Review: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible: Topless Hot Wheels

America loves the new Chevrolet Camaro. You really can’t argue with the previous statement, as the new Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang in 2010. That was with one body style, the coupe. All while the Ford Mustang had both a coupe and convertible, along with a myriad of other speciality models. So what happens when you chop the top off the Camaro? Chevrolet has taken out the sawzall and handed me the keys to find out.

Let’s get something straight; I love the look of the new Camaro. I was born in the eighties and missed the heyday of the muscle car wars. While the new Dodge Challenger is clearly a modern interpretation of the classic, the new Camaro is seriously a Hot Wheels car brought to life. I honestly can’t put it in better terms. Chopping off the top takes that concept car look to a whole new level.

With the steeply raked windshield, and concept-car-like side mirrors, this drop top is one fattie that you can’t wait to light up. Fattie is definitely one way to put it – with a wide and low slung stance, this car definitely has curves.

If you’ve seen the new Camaro coupe, then you’ve seen the Camaro convertible – well, imagine it with no top and you have what it looks like. From a design aspect basically Chevrolet just chopped off the top. Though not all convertibles look good with the top up, I am happy to report that the Camaro looks just as good with the top down as it does up. In fact, with the top up, the Camaro convertible has similar lines to the coupe. It’s clear the Camaro was designed with a convertible iteration in mind.

Chevrolet designers didn’t want a RC car-like whip antenna on the rear decklid. To solve this issue two HAM radio engineers were hired to develop a rear decklid spoiler with the radio antenna inside. This leaves the Camaro convertible with a clean look. A painted shark fin antenna for XM radio and OnStar still resides on the trunk.

One of the major complaints regarding the new Camaro is visibility. Common sense says that if you chop off the top of a car visibility will improve. The laws of common sense are in full swing here, but the forward visibility still has some issues. With thick A-pillars and a low roofline, in certain situations you still curse the design. Rearward visibility is much better, but put the top up and you are pretty much back to poor visibility. In fact, the back glass is smaller in the convertible with the top up than in the coupe, making for even more blind spots. But, why are you driving with the top up?

Top down cruising is, as you would expect, glorious. Wind noise is completely in check and there is no buffeting. The top is made by the same supplier as the convertible top on the Corvette. Both tops feature a one handed grab handle release for unlocking the top before lowering it.

With the top up there is actually more wind and road noise than you would expect. You hear every pebble and stone that hits the wheel wells. At first I thought one of the windows wasn’t sealed perfectly due to the wind noise. Eventually I realized it wasn’t the windows but just the way the car sealed.

The interior design is exactly the same as the coupe. Both the coupe and convertible will receive a new steering wheel in 2012, in an effort to quell the negative response regarding the current deep dish design. While it may look cool, the functionality of the current one suffers when it comes to the steering wheel mounted controls.

One of my favorite new features in the Camaro for 2011 is the heads up display (HUD). The display is relatively crisp, but we aren’t talking BMW level HUD quality. All the necessary information is relayed to the windshield, including the tachometer, speed, radio information, and other important information.

My tester featured GM’s 3.6-liter V-6 with direct-injection, now rated at 311 horsepower. The power is sent to the rear-wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is a no-cost option). While the V-6 does have more horsepower for 2011 on paper, it is the same engine with a new rating. You don’t feel the difference. But for a V-6, this thing hauls (relatively). With a 0-60 of 6.1 seconds and a really good exhaust note, you seem to always want to have your foot in it.

You would think having your foot in it would kill your gas mileage, but I saw an average of 19.8 mpg in mixed driving. Again, I had my foot in it most of the time. The Camaro V-6 with the automatic is rated at 18/29.

Structurally the Camaro convertible is sound. Chevrolet went to great lengths to ensure the ride quality would be similar to that of the coupe. While I can’t say there is zero cowl shake, there is definitely very little. The chassis feels stiff and there is a huge tower brace under the hood. A few other bits were also added under the car for added strength and rigidity.

Is the Camaro convertible heavier than the Ford Mustang? Yes. Does it matter in the real world to most consumers? Absolutely not.

My tester had a sticker price of $36,185, and was outfitted with all the popular options. It is competitive in the marketplace and it has looks to kill.

So after a week I had my answer to my original question. What hat happens when you chop off the Camaro? The answer is fun in the sun, with few downsides. Visibility is much better, but not fixed. The design is terrific and the experience is what you would hope for. The bottom line is simple: if you like the Camaro coupe but want a top-down experience, the convertible will meet your expectations. Depending on why you hate the coupe, you might just end up liking the convertible.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

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One Response to “Review: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible: Topless Hot Wheels”

  1. They haven’t been out too long but I see these all over the place already. It’s no doubt this car is a hit for GM.

    07/11/2011 at 6:22 pm Reply

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