2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible: Retro Muscle Recalls American Spirit
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
You can call it heritage-inspired design, retro, nostalgic, 21st century homage or a re-imagining of a muscle car, but whatever you call it, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro is a Pony Car revisited … a car for the ages. And when you put on a ragtop and enjoy the 16 seconds it takes to lower and stow the cover, you get the Camaro Convertible, a summer car that makes you feel good all year long.
Following an eight-year hiatus, Camaro, one of the original Pony cars from 1967 through 2002, re-entered the market last year with an exciting take on the original version, adding state-of-the-art tech and safety, while giving buyer the opportunity to modify and customize to their own tastes with a bevy of options.
For 2011, Camaro added more horses for its standard 3.6-liter V-6 VVT engine (312hp to 304hp in 2010, and provides a Head-Up Display on 2LT and 2SS equipment packages and OnStar with a six-month Directions and Connections subscription as standard in all its models.
One more thing: Camaro went back to a wind-in-your-hair, American sports car tradition by taking its top off and offering a convertible version. The hardtop looks cool and full of muscle, but the convertible looks even better. The hardtop coupe sculpts down into its flat rear, but the convertible looks more fluid as it reaches the rear deck. When the top is folded neatly away, it presents an open sporty spirit that reminds nostalgic muscle-car enthusiasts of open highways in the American spirit. The AM/FM antenna is hidden in the new rear spoiler and the vehicle looks strong, proud, confident and muscular with top up or down.
The 4100-lb Camaro Convertible is 190.4 inches long, 75.5 inches wide and 54.2 inches high (with a hardtop) on a 112.3-inch wheelbase and resurrects the look, feel and demeanor of Camaro’s most cherished predecessors from its previous generations.
As this is American muscle revisited, Camaro does not cheat you under the hood. The four-passenger front-engine rear-drive sedan and convertible both come standard with a 3.6-Liter V-6 cast aluminum block powerplant with cast-in-place iron bore liners and aluminum head material rated at 312hp and 278 lbs.-ft. of torque.
The SS trim is power personified and gets a 6.2-liter 426hp V-8 that thunders out 420 lbs.-ft. of torque. EPA rated at 16/25. My test SS Convertible managed an average of 22.2mpg in mixed-use driving.
Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the ride was fun and exciting in all gears and $1185 cheaper than opting for an automatic. Performance is reminiscent of the tire-smoking muscle of America past, as my 6.2 burned rubber to the tune of a blazing 5.0-second-flat zero-to-60mph sprint and came to rest after a 13-4-second quarter-mile, tuned only as a vehicle you would drive off the car lot.
Acceleration in all ranges and gears in responsive and the 20-inch tires hug all surfaces and are particularly adept at handling twisties and auto-cross courses. A bit of understeer and torque jump add to the excitement and variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering is vigilant enough to supply a confident ride. The double-ball-joint, multi-link strut front suspension and 4.5-link independent; progressive-rate coil springs over shocks rear smooth out road inadequacies in a more family-car than sports car fashion.
The interior is a combination of 1960s feel with 21st century ergonomics and tech. With seating for four, headroom (with the top in place) is 37.4 inches in front and 35.3 inches in row two, but with the top lowered, you have all the headroom a day in the fresh air would warrant. Legroom measures 42.4 inches in the first row and a cramped 29.9 in the rear, while shoulder room is a spacious 56.9 inches for front-seaters and 42.5 inches for second-row travelers.
The fun performance is in the convertible top, which takes only 16 seconds to get down and stowed 25 seconds to be back in place and locked tight.
Deep, recessed gauges, located in square housings are classic Camaro and leather-appointed seats are included as are heated front seats with driver six-way power adjustment. The cabin also includes a three-spoke steering wheel with manual tilt/telescope adjustment, cruise control, rear defogger and Bluetooth wireless technology.
Safety features include passenger, and head curtain side-impact airbags and a Passenger Sensing System.
The 2011 Camaro Convertible SS starts at $36,775 and my upgraded trim version started at $39,775. Other trims start as low as $29,275 with the 3.6-liter engine, but the version 2 SS I tested is powered by the 426hp 6.2 and comes with 20-inch Bright Silver painted aluminum wheels, four-piston Brembo vented brakes, rear spoiler, SS-specific front and rear fascias and seat embroidery, Boston Acoustics® premium eight-speaker stereo system, USB port and limited slip rear differential. My black over black convertible also added a Hurst short-throw shifter for $380 and a Personal Device Interface Module for iPod and MP3 for $189. That was all I needed for a fully decked out ride, though body packages, exhaust upgrades, interior lighting add-ons and sportier grille could have added thousands. Destination and freight charges of $850 make for a final sticker as tested of $41,194.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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