Visibility issues in the turret-like Chevy Camaro, well-documented in this journal, are now cured by simply ordering the car without a lid. The view from Lookout Mountain isn’t as commanding as the one from the long-awaited Camaro convertible—once its top is dropped.
A rocker switch stationed near the rearview mirror puts the Camaro’s canvas in motion after you’ve released the single mechanical twist-handle anchoring the top to the windshield header. The time it took the roof to Z-fold into the trunk seemed longer than the past election season, until we timed it: 17.7 seconds, which is actually quicker than some of those German android hardtops, including the BMW 3-series’.
The Camaro’s roof is a cleanly stitched canvas ceiling that hides its joints and spars within a thick, sound-absorbent headliner. Erect, it is almost as smooth and taut as a timpani head, and it’s a decent facsimile of the coupe’s rakishly slippery steel top—blind spots included.
Folded, the top crams into a well in the trunk, mostly lying below the horizontal plane formed by the Camaro’s body. A couple of stray shin bones stick up, but those can be hidden by the included tonneau cover, whose many tabs and flaps take some wrestling to put into place.
HIGHS: A Camaro you can actually see out of, easy-fold roof retains the coupe’s profile, SS-style smoke and thunder.
A fabric curtain in the trunk ensures that the top doesn’t collide with cargo, and it must be in place before the roof will move. About a quarter of the small, 10.2-cubic-foot trunk is lost to the top, leaving just enough space for half a pro golf bag. Figure on playing only nine holes that day.
Chevy is proud of the Camaro’s stiffness, claiming torsional rigidity that tops that of the 3-series convertible. Aside from some distinct quivers up the steering column, the Camaro’s structure feels adequately sound. Usually convertible versions get a softer suspension to absorb more bumps and make life easier for the compromised structure. Ford does it on the Mustang, for example.
LOWS: Small trunk gets smaller with the top in it, fitting the tonneau takes practice, weighs two tons and change.
But the topless Camaro—which has extra bracing linking the front shock towers, supporting the transmission, bridging the prop-shaft tunnel, and tying the front and rear subframes to the unibody—has the exact same spring and shock tune as the coupe, says Chevy. So we weren’t surprised to find as much lateral grip (0.90 g on the skidpad) and steering that feels the same as the coupe’s: quick and a bit lifeless.
The penalty is weight: a burdensome 246 pounds more than the hardtop Camaro SS (compared with the 174-pound gain of the Mustang GT’s convertible conversion). The topless Chevy’s punch-out times are thus delayed. The 60-mph mark arrives 0.3 second slower, at 4.9 seconds. A standing quarter-mile is covered in 13.4 seconds, almost a half-second longer than in the coupe.
But the opportunity to enjoy the popping and sniffling of the 426-hp LS3’s exhaust through the open air on a warm evening will be well worth the price to some.
Speaking of which, expect to pay an extra $5700 or so for the SS droptop privilege. Fully optioned SS convertibles reach into the mid-40s. Markets may crash, currencies may flutter, and reality-TV stars will come from New Jersey to make us all look ridiculous, but America will always be exceptional as long as it has convertibles.
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