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  • 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

    Posted on January 26th, 2011 ninarussin

    Four new open-air models feature V-6 and V-8 options

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

    The name, Camaro comes from the French camarade, meaning “friend.” Chevrolet’s sporty two-plus-two is quite possibly the most personal car in its line-up. While the Camaro holds up to four passengers, the only seat that really matters is the one the driver sits in.

    When Chevrolet re-launched the nameplate in 2009 after a seven-year hiatus, there was a collective sigh of relief among bow tie enthusiasts. While a few maintained grudges against the automaker for discontinuing the Camaro after the F-body ran its course, excitement about the sport coupe’s return was palpable.

    The annual SEMA show, a colossal aftermarket exhibition which takes place in Las Vegas each November, was a veritable bow tie nation. Even fans of the Camaro’s arch rival, the Mustang were secretly pleased. After all, rivalries require both teams to show up for the game. Mustang aficionados were less pleased when Camaro took command of its competitive segment in 2010: the first time it beat out the pony car since 1985.

    This year, the automaker rolls out a convertible version, available with either the 312-horsepower V-6 or 426-horsepower V-8. The high-performance SS and 2SS models come with a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, or optional six-speed automatic. The LT/2LT V-6 is only available with an automatic transmission.

    In keeping with the Camaro’s value-performance heritage, the base V-6 starts at $30,000, including the $850 destination charge. The upscale 2SS with the V-8 engine, leather trim, 20-inch wheels and a premium audio system costs $40,500.

    Centennial celebration

    Chevrolet Camaro 2011 Indy 500 Pace Car

    It’s no surprise that Chevrolet is launching the Camaro convertible during its centennial celebration. The car GM introduced in 1968 as a more affordable alternative to the Corvette has been a point of entry for many brand enthusiasts.

    Despite its broad appeal, the Camaro is not for everyone: a fact which has, if anything, added to its fan base. It is a modern-day muscle car. While it may not be the most refined sport coupe on the market, the Camaro is quite possibly the most brute force a buyer can find for the money. As a former Z-28 owner, I am one of many who’ve subscribed to that logic.

    Hot rod cruiser

    2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

    As the name implies, convertibles fill multiple squares, appealing to buyers who want a stylish boulevard cruiser as well as those looking for performance. While Chevrolet engineers worked hard to give the newest ragtop coupe-like performance, there’s no doubt that the Camaro convertible is also a head turner.

    The Camaro which paces the Indy 500 this coming May will be the seventh to hold that honor. The first was a 1969 model.

    Designers culled styling cues for the new car from the muscle car era. From its menacing dual headlamps and wide grille to the snub rear decklid, the new Camaro convertible hearkens back to the days of high rise intake manifolds and glass packs.

    By using composite knuckles rather than aluminum ribs, engineers were able to maintain the smooth coupe character line with the top in place.

    Inside, a cluster of four analog gauges at the base of the center stack, a three spoke steering wheel and bolstered bucket seats maintains the muscle car theme.

    Test drive in San Diego

    Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Interior

    This week I had the opportunity to drive both the V-6 2LT and V-8 SS Camaro convertible in southern California. Both of the test cars were equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission. Drive routes included sections of Route 1 in San Diego as well as urban streets, freeways and canyon roads east of town.

    My driving partner and I spent time with the top in place and retracted. I wanted to see how much the top would limit visibility around the perimeter, since the current Camaro coupe  has a narrow greenhouse. We also wanted to experience putting the top up and down, to experience how the mechanism works.

    While the Camaro has a power top, retracting and deploying it involves some manual labor. To put the top down, the driver twists a latch release handle on the top’s lead edge, after which a button moves the top into the boot in about twenty seconds. Unlike many newer convertibles, the driver must use the power window buttons to raise or lower all four windows. A removable cover stows in the car’s trunk.

    With the top in place, visibility is similar to that of the Camaro coupe, which is to say, limited. Airflow through the passenger cabin with the top and windows down is pleasant. My driving partner and I were able to converse with ease on the highways around San Diego.

    Aussie roots

    2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

    As with the coupe, the Camaro convertible was developed in conjunction with the Australian automaker, Holden. I am impressed by how well the Holden engineers maintained the Camaro’s distinctly American character.

    Its unique driving dynamics would send me back to the showroom to buy another Camaro, despite whatever flaws the car has. Like the Corvette, the Camaro feels like nothing else on the road to drive. Steering weight is rather heavy, making the convertible perform better on wide sweepers than extremely tight turns. Fortunately, I’m a wide sweeper kind of girl.

    Both engine produce abundant torque, producing the seat-of-the-pants acceleration the car is famous for. Dual exhausts on the SS model let out a resounding belch when the driver gooses the throttle.

    The fully independent suspension is on the stiff side, in keeping with the car’s character. Engineers added a strut tower brace to the convertible to enhance torsional rigidity, improving on-center response.

    Unlike the convertibles I grew up with, the new Camaro doesn’t suffer from cowl shake or steering wheel vibration. It feels every bit as solid as its hard top sib.

    Standard 19-inch wheels on the 2LT and 20-inch rims on the SS provide an ample footprint for cornering and braking. A limited slip differential, standard on all models, ensures that the wheels hook up, even when the tires leave a patch on the ground. Brembo disc brakes on the SS offer exceptional stopping power.

    OnStar adds extra value

    OnStar is GM’s on-board telematics system. All GM cars come with the feature: services include collision notification to area police and EMTs, turn-by-turn directions, car unlocking, and concierge assistance. Although I’ve written stories about OnStar technology since the company launched, I rarely use the service, simply because I don’t have the need.

    The test drive was a notable exception. After missing a turn out in the canyons east in town, we found ourselves turned around and lost. A quick call to OnStar set us in the right direction.

    We opted to speak to an OnsStar representative. Doing so is easy: the driver pushes the blue OnStar button on the rearview mirror. When the operator came on board, I gave her my approximate location and the location of the road I was trying to find. She found the quickest route, and downloaded directions to the car. After that, finding my way back to the drive route was as easy as following the voice prompts.

    Upscale interior

    Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car Instrument Panel

    Although the base Camaro meets our best value standards, upscale SS models are luxury cars. In order to meet the expectations of these buyers, designers imbued the interior with upscale upholstery and a host of high-tech features, including Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a premium audio system, and satellite radio.

    A heads-up display on the test cars projects the car’s speed and audio settings onto the base of the windshield. I’m a big fan of the technology, originally used by aircraft pilots. It enables the driver to keep his eyes focused on the road, rather than looking down at the instrument cluster.

    The front seats are quite spacious, and should fit drivers and passengers of most sizes. Legroom in the rear is extremely limited. Unlike some two-plus-twos, the seats are functional, but children and small adults will be most comfortable.

    Standard safety

    All models come with front, thorax and head side impact airbags, antilock brakes, traction and dynamic stability control.

    Chevrolet builds the Camaro convertible at its Oshawa, Ontario Canada assembly plant.

    Likes: The open-air version adds another dimension of fun to Chevrolet’s newest muscle car. Fans of the classic Camaros should find plenty to love in this modern-day interpretation.

    Dislikes: Top mechanism is difficult to operate. Visibility to the sides and rear is limited with the top in place.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Chevrolet
    Model: Camaro Convertible
    Base price: $30,000
    As tested: N/A
    Horsepower: 312 Hp @ 6400 rpm (V-6); 426 Hp @ 5900 rpm (V-8)
    Torque: 278 lbs.-ft. @ 5200 rpm (V-6); 420 ft. lbs. @ 4600 rpm (V-8)
    Zero-to-sixty: 6.2 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: N/A
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 18/29 mpg city/highway (V-6); 16/25 mpg city/highway (V-8)

     

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