After being delayed for a while because of GM’s whole bankruptcy/bailout thing, the Camaro convertible is finally here, completing the reborn Camaro lineup.
A convertible had been planned for the Camaro from the beginning, so the car was engineered for a topless existence. Still, the convertible does require extra bracing, including a large strut tower brace under the hood. Chevrolet engineers boast that the car is so structurally stiff that they did not have to soften the suspension for the convertible version, as is often done for convertibles. But maybe they should have.
The firm-riding Camaro SS convertible I just spent a week with exhibited plenty of body jiggle over patchy pavement. And despite the Camaro’s independent rear suspension, this car can hop sideways when it encounters a bump mid-corner. The steering, though, is nicely accurate and has natural effort levels. The deep-dished wheel has a strangely shaped rim that’s not terribly comfortable to hold, but I did love the design and function of the audio system controls on the spokes.
The big, 6.2-liter OHV V-8 in the Camaro SS isn’t exactly quick-revving, but it ultimately makes so much brutish power (426 hp, with the manual transmission) that it gets the job done. Its deep exhaust rumble can be somewhat droning on the highway but you’ve gotta love the crackle and pop when you lift off the throttle. I only encountered the six-speed manual’s obnoxious 1st-to-4th skip-shift once during my entire time with the car, which is a lot less than in the Camaro SS coupe I drove a few months ago — maybe I was booting the accelerator more aggressively with this car (the skip-shift only asserts itself during gentle acceleration). In other respects, I was less pleased with the stick shift this time, as the clutch seemed heavy and shift action less fluid.
Chevrolet designers were able to get the convertible’s soft top to very nearly match the profile of coupe’s rakish roofline, which means that the convertible is every bit as handsome as its hardtop sibling. This is a car that gets a lot of attention and a lot of compliments. But as in the Camaro coupe, the good looks come at a price. With the top up, the convertible suffers the same claustrophobia and tough outward visibility through its slit-like windows as does the coupe. And even with the top down, the high beltline and steeply raked windshield diminish somewhat the open-air feeling.
Putting the top down requires untwisting a central latch before activating the adjacent power top switch. Like many of the better-designed convertibles today, the top stacks neatly enough in its well that one doesn’t really need to bother attaching the soft boot — which is good, because I never did. The lowered top does eat up some of the trunk space, and the trunk isn’t that big to begin with (there’s a divider thing so you know not to put luggage in its way).
Having the top down sheds more light onto the otherwise cave-like interior, and that may not be a good thing, because it exposes all the hard, grained plastic found on the dash, console, and door panels of even the uplevel 2SS model. The retro dash design, however, with its deep-set squared-off gauges, is pretty cool. Some people have criticized the location of the auxiliary gauges down on the console, but that’s a nod to the original car and the fact that those gauges are not in your direct line of vision doesn’t really matter because it’s not stuff you need to obsessively monitor anyway. Once again, I loved the head-up display (which is standard on the 2SS); it’s even more useful in the convertible, because the radio display washes out in the sunlight.
As with the coupe, the Camaro convertible offers a whole lot of performance and style for not a whole lot of money ($37,500, for a base SS). If you like the coupe, you’ll like the convertible at least as much, and if you don’t like the coupe, the convertible probably won’t tip the balance. Its crosstown rival, the Ford Mustang GT, is probably a bit easier to live with on a daily basis, but that won’t matter one bit if you’re someone who likes the Camaro better or, maybe more importantly, someone who lusted after the original Camaro and not the original Mustang.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible
Base price: $40,500 (2SS)
Price as tested: $41,700
6-speed manual transmission
Limited slip differential
4-wheel disc brakes, ABS
Stabilitrak w/traction control
6-month OnStar subscription (directions & connections, automatic crash response, and turn-by-turn navigation)
Power steering/brakes/windows/door locks/mirrors/driver’s seat/convertible top
Halogen headlamps w/auto on/off
Ultrasonic rear park assist
20″ aluminum wheels
Dual exhaust w/polished exhaust tips
8-speaker Boston Acoustics audio system w/CD player, aux input, USB port, satellite radio, 10-inch subwoofer, and steering-wheel controls
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
Leather seating surfaces
Heated front seats
Options on this vehicle:
– HID headlamps with halo ring
– RS specific tail lamps
– 20″ x 8″ front and 20″ x 9″ rear midnight silver aluminum wheels
Key options not on vehicle:
21″ wheels package
Synergy Series Special Edition 2
Interior accent trim package
Ground effects package
16 / 19 / 24 mpg
Horsepower: 426 hp @ 5900 rpm
Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Curb weight: 4116 lb
20 x 8 in (front), 20 x 9 in (rear)
275/40ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero tires
Competitor: Ford Mustang GT convertible