Most people love a convertible, and Chevrolet’s new 2011 Camaro convertible should satisfy many soft-top lovers.
That is, unless they don’t mind a rear seat suitable just for kids and a rather small trunk with a high opening that gets even smaller when the top is lowered.
Convertibles long have been more expensive than coupes, and the base Camaro convertible starts at $29,150 with a V-6 and goes to $39,650 for the top-line 2SS V-8 version, which I tested with a manual transmission. My 2SS V-8 model cost $42,145.
In contrast, a base Camaro V-6 coupe lists at $22,680 and the top-line V-8 coupe is $34,395, without options.
The convertible actually looks a little better than the handsome retro-styled coupe—even with the top up. The top seems to operate more slowly than it should, and the tonneau top cover is fiddly to install. I’d guess that many Camaro convertible owners won’t bother with the tonneau cover much of the time.
Like all Camaros ever built, the Camaro convertible has rear-wheel drive. It also has a decent amount of comfort, convenience and safety equipment, including air conditioning and the usual power accessories. Safety items include air bags, stability and traction control and anti-lock brakes.
The 3.6-liter V-6 actually is a pretty good deal, developing 312 horsepower horsepower –an 8 horsepower increase from last year. The 6.2-liter V-8 socks out 400 horsepower with a six-speed automatic transmission and 426 horsepower with a six-speed manual. It’s set way back in the engine compartment for good weight distribution.
The short-throw manual shifts crisply, without much effort, but the long-throw clutch is moderately heavy and a bother in stop-and-go traffic. Fifth and sixth gears were worthless for quick passing on freeways and highways. Fourth gear was good for fast passing, but third gear was even better. Still, it seemed a bother to have to shift from sixth to several lower gears when a fast pass was needed.
Estimated fuel economy is pretty good for the V-8 model, at 16 mpg in the city and 24 on highways. You should be able to easily get 26 mpg on highways if the car is left in overdrive sixth gear at 65-70 mph.
The V-6 delivers approximately 18 mpg in the city and city and 29 on open roads. It only requires regular unleaded gas, although Chevy says the V-8 calls for premium fuel for increased performance.
The wide Camaro convertible is a big, heavy car despite its small back seat and marginal trunk. In fact, it’s quite a bit heavier than the rival Mustang convertible, which makes the Mustang a little more fun to drive because it’s lighter on its feet.
However, the Camaro convertible feels more solid than the Mustang soft top, thanks to lots of rigid bracing and such. It’s approximately several hundred pounds heavier than the Camaro coupe. But, though a bit slower than the coupe, the Camaro convertible feels as if it has equal, if not better, handling with all its extra bracing.
My test car’s steering was quick and firm, but rather numb. The firm ride, though, was supple, although it had a “performance” suspension and extra-wide wheels and tires. The brake pedal had a nice linear feel and the car’s superb four-piston Brembo performance brakes stopped it quickly and surely
Wide, heavy doors with large handles allow easy entry to the convertible’s stylish interior, but can be a problem in tight spaces. The cockpit is pretty quiet thanks to a thick, sound-absorbent roof headliner. Even the hood’s inside cover holds down noise levels.
Front seats should offer a little more side support during brisk cornering, and bright sunlight make the hooded main gauges difficult to read. But there are small, nifty auxiliary console gauges, just like on the classic 1969 Camaro Z-28muscle car.
Climate controls have an unorthodox design but are easily operated. However there’s little interior storage space, with small door pockets and a small covered console storage bin. At least the rear quarter windows roll down now.
Happily, the pleasant Camaro convertible turns out to be virtually all it was expected to be.
Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times–far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008. For of Dan’s thoughtful and insightful reviews please visit his web site HERE.
Check out how the Camaro convertible lost its radio antenna below: