Driven: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Ss Convertible Left Side View Parked

REVIEWS:  After being delayed for a while because of GM’s whole bankruptcy/bailout thing, the Camaro convertible is finally here, completing the reborn Camaro lineup.

A convertible had been planned for the Camaro from the beginning, so the car was engineered for a topless existence. Still, the convertible does require extra bracing, including a large strut tower brace under the hood. Chevrolet engineers boast that the car is so structurally stiff that they did not have to soften the suspension for the convertible version, as is often done for convertibles. But maybe they should have.

The firm-riding Camaro SS convertible I just spent a week with exhibited plenty of body jiggle over patchy pavement. And despite the Camaro’s independent rear suspension, this car can hop sideways when it encounters a bump mid-corner. The steering, though, is nicely accurate and has natural effort levels. The deep-dished wheel has a strangely shaped rim that’s not terribly comfortable to hold, but I did love the design and function of the audio system controls on the spokes.

The big, 6.2-liter OHV V-8 in the Camaro SS isn’t exactly quick-revving, but it ultimately makes so much brutish power (426 hp, with the manual transmission) that it gets the job done. Its deep exhaust rumble can be somewhat droning on the highway but you’ve gotta love the crackle and pop when you lift off the throttle. I only encountered the six-speed manual’s obnoxious 1st-to-4th skip-shift once during my entire time with the car, which is a lot less than in the Camaro SS coupe I drove a few months ago — maybe I was booting the accelerator more aggressively with this car (the skip-shift only asserts itself during gentle acceleration). In other respects, I was less pleased with the stick shift this time, as the clutch seemed heavy and shift action less fluid.

Chevrolet designers were able to get the convertible’s soft top to very nearly match the profile of coupe’s rakish roofline, which means that the convertible is every bit as handsome as its hardtop sibling. This is a car that gets a lot of attention and a lot of compliments. But as in the Camaro coupe, the good looks come at a price. With the top up, the convertible suffers the same claustrophobia and tough outward visibility through its slit-like windows as does the coupe. And even with the top down, the high beltline and steeply raked windshield diminish somewhat the open-air feeling.

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