One Week With: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible V-6

The sweet spot we’ve been waiting for

Pity the V-6 Pony car. The cut-rate, budget-friendly Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger have long been the butt of many an enthusiasts' joke, perpetually seen as the lesser, socially-awkward little brother to the eight-cylinder star. Breaking with longstanding tradition, Chevrolet followed the Ford Mustang with a new tri-level powertrain lineup for its bread-and-butter 2016 Camaro models, slotting the six-cylinder Camaro as the middle child between the base four-cylinder and the V-8.

We were puzzled by this new stratification; why would someone willingly divvy-up extra cash for a six-cylinder Camaro? If buyers simply desire the appearance of owning a Camaro, why not settle for the base coupe with a 2.0-liter turbo four-banger? To untangle this question, we spent a week behind the wheel of a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible V-6.

Following the launch of the 2015 Ford Mustang, Ford continued to suppress its V-6 model, leaving it as the de facto entry-level Mustang and reserving the mid-level 2.3-Liter turbocharged four-pot for the eco-curious. Chevy flipped this formula around, offering a 2.0-liter turbo-four as the base engine and massaging the 3.6-liter V-6 for the mid-range offering.

This LGX V-6 is new for 2016. Much like the departed LFX V-6 from the 2012-2015 Camaro, it shares a home in a range of Cadillacs, a Buick, and the new GMC Acadia. Buyers who make the conscious decision to jump from the 2.0-liter find themselves with a fistful of extra gumption; torque dips from 295 lb-ft to 284, but power jumps by 60 hp to 335. This means the middle-child collects 60 mph in the low five-second range and scoots down the quarter-mile strip in the high-13-second range.

The naturally aspirated engine delivers satisfying thrust, spinning to redline quickly. You'll be doing this often; power is peaky, arriving toward the end of the rev-range. Don't think this makes it a chore to drive around town, however. What power is available from a standstill allows for easy merging; when equipped with the six-speed manual, the revs are managed easily.

When you do reach the upper echelon of the tachometer, you're in for a treat — as long as you sprung for the optional dual-mode exhaust; here, the sound of the V-6 is reminiscent of the Jaguar F-Type's. It's a raspy, warbling tone that sounds unlike any other V-6 pony car we've come across. Our only gripe is the exhaust valve only opens up toward the top of the tachometer; even in the Sport setting, the V-6 is muted during regular driving. The SS packs a more customizable exhaust with an extra "Track" mode that seems to wedge the valves fully open, a feature we hope to see offered for the V-6 in the near future.

Out on backroads, the low-rent Camaro is as composed and balanced as we have come to expect of cars riding on GM's spectacular Alpha platform. Despite lacking the needle sharpness of the mighty SS, the Camaro drop-top was competently capable. Essentially, despite the convertible roof, the Camaro V-6 did not feel too far removed from a Camaro SS, sans two cylinders (and buyers who spring for the new track-ready 1LE package will essentially have the SS chassis, just with V-6 power). Regardless, screaming around Michigan backroads in this convertible was the most fun we've had in any Camaro lacking the big-boy powertrain.

As an enthusiasts' car, the V-6 is a bit of a bargain. For the new generation, Chevrolet pushed the base price of the V-8 SS close to the $40,000 mark. A base V-6 can be had for closer to $30,000 and can be outfitted with all manner of go-fast hardware like bigger brakes and stiffer suspension. Ours arrived with the dual-mode exhaust, grabby Brembo brakes, and RS package, which added handsome sport wheels and a set of more aggressive tires. As equipped, ours was a hair over $40,000.

Not since perhaps the Mustang SVO from the mid-1980s has a non-eight-cylinder pony car offered such an attractive package for enthusiasts. If you don't have the extra cash to plunk down for the 6.2-liter, don't fret. This V-6 hits a satisfyingly gutsy, hard-charging, and sonorous sweet-spot.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro V-6 Convertible Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $35,190 (base)
Engine: 3.6L DOHC 24-valve V-6/335 hp @ 6,800 rpm, 284 lb-ft @ 5,300 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Layout: 2-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible
EPA Mileage: 18/27 city/highway
L x W x H: 188.3 x 74.7 x 53.1 in
Wheelbase: 110.7 in
Weight: 3,800 lb (est. )
0-60 MPH: 5.2 sec (est. )
Top Speed: N/A
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