When I was handed the keys to the 2010 Chevy Camaro SS, no one told me I needed to keep in touch with the control tower when I operated it.

I mean, every time I went somewhere in this little Lear, I felt guilty for not filing a flight plan.

I thought the 304-horsepower Camaro V-6 I had driven earlier was a quickaroo. That guy went from zero to 60 in a rapid 5.9 seconds.

But powered as it is by a 426-horse, 6.2-liter V-8 that's really a Corvette engine with forged papers, the SS vaults to 60 in a breath-depriving 4.8 seconds.

Inevitably, the most muscular muscle car in the Camaro corral has a price tag to match. It starts at $33,725, which is a little over $10,000 more than the base V-6 model ($22,680). But for that buck, you are getting a handsome, nicely accessorized sport coupe that will blow the doors off sporting machines costing twice as much.

Indeed, making the gas pedal hobnob with carpet fibers engenders a mixture of G forces and operatic bass that takes you back four decades to the muscle car's heyday. It's a powerful, macho growl that reverberates in your marrow.

But while it looks and books like its '60s forebears, the 2010 is really a very modern interpretation of those muscle cars of yore. It boasts a sophisticated independent suspension instead of the hay-wagon undercarriage found beneath the old Mr. Muscles. In addition to the quantum leap in handling prowess produced by the sporty suspension, the new Camaro has all the modern safety technology the oldies didn't have.

The brisk-selling Camaro was resurrected this year after an eight-year interment. Its initial 35-year tenure had expired in 2002, when management decided the aging sport coupe's sales didn't justify the cost of a redesign. But when the GM brain trust saw how well Ford was doing with its retro 2005 Mustang, it decided to field a nostalgic nifty of its own.

The new Camaro's styling does, in fact, borrow heavily from the 1969 model. If we were to ask Philadelphia detectives to find out why the '69 model was chosen, they would doubtless discover that Ed Wellborn, the former Philadelphian who serves as GM's design chief, drives a like-new '69 Camaro.

While there are styling elements from the old car, like the muscular haunches, the new Camaro design includes a lot of fresh business - I'm thinking particularly of the lip over the grille and headlights that gives it a hooded, predatory look.

The SS tester had its share of pluses. Its powerful engine was buttoned to a slick, nicely geared six-speed manual transmission. (A six-speed automatic is optional.) The car's handling and steering were superb. And while that engine will growl when rousted, it's a calm cruiser. Couple that with little in the way of wind and road noise, and you have a very civil drive down I-95.

Stopping this fast car proved no problem, thanks to the big rotors and discs provided by Brembo, a name synonymous with high-performance brakes.

The SS boasted relatively good mileage for a car this powerful (16 city and 24 highway).

I also liked the SS's interior design, well-bolstered, supportive seats, and its intuitively placed instruments and controls.

The car's minuses included the diminished visibility prompted by its high beltline and low roof. Also, the doors were large and heavy.

But what I liked least about the tester was a $995 package that made this car a "Transformers Special Edition." The package of assorted cosmetics, intended to cash in on the Camaro's role in the Transformers film, included a Transformers decal on the hood blister. Personally, I would rather stick pins in my eyes than spend $995 to advertise someone else's movie.

As much as I enjoyed the SS, I think the V-6 is a better value. It is cheaper, gets much better gas mileage (18 city and 29 highway), and boasts a techy V-6 originally used in Cadillacs that develops 304 horsepower, only 11 less than the V-8 in the Mustang GT.

Good

2010 Chevy Camaro SS

Base price: $33,725.

As tested (including shipping): $38,085.

Standard gear: 6.2-liter engine, six-speed manual gearbox, dual exhausts, high-performance suspension and brakes, a long line of luxury and safety equipment.

Options: Includes a sunroof, high-intensity headlights, and the "Transformers Special Edition" package.

Fuel economy: 16 city

and 24 highway.

Engine performance: Gargantuan.

Handling: Excellent.

Comfort: Surprisingly good.

Styling: Nice job.

Warranty: Three years / 36,000 miles bumper to bumper.

The Ben Key: Four Bens, excellent; Three Bens,

good; Two Bens, fair;

One Ben, poor.

EndText

Contact Al Haas

at Alhaasauto@aol.com.