matchbox Edition by now.

kylecheromcha
The next front in the pony car war: life size die cast models.

willscourtney
But let's get back to the second point we wanted to make: Talking about the Camaro itself. Because every time I climb into one, I'm reminded how much I enjoy the driving experience. Not the view or the looks, necessarily, but damn if it doesn't drive soooooo well.

Sam Bendall

kylecheromcha
I was going to say, good segue into the car itself, which remains an absolute hoot with some of the worst ergonomics known to man.

willscourtney
It feels like you're inside a pillbox. Or steering the USS Monitor into battle.

kylecheromcha
I think the antique warship comparison is accurate. Partly because it feels unquestionably badass and particularly explosive. And partly because you can't see anything.

willscourtney
It's hard to argue with a modern-day smallblock.

kylecheromcha
That engine is phenomenal.

[After-the-Fact Check: The 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 puts out 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque.]

willscourtney
I'll go to my grave arguing for the merits of that LT1 V-8. The power is so accessible—always there, but never overwhelming. It sounds spectacular, especially at full welly. And it gets 30 mpg on the highway in the 'Vette.

kylecheromcha
It's got more character than J.K. Simmons, it's smooth, it's got gobs of power—you need nothing else in an engine.

I don't know if the Camaro has the cylinder deactivation of the 'Vette, but it's worth noting that driving around the city, 30 mpg will feel like the moon. It's not a realistic number. I certainly didn't give it a chance to run on four cylinders if it does.

willscourtney
The Camaro can't get 30 on its best day. The 'Vette can pull it off because a) it's light and b) it's slippery. But nobody buys Camaros for the gas mileage anyway.

kylecheromcha
The 'Maro is a chunkier thing.

[After-the-Fact Check: The 3,685-pound Camaro SS does indeed feature cylinder deactivation technology, but it never had a chance to kick in on the crowded streets and highways of New York, where the car hovered around 16 miles per gallon on average.]

Sam Bendall

willscourtney
They buy them because they look cool, first and foremost.

kylecheromcha
True.

willscourtney
A smaller subsection buys them because they're fast. And an even smaller subsection buys them because, as of this generation, it handles really well.

kylecheromcha
Better than the new Mustang? Which you just drove last month I believe.

willscourtney
My hands, brain, and butt say so. It's a bit apples and oranges comparing that Performance Pack 2 Mustang to this Camaro—that 'Stang is more comparable to an SS 1LE - but there's an inherent stability and strength in the Alpha platform and the Chevy's steering that's just not there in the Mustang.

Sam Bendall

willscourtney
The Camaro is, odd as it sounds, an incredible canyon carver. Especially for the price. Once you get used to how wide it is, and how hard it can be to place the corners of the car, seeing as how you can't see them at ALL. It's like trying to parallel park an aircraft carrier.

(Wow, I'm really leaning on the naval metaphors today.)

kylecheromcha
Military comparisons really work with the car's aggro philosophy.

willscourtney
/giphy aggro

GIPHY

kylecheromcha
But as for the Mustang, I think you're right. There's a tautness to the Alpha platform, whereas the Mustang feels just a bit looser overall.

That said, I'll take the cockpit of the Mustang over the Camaro any damn day.

willscourtney
I actually kind of enjoy the snug feel of the Camaro's insides.

kylecheromcha
It's not so much the snugness as the cheapness.

willscourtney 
You get that with the Mustang too, though. They're just cheap in different places.

kylecheromcha
HOLD ON

kylecheromcha

Ford

2018 Ford Mustang GT

kylecheromcha

Chevrolet

2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS (Note: Regular, non-Hot Wheels model shown)

kylecheromcha
First off, the steering wheel in the 'Stang is far cooler. Looking at the Mustang again it's not as interesting as the Camaro. But I think it's more cohesive and slightly more mature.

willscourtney
If you mean "retro-themed in order to appeal to the baby boomers who're the target audience and buying it for nostalgic reasons," then yes, "mature" is a good word.

The Camaro interior is way less cartoonish to me. Seems more like what a modern-day car should be. It's simpler, cleaner.

kylecheromcha
The integrated temperature control ring around the circular vents is a neat touch, I'll give you that. But again, it's got its weird points. One thing that kept bugging me was the lid to the center console storage bin, which you needed to lift to get to the USB ports. It's weirdly long, so you can't actually open it with just your right hand while driving, because it has to rise up to shoulder-dislocating heights before it will stay open without slamming itself shut as soon as you let go.

willscourtney
That's the case with any snug little sports car these days, though. I had the same problem in the McLaren 720S and the Mercedes-AMG GT R this week.
/giphy humblebrag

GIPHY

willscourtney
It's just a compromise that comes with the packaging.

Anyway, let's wrap things up. Final thoughts, on both the Camaro in general and the Hot Wheels Edition specifically?

Sam Bendall

kylecheromcha
Oh, do I have some.

willscourtney
/giphy anxiously waiting

GIPHY

kylecheromcha
The Chevrolet Camaro is pretty much the ultimate modern pony car with one of the best-sounding, most enjoyable V-8 engines out there. It shows that General Motors knows how to build a true performance machine, and given that it has the Corvette sitting on top of it, it's commendable that the company has dedicated the resources to keeping it in the game. In its top-flight ZL1 1LE trim, it just might be one of the most capable track monsters out there. Also, magnetorheological dampers are freaking magic.

HOWEVER

I think Chevrolet did itself a disservice with the Hot Wheels Special Edition. Yeah, it's fun to drive around in something that looks like a life size Hot Wheels car - for approximately ten minutes. After that, the annoyed looks from passersby and the way NO ONE will let you merge in start to get old. It also seems like a cheap way for GM to cash in on the 50th anniversary of Hot Wheels, because they could have done countless other things beside a few cosmetic tweaks to make this special. At the same time, given how the 2019 Camaro is going in a...different visual direction, I have a feeling these last-of-the-bunch 2018 models are going to be collectible one day, and the Hot Wheels Special Edition even more so.

Sam Bendall

willscourtney
I definitely get the sense that the Hot Wheels Edition is very, very much not aimed at the likes of you and me. Both in the sense that we're automotive journalists who drive everything and thus can  (indeed, are paid to) have strong opinions about cars...and in the fact that we're coastal elitists who live in places where a burnt orange Camaro with Hot Wheels badges would be seen as gauche, rather than neat. This is not a car for those who view life ironically.  I could, however, in other parts of the country where people are less judgmental about appearance, how folks who have a soft spot for the toys of their youth—or alternately, folks with young kids who like Hot Wheels, and see this as a way to connect with them—would like this car.

It is, after all, a sixth-gen Camaro beneath all that, so once you accept and process all the Mattel paraphernalia, it's still a ton of fun to drive. It hauls ass in a straight line and in corners, and it sounds spectacular. It packs some of the best GM chassis and powertrain engineering available into a car that can be bought for $40K. I see your point about this special edition potentially being a disservice to itself...but I'm honestly not sure how they could have done it any better, given the car, the audience, and the mission brief. Other than charging waaaaaaay less than $5k for it.

kylecheromcha
We'll see in the sales! Or rather, we won't, because they don't break down individual trims.

Sam Bendall

willscourtney
On that note...
/giphy chevrolet camaro hot wheels

GIPHY

kylecheromcha
Oh yes, it's good at that.

 

The 2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS Hot Wheels Edition, By the Numbers

Price (as Tested): $46,995 ($49,485)*

Powertrain: 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 engine; 455 horsepower, 455 pound-feet of torque; six-speed manual transmission with optional eight-speed paddle-shift automatic; rear-wheel drive

Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway/19 mpg combined

0-60 MPH: 4.0 seconds (Car & Driver testing)

Top Speed: 165 mph

Number of Times Another Driver Sped Up To Prevent a Safe Merge for No Reason Other than Mindless Jealousy: 9