First Drive: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible

Roy Ritchie

Back in the French Quarter later that evening, a street performer named Stick's (he insists on the apostrophe) also speaks of the need for communal responsibility. He is selling CDs to help children in the Iberville housing project. Or maybe he's a con man who cheated us out of $20. The sun is setting and music is already thumping as the bars open their doors for the night's debauchery. With a maze of one-way streets and police barricades, the Quarter is a nightmarish place to drive. We take advantage of our snail's pace by making a racket. Automatic-equipped SS convertibles need a slightly modified exhaust to hide the sound of cylinder deactivation, but our stick-shifted car requires only a blip of the throttle to send sweet pushrod V-8 music resonating through the balconies, the occasional pop-pop of overrun turning heads once more. "You know what this city is based on?" Stick's asks rhetorically -- before he takes our $20 without handing us a CD. "This city is based on music."

Having seen the miles upon miles of still-fresh devastation, we wonder how true his statement is. You might also wonder how a zaftig, impractical convertible really helps GM. Indeed, the jazz players, the cuisine, and the charming shysters of the French Quarter won't save New Orleans any more than a throwback muscle car will save GM, but that's OK. If you want to get a realistic picture of General Motors and New Orleans, rent a Chevy Cruze from Avis and drive east toward Saint Bernard Parish. That won't tell you why each entity was worth saving, but we will: the jazz bands, the gumbo, the French Quarter characters, and the top-down, dumped-clutch, tire-squealing thrill of the Camaro convertible.

2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible

PRICE: $37,500/$42,380 (base/as tested)

Powertrain
ENGINE: 16-valve OHV V-8
DISPLACEMENT: 6.2 liters (376 cu in)
HORSEPOWER: 426 hp @ 5900 rpm
TORQUE: 420 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
DRIVE: Rear-wheel

Chassis
STEERING: Hydraulically assisted, rack-and-pinion
SUSPENSION, FRONT: Strut-type, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR: Multilink, coil springs
BRAKES: Vented discs, ABS
TIRES: Pirelli PZero
TIRE SIZE F, R: 245/45YR-20, 275/40YR-20

Measurements
L x W x H: 190.4 x 75.5 x 54.7 in
WHEELBASE: 112.3 in
TRACK F/R: 63.7/63.7 in
WEIGHT: 4116 lb
FUEL MILEAGE: 16/24 MPG (EST.)

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