First Drive: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible

Roy Ritchie

The mostly empty two-lane road follows the gently meandering waterline -- about as close to a handling course as we'll find in this part of Louisiana. GM boasts that the convertible's platform, fortified with braces across the front strut tower and the transmission tunnel, has better torsional stiffness than that of a BMW 3-series droptop. It also still carries its flab fairly evenly, with a 52/48 weight distribution. That means the coupe and the convertible can share the same suspension setup, retuned slightly in both models to reduce understeer. Whether it's those tweaks or merely the power of suggestion, the Camaro does seem livelier. Thundering down one of the lazy bends at about 80 mph, the Camaro responds readily to throttle adjustments, even shrugging its hips gently at the lift of the gas pedal. The primary problem the Camaro has in the twisties remains one of perception. It simply feels too big and bulky to dance in corners like a true sports car. Rumor has it that the closely related Holden Commodore will soon receive increased aluminum parts content in an effort to lose weight. Let's hope the Camaro, which was engineered largely in Australia, will also benefit from that diet.

As we head out of Delacroix and start back toward the city, we finally submit to Old Man Winter and close the cloth roof. For about five minutes. It's not that there's anything wrong with the top-up experience. In fact, it's extremely quiet for a ragtop, and sight lines are no worse than the coupe's. No, the problem is that the attention and excitement that come with driving al fresco in a car so fast, sexy, and unapologetically masculine are dangerously addictive to the male ego. So, down goes the top at the next stop sign -- any faster than a crawl and it doesn't operate -- off goes the traction control, and on comes the classic rock. A dumped clutch, a nailedthrottle, and some opposite lock later, we're fishtailing back west toward the city to the competing sounds of V-8 roar and Jethro Tull. With all due respect to the jazz band that performed in the car for a photo, this is Camaro music.

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