By LEN INGRASSIA

Arcadian Auto Editor

American pony cars have come a long way in performance since the 1960s. And one constant has been the rivalry between top contenders, especially in the last decade, with domestic automakers cramming unreal metal under the hood of the Dodge Challenger Hellcat (717-797 hp), the Ford Mustang Shelby GT (760 hp), and Chevy’s Camaro ZL1 (650 hp).

With pricey mega-horsepower turbo-charged V-8s the norm, there is good news: you can have a piece of history with a variety of engine choices in the 2019 Camaro, which stickers at the top end at about $62,000. But more affordable choices remain available for this sixth-generation classic.

Pros:

Powerful engines

Restyled sheet metal

Updated infotainment

Cons:

Poor visibility

Little cargo space

Front seats need more support

Camaro is available in four trim levels (LS, LT, SS and ZL1), with base prices ranging from $25,000 to $62,000. Engine choices include a turbo four-cylinder, a peppy V-6, a 6.2 liter V-8 on the Super Sport, and a turbocharged V-8 producing 650 horsepower for the mind-blowing ZL1.

Our test car for the week was the SS model powered by the same engine as the ZL1 minus the turbocharger and mated with a new 10-speed automatic transmission. With 455 hp, the ride was exhilarating with throw-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration and a throaty exhaust note.

We found the 10-speed trannie has some unique features, seamlessly moving through the first five or so gears for casual city driving, for instance. And just a little pedal in sport or track modes starts the downshifting ... and half way down there is some serious power being sent to rear-mounted 20-inch summer tires. There is more power if you punch it, but don’t be surprised when you let up and the gear holds with exhaust crackling. Carried over from the ZL1, the feature is said to prevent unrestricted upshifts/downshifts during “enthusiastic” driving conditions.

In our independent testing, the SS reached 60 mph in 4.8 seconds (12.2-second quarter-miles, or about 118 mph). The eight-speed transmission is still available with four- and six-cylinder trim levels.

The SS also stands out with new fascia front and rear that some automotive trade observers say goes too far. It is noticeable compared with other trim levels and includes re-designed headlights recessed into a much larger grille with jutting molds on either side. Rear tail lamps have also been tweaked to a more classic look.

Inside the Camaro is a nice place to be once firmly in place, although getting there requires some maneuvering. Front legroom is ample but our convertible trunk was tiny at 7.3 cubic feet. To the dismay of many garage owners, the new Camaro has discontinued wireless home-link transmitters that activate devices like garage-door openers, gates and locks. An updated infotainment system is standard with a seven-inch touchscreen, as is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. A performance data and video-recorder is optional, as is a Bose audio system.

Safety gear includes forward collision alert, blindspot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors.

Camaro’s refinements have thrust it into true sports car status this year as it inches in sales toward Ford’s top-selling Mustang. But drive them both along with the Challenger before making your deal.

Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at lenscarcorner@comcast.net

2019 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible

Price: Base-tricked out, $25,000-$62,000

Engine: 6.2-liter V-8, 455 horsepower

EPA mileage: 16 city, 27 highway

Assembled: Lansing-Grand River, Mich.; U.S./Canadian parts content, unknown; country of origin, engine and transmission, U.S.

Crash test ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Camaro its second highest rating of four stars overall with five stars for small and moderate overlap, head restraints and seats and roof strength. Front-crash protection testing was not done since the Camaro does not offer automatic braking. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives Camaro its highest rating of “Good” in small and moderate overlap crash protection, side and head restraints. Roof strength was rated as “Acceptable.”

Warranty: 3-year/36,000-mile basic; 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain

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