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Old 02-18-2011, 12:27 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Winding Road's 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible SS Review


Driven: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible SS

—San Diego, California

Ever since the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro hit dealer forecourts for the 2010 model year, we have wanted—truly tried—to love the thing. What car guy wouldn’t?

That new version of the Chevy’s evergreen pony car not only offered V-8 and V-6 engines that could put a hurt’n on cross-town rival Mustang, but also took handling very seriously, with the result being something much closer to an honest-to-god sports car than the nameplate had ever been before. What’s more, the movie-star good looks made anyone who approached the thing predisposed to want to like it (no matter how much the let-down interior dissuaded you after you sat down behind the wheel).

Our problem was, is, and always will be that the rakish roofline, high beltline, and tiny glasshouse of the car—all combined with a seating position that has one’s posterior nearly scraping terra firma—meant that seeing while driving was a bit of an issue. Visibility ranks pretty highly on or list of needs for a good driver’s car and the Camaro’s tomblike vision meant that we were never truly confident when pushing the otherwise excellent car.

Thank the motoring gods, then, that Chevy finally came to its senses and chopped Camaro’s top. Heading into our first Camaro Convertible drive in stunning San Diego, we had nothing but high hopes that the ‘vert conversion was going to be just the ticket for justifying our love.

There’s no real point for a dramatic build up here; anyone can see from the pictures (or logically conclude) that there’s a wild increase in visibility and subsequent confidence on-road, thanks to that convertible top. We pushed the pony car for hundreds of miles on mountain and desert roads that varied from widely sweeping, to tightly bent, and can safely report that this is a transformed vehicle. The high, rising hood line and low seating position still had us guessing a bit as to the exact position of the Camaro front end at speed, but the forward lateral view has been opened sufficiently to allow for far better cornering confidence, as well as passing behavior on tight two-lanes. Raise the remarkably quiet-at-speed soft top and you’re back in the cave, we’ll grant you, but convertibles are meant to be driven with the top stowed, say we.

The convertible top is an almost entirely automated affair—release one central mounted ceiling latch by hand and then it’s push-button-go all the way down. Just a little less than twenty seconds is needed to put the thing up or down. That’s not including the time needed to pack on the labor-intensive tonneau cover over the dropped top—a process that Chevy handlers did their best to keep us hacks away from because of its sheer fussiness. In fairness, the Mustang’s cover is a hand job of similar difficulty, and the Ford’s convertible top takes two latches to undo, instead of one. The other really direct convertible competitor, Nissan’s 370Z Roadster, has a fully automated hatch to stow the top.

Overall vision and convertible conversion dealt with, then, the best praise we can heap on the SS ‘vert is that it drives remarkably like—almost no different than—its coupe brothers. Chevrolet has gone to a great deal of trouble to keep the car as rigid as possible, and as free from the sort of cowl and body shake that have cursed large convertibles in the past. Their work was well done, as we didn’t find a stray wobble to report on, nor movement in the front windshield or dash, even at stupid speeds on roads that were a bit rutted by wear. Better still, the Camaro was happy to be tossed liberally into hard corners, never with so much as a hint of flexing from the top-exposed body.

For all that confidence, engineers needed to add about 250 pounds of structure and bracing (underbody v-braces, transmission support, and a strut tower brace were among the adds). That’s not an insignificant number of pounds in theory, and we were told that 0-60 times drop by 0.2 seconds in convertible trim, for both the V-6 and V-8, but the fact of the matter is that you’ll hardly notice the weight gain in any but the most extreme driving. The LS3 V-8 is immediately torquey, and will punch hard in any gear save top, and from just about any speed. (Those opting for the six-speed automatic transmission will also have to make do with a slightly less powerful L99 V-8 that is, nevertheless, very fast.) The attendant six-speed manual gearbox is a ton of fun to use. It’s just a little on the heavy and notchy side, but feels decidedly pleasant to slot into gear, especially, we found, when downshifting to pass normal-speed traffic in just a few heartbeats.

The utterly visceral, windy, and generally speed-drunk driving experience is only let down a bit by the V-8 exhaust lacking for volume and bite. We could hear the rumbling engine note better with the top up, as a matter of fact, thanks to the din of the wind rush being quieted.

All in, this is a thrilling, styling, hairpin-hawking, rumble-fest of a good time. You can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be asking for a second spin in the Camaro Convertible once the weather in Michigan turns nice again, as this promises to be a good-weather fun machine of near unmatched potential. Our guts tell us that it’s a bit more pointy than the Mustang GT Convertible, and a little less high-strung than the Z Roadster—both theories that we’ll be hot to test with comparative when the skies have gotten bluer. Until then suffice it to say that the fifth-gen Camaro has reached its apogee, at least to date, in this Convertible SS guise.

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible SS 6MT
Engine: V-8, 6.2 liters, 16v
Output: 426 hp/420 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 4.9 sec
Weight: 4116 lb
Base Price: $36,650
On Sale: Now

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Old 02-18-2011, 12:59 PM   #2
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I want it!
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Old 02-18-2011, 01:16 PM   #3
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so they talk up the vert and down the hard top at the same time. LOL...

Everyone understands that there are blinds spots in the camaro. . . It's part of the design, just like the design of the high end super cars.
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Old 02-18-2011, 01:18 PM   #4

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good read,and a good report,
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Old 02-18-2011, 01:49 PM   #5

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Send a message via MSN to toesuf94 come we never hear of rearward visibility when the car being tested is built in Italy?
Cars and women are both going to give you problems...but you can pay somebody else to fix your car!
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Old 02-18-2011, 02:06 PM   #6
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Mine was built yesterday and I can't wait til it's delivered to my dealer and I can pick it up!!
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Old 02-18-2011, 04:15 PM   #7
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"...we have wanted—truly tried—to love the thing."--total BS.
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Old 02-18-2011, 05:33 PM   #8
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I read a road test by either CD or MT on the Camaro vs Mustang 'verts. The testers were complaining about the size of the steering wheel and shifter, calling them the worst design ever! They whined about the rim being so big they couldn't wrap their fingers around it to touch their thumb. I just had to laugh out loud at that, do they have toddler-sized hands, or what? Listening to them, you'd think the wheel was as thick as the fat end of a baseball batt!!! I'm convinced that most of the automotive journalists have simply kicked the camaro to the curb and are hooked on the mustang's coolaid. How can a car that has won many design awards have so many flaws? I've been in and driven a few camaro's, I know what they look, feel and drive like, so I don't care what the press has to say. None of their negative reviews will change how I feel, or my plans to own a 5th gen sometime in the near future.
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Old 02-18-2011, 06:06 PM   #9

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Where do they find these journalist? If they can't see out of the windows of the coupe they need to find a new job!!
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Old 02-18-2011, 06:52 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by rainey85 View Post
Mine was built yesterday and I can't wait til it's delivered to my dealer and I can pick it up!!
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Old 02-18-2011, 06:56 PM   #11
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ZL1 convertible, please!
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Old 02-18-2011, 06:59 PM   #12
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Can't wait
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Old 02-18-2011, 09:21 PM   #13
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Finally, a decent vert review! Supposedly mine has "left plant propery".... soon...soon...
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Old 02-18-2011, 11:32 PM   #14

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I think most journalists try to be objective but there have been some recent reviews that have bordered on stupidity. I remember last year's C&D's first review of the V6 Camaro VS Hyundai V6 Genesis coupe. Though the Genesis was a tick faster they picked the Camaro as the winner. It drove better they said. Everyone seemed so enamored with the new Camaro.

A year later the Camaro is now an annoying cartoonish design the stupidest car ever made according to Top Car as they compared it with an AMG Mercedes that costs nearly 3x the price of an SS and just barely edges it in any performance category. I'll let them choke on the irony of their words juxtaposed against their comparison test. Where did it all go wrong for these people?

These are the same "jounalists" who slobbered and drooled all over the original Camaro concept and pleaded so loudly that Chevy not change a thing. Lutz obliged and did not change a thing.

I was at the LA Auto show in 06 on the day that many publications were there. I remember it well. It was adjacent to the VW display and by far had the most attention of any vehicle at the auto show. I regularly attend auto shows and i don't ever recall a car display garnering more attention. Maybe the Bugatti Veyron comes close but thats it.

I talked briefly with some guys with Motor Trend credentials and they were very fired up about the Camaro. One of them made the comment-and I paraphrase: "I just hope they have the balls to not screw with it and try and make it more practical like they always do." (emphasizing the word 'practical' with air quotes and sarcasm) There were others from Car and Driver and Hot Rod and Automobile echoing the "don't change a thing" mantra. It just seems a bit disingenuous on their part to later complain so loudly about the design when previously they begged for it not to be changed.

To me their credibility is rapidly dimishishing.
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