2011 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS
What do you call something that arises from the dead—two times?
Chevrolet Camaro convertible, that’s what.
Twice canceled during the General Motors foray into and out of bankruptcy, the Camaro convertible was resuscitated and now joins its coupe sibling for the folks who yearn for the golden days of stylish, high-performance pony cars.
Fortunately for its enthusiasts, it hews to the formula that enabled the coupe version in 2010, its first year on the market, to outsell its main rival, the Ford Mustang.That was despite the fact that the Camaro had been absent from the market for eight years while the Mustang gamely motored on. With the convertible now available, it should do even better.
The 2011 Camaro mimics, in a thoroughly modern fashion, the original models from 1967-1969. The convertible has classic proportions: long hood, short rear deck, minimal back seat and plenty of flair. It has a fabric top—none of that articulated metal stuff here—and you have to physically install and remove the tonneau cover, which stores in a bag in the trunk.
Though it takes a bit of fiddling, the cover fits flush with the rear deck, giving the Camaro convertible sleek lines that, from the side view, are interrupted only by the headrests. It is one of those drop tops that looks way better with the top down than up.
Keeping things simple, there are two engines and two transmissions: a 426-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 and a 312-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6. Either is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.If you order the six, you can pick from the 1LT or 2LT trim; the eight comes as a 1SS or 2SS. There’s also an optional RS package that includes 20-inch aluminum wheels, high-intensity headlights, a rear spoiler and special taillights. Prices range from $30,000 to $40,500 without options.
Because it was designed from the start as an open car—not simply a Camaro coupe with the top chopped off—the convertible exhibits few of the bugaboos that sometimes infect fabric topped cars. Mainly, that means there is minimal so-called cowl shake, that wiggling of the steering column felt on rough roads.
The test car was the 2SS with the V8 engine, which is the hottest setup in the short Camaro lineup, and the automatic transmission. For comparison purposes, the six-speed manual model also was briefly driven.
It should be reserved for hard-core fans. The clutch engagement was grabby and abrupt, to the point where it was easy to kill the engine, and the shift linkage was stiff—no doubt to handle the engine’s massive 410 foot-pounds of torque, or twisting force. No doubt the shifter will loosen up with time, but why bother when the automatic transmission works so seamlessly?
Though most drivers likely will drive in the automatic mode, the transmission does have a manual-shift mode. However, there are no shift paddles on the steering wheel, as with most manual-shifting automatics. Manual shifts are accomplished with the shifter or wimpy buttons on the back of the steering wheel.
The Camaro convertible is a big car, nearly 16 feet long and weighing more than two tons. Still, it handles competently, thanks to a suspension system and steering that are biased toward sports-car handling. The tradeoff, not surprisingly, is a choppy ride on rough surfaces.Despite its high beltline and vertically narrow windows, visibility is reasonable all around, even with the top up. With the top down, there’s a panoramic view of the surroundings. Because of the bulk of the back seats and trunk behind the driver, wind buffeting is minimal. Should you want even more serenity, an anti-buffeting screen is available.
The front bucket seats are comfortable but could use more lateral support. Located on the console forward of the shifter are gauges that display oil pressure, oil temperature, volts and transmission temperature, but they are mostly unnecessary and difficult to read anyway because of reflected glare.
The convertible top fits tightly and has enough insulation to block out most road and wind noise. It operates electrically, with just one handle to secure it. With the top up, however, the two-person back seat offers head room only for children and small adults. Moreover, even to seat someone back there, the driver and front passenger must move their seats way forward.
Update: The Eco version of the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan also now is available. With a six-speed manual gearbox, it manages EPA city/highway fuel consumption ratings of 28/42 miles to the gallon with the six-speed manual gearbox.
The numbers were validated in a run from Los Angeles to San Diego. At freeway speeds mostly around 75 miles an hour, with no attempt to feather-foot the throttle, the tested Eco managed 44 miles to the gallon.
Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 138 horsepower. For buyers who want to remain shiftless, a six-speed automatic transmission has been added. It has an EPA rating of 26/37 miles to the gallon. Eco prices start at $18,895.