There’s been a battle between the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang since they faced off on the racetrack in the late 1960s during the famous Trans Am series.
Today, the Camaro is experiencing considerable sales success. For the first time since 1985, it is outselling the Ford Mustang, at least through the first quarter of this year. The addition of a Camaro convertible is sure to heat things up even more.
I drove a bright orange SS convertible with black racing stripes from Chevrolet’s press fleet, and it grabbed eyeballs wherever I went. One day, as I walked out of a store in the small neighborhood shopping center, a young man was busy snapping photos with his phone. It’s that kind of car.
The ragtop Camaro starts at $30,100 with a 312-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. Tick the SS package on the option sheet and you get a 426-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 and a base price of $37,900. I drove 2SS model, with 20-inch wheels and Brembo disc brakes, and its base price was $39,650.
Performance aficionados will love the standard six-speed manual gearbox, with the exception of the skip-shift feature that forces the gear lever to go from first to fourth under light acceleration to improve fuel economy. I would venture to say that most buyers will pick the automatic because it is more comfortable in everyday driving. The engine output drops to 400 when it mated to the automatic.
Dropping the convertible top is simple. Twist the central latch and hit the power button. About 20 seconds later, the top has dropped behind the rear seat. The steep windshield does a good job of sending turbulent air over the passengers.
Removing the top of a unibody car can have dire consequences unless the vehicle’s structure is strengthened. Chevrolet added braces under the body and between the front shock towers. Engineers also put hydroformed steel in the windshield posts, reinforced the front door pillar and put reinforcements in the rocker panels. The result, according to Chevy, is torsional stiffness that is better than a BMW 3-series convertible, although I noticed a couple of fairly loud squeaks in the test car.
The Camaro’s cabin is snug but comfortable. The back seat is quite small. The skinny windows and low roof give the car a hunkered-down stance. When the top is up, the cabin is a tad claustrophobic. Rear vision, particularly when backing out of parking places or driveways, is not great. A rear-view camera would be a great option. Speaking of options, there is no navigation system available.
The instrument panel’s design mimics that of the early model, but the plastic texture is disappointing. The radio and climate control unit is small and it looks lost in the center of the dash. I don’t car for door lock buttons in the center of the dash. The buttons for rear defrost and air conditioning are located in the center of temperature control knob are small and not easy to use.
For 2012, Camaro prices are going up slightly. The V-6 gets a boost to 323 horsepower. With a more reasonable price, and ample power, I think that would be personal choice.
The Camaro 2SS has a base price of $39,650. Options included the 20-inch wheels, interior trim package, black stripes and inferno orange metallic paint. The sticker price was $42,995.
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
To reach Tom Strongman, send email to email@example.com.
At a Glance
Point: The Camaro convertible is even more appealing than the coupe. The V-8 has gobs of power, and it accelerates quite strongly with the six-speed manual.
Counterpoint: Rear visibility is challenging, the back seat is small, the instrument panel is underwhelming and the loaded SS gets expensive.
2011 Camaro 2SS
Engine: 6.2-liter, 426-hp V-8
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Wheelbase: 112.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,116 lbs.
Base price: $39,650
As driven: $42,995
MPG rating: 16 city, 24 hwy