Imagine my surprise when I spotted the unique tail lights of a 2014 Camaro in the line of otherwise beige appliance rental cars in the aisle - I quickened my pace to claim dibs on the Camaro. I gave the car a quick walk around… Temp tags and 465 miles on the ticker - all mine.

(Please pardon the potato camera (Samsung G-CG) photos – I wasn’t planning to land a car worthy of a review on this trip, and the gloomy weather doesn’t help. Thanks to Alex Murel for the headline image with the badge.)

Exterior: 6/10

I’ve always had a hard time grocking the Camaro styling. Sure, I get the cartoon-like exaggerated style necessary for the ‘muscle car’ scene, but I wasn’t feeling it – meh. Maybe it was the ‘Ashen Gray’ paint or dreary Nashville weather. Props on the aggressive front clip, and overall proportions. Demerits on the fake louvers on the rear quarter and the awkward trunk entry. Parallel parking this 6’4” wide car was more difficult than it should have been thanks to the wide haunches and narrow side-view mirrors. Outward visibility is terrible – no surprises here.

Interior: 6/10

OK, granted it’s a rental car so I can understand the standard-grade surface materials, but the interior doesn’t feel appropriately proportioned/synthesized. I couldn’t get the seat/wheel/pedals adjusted to the right configuration to make me feel like I was ‘comfortable’.

Acceleration: 7/10

The 323HP mill wastes no time letting you know it’s ready for action. The aggressive start-up burble and quick throttle response are right on point. Whacking open the throttle results in a swift and spirited sprint above unlawful speeds. Despite it’s heft, the Camaro moves out…

Check out the interesting integrated cylinder head and exhaust manifold...

Braking: 7/10

The brakes on the 2014 Camaro V6 are damn good. Unfortunately, they suffer from slight overboost which results in a grabby pedal feel. Considering how new the car is, they were grabbier than I would have expected (green pads with minimal bedding-in). Still, they shed some serious speed off of the 3900 lb car (including driver) in a hurry.

Ride: 7/10

I am thankful that the Detroit automakers have tightened up the suspension on their late-model cars. Long gone are the floaty feeling cars that would porpoise down the highway. The Camaro suspension calibration is taught and controls body motion well, but there is some impact harshness transmitted through the chassis into the cabin. It’s a fine balance. I am guessing that the entry level Camaro is devoid of extra sound deadening found on the higher trim levels. I would have expected more ride comfort considering the 1LT has 18” wheels with 245/55R18 tires wrapped around them.

Handling: 6/10

Granted it started to rain (downpour) shortly after I hit the road and I couldn’t really fully explore the handling performance envelope of the 1LT Camaro. However, I can tell you that the steering was a little slow on turn-in in the dry and made the car feel heavier than it’s sub-4000 lb curb weight. The Camaro handled the heavy rain with aplomb.

Gearbox: 6/10

Why in the hell auto manufacturers insist on providing flappy paddles on torque converter driven automatic transmission equipped cars is beyond me. I blame Chrysler, because they started this bullshit with their ‘AutoStick’ on the Intrepid/300M. It’s essentially an automatic transmission that lets the driver request a gear selection. The engine/trans controllers rev-match and select gears and make non-enthusiast drivers feel like Parnelli Jones, but the truth is that it’s a gimmick. PERIOD. OK, so the calibration on the Camaro is well executed and the rev matching was quick and deliberate, but it’s STILL STUPID. The sport mode is calibrated well enough for the car to be driven in Automatic up to 9/10ths without manual shifting, so let’s just save the flappy paddles for DCT equipped cars, mmmkay ?

Toys: 6/10

GM included some neat toys on the programmable dash, but they will be just toys to 98% of Camaro 1LT V6 drivers. Lap Timer ? Seriously ? I get the oil temperature/pressure, coolant temperature, and battery charge… Lap Timer ? Nope.

Audio: 6/10

The MyLink entertainment system is adequate. Of course it’s a rental, so no NAV (they like to charge extra for that), but the interface and menus are logical and only take a few seconds of fiddling to navigate. The sound system is… well… basic. It can get loud but like most OEM radio systems, it lacks crisp high frequency response even though it has tweeters in the mirror flags on the door.

Value: 8/10

No doubt you do get a lot of performance for less than $30K in this 2014 Camaro V6. It is a hoot to drive and will certainly put a smile on many peoples’ faces. The thing is that for all the performance, I couldn’t get over the nits I had with the car. We’ll see if my impression changes tomorrow, but I’m not holding my breath.

TOTAL: 65/100 (and that’s probably a gift)