Auto Review: Sun, stars and good times

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Aug. 11, 2011
- Contributed Photo

There’s no denying times are tough, and there’s more than enough uncertainty to go around. Since things may look a tad bleak on some fronts, why don’t we put our worries on the back burner, lower the top and go for a ride in something really special? How about we take a car that embraces America’s glorious automotive past, while pushing the performance envelope and giving us all the creature comforts we’ve come to expect in 2011? Sounds good, but where will we find such an automobile?

The solution lies as close as the nearest Chevy dealer. 2011 marks the year that many Camaro enthusiasts have been waiting for, because while the Camaro coupe is a very desirable car, many enthusiasts (that also happen to be sun worshippers) have been longing for a convertible. Now, they have one. To sweeten the pot further, the SS trim level (with some of GM’s most potent performance bits) is also available on the all-new Camaro convertible. Things are definitely looking up, yes?

The standard Camaro convertible comes with a fine 3.6-liter V6 with 312 horsepower, and a choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. But the SS has the serious herd under the hood, with a 6.2-liter V8 that summons forth 426 horsepower with the manual transmission and 400 with the automatic. Our SS was of the manual variety, and the big V8 delivered the kind of rip-roaring thrust and auditory thunder you’d expect, while the transmission was suitably precise with good ratios (although with all that torque, perfect gear selection isn’t too critical).

The Camaro’s chassis is stiffened to deal with life without the structural assistance of a fixed roof, and while this is successful in terms of overall handling, there is still some windshield cowl shake when you encounter substantial road irregularities. The Performance Suspension teams with crisp steering to make mid-corner line changes a trivial affair, and the Camaro is a great back road partner. Four-piston Brembo brakes haul the car down from 60 mph in 106 feet – an excellent performance.

It will take a scant 20 seconds or so of your life to lower the top, and once the top is down, the magic begins. Whether basking in the sun or motoring along late on a warm summer evening under the cosmos (with the cool glow of the cabin’s blue ambient lighting adding to the atmosphere), the Camaro convertible recalls a simpler time and encourages you to forget your troubles.   Should you need a dose of contemporary technology to bring you back to the present, you can turn on the Heads Up display which projects speed and other info on the inside of the windshield, just below your line of sight. It’s futuristic, yet functional.

Some cars are efficient, some are luxurious, and some are designed to make you enjoy the ride with style, performance and atmosphere. One of the latter is the Camaro SS Convertible, and ours was EPA-rated 16 MPG city/24 highway and had a base price of $39,650. With options, our sticker came to $41,700.

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