• Feb 1, 2011
All Convertible, Little Compromise

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible – Click above for high-res image gallery

Chevrolet doesn't need any help selling its Camaro. It handily throttled the Ford Mustang in sales last year despite only being able to offer customers a single coupe bodystyle compared to the Stang's more expansive coupe, convertible and GT500 range. In fact, General Motors says the Camaro is jumping off of dealer lots with nearly no incentives and 90 percent retail sales. Still, buyers have been clamoring for a droptop version of the mighty Bowtie since the Camaro Convertible concept hit the scene in 2007. This year, The General has finally obliged by taking out the knife.

The history of the Camaro is littered with topless wonders that looked like a stack of cool cash while parked, yet most drove like a wet noodle when you stepped on their skinny pedals. The minds that pull the strings at GM have made it clear that in the coming years, what was once the king of the muscle car heap will turn its attention more toward the sports car crowd, and to that end, they've striven to deliver a Camaro Convertible capable of all of the same driving dynamics as the coupe. Have they pulled it off? We took to the streets of San Diego to find out.

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Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL

Outside, GM has kept the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible nearly identical to its hardtop sibling with a few notable exceptions. The largest of those is, of course, the fact that buyers can now opt for either a black or tan folding soft top in place of the coupe's tin, though there are a handful of subtler changes as well. RS and SS models enjoy a trunklid lip spoiler with an integrated AM/FM radio antenna that does away with the wince-worthy whip piece of lower-rung trims. Additionally, a tonneau cover for the stowed top cleans up the rear deck of the car nicely. The piece is standard on 2LT and 2SS trims and optional on 1LT and 1SS configurations. Unfortunately, as we would find out, installing the tonneau cover is a frustrating process that could be employed as an enhanced interrogation method by sinister law enforcement agencies.

Even without the cover, the top stows politely enough to be attractive. We see zero need for the additional decoration. Throw the top up, and the convertible does a smart job of retaining the same chopped-look roofline of the coupe, though mechanical necessity has generated a C-pillar that's slightly chunkier than that of the metal-roofed Camaro. GM says that the company uses the same supplier responsible for turning out the canvas covers for both the Cadillac XLR convertible and the Corvette, and that each top undergoes a severe eight-minute water test before being shipped from Bowling Green, Kentucky to the Camaro Convertible's manufacturing facility in Oshawa.

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible side view2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible front view2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible rear view

Head indoors and you'll notice few changes compared to the coupe, as well. GM has decided to mount the controls for the convertible roof along the top of the windshield frame, and their placement makes it easy to operate the motor control and lock down the top at the same time. Backseat riders will notice a little less available hip room than before thanks to the space gobbled up by the folding top, and trunk space has been all but negated.

Still, if trunk space and rear hip room were your top priorities, you'd be buying a Honda Odyssey instead of a 430-horsepower topless muscle car. Considering that these are two of only a handful of sacrifices buyers will have to make when opting for the convertible over the coupe, we're hardly complaining. By our stopwatch, it takes about 20 seconds to raise the top from its fully stowed position and an additional three seconds to manipulate the center lock handle to secure everything in place with zero practice. That seems like a completely reasonable figure until you find yourself trapped in a rain storm. The top drops in about the same period of time.

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible interior2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible front seats2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible gauges2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible gauges

General Motors has stitched in a heap of special bracing to make up for the loss of the Camaro's roof structure, including added hardware at the strut towers, a unique transmission support, a tunnel support and new under body V-braces. The aim was to reduce windshield frame and steering column shake as much as possible – two unfortunate byproducts of the convertiblization process. Critically, the reinforcements allowed the GM engineers to implement the exact same suspension hardware and geometry as found on the coupe instead of implementing softer bits to make up for any undue flex. All told, the additional bracing and the top mechanism add a total of 246 pounds to the recipe.

That's not a small chunk of weight, but according to Chevy's official specs, the convertible hasn't lost much in the way of performance due to its extra poundage. In all variations (V6, V8, six-speed manual transmission or six-speed auto) the convertible only takes an additional 0.2 seconds to 60 mph and around 0.4 seconds longer down the quarter mile. In short, any stoplight-to-stoplight discrepancies are likely to be as much the fault of the nut behind the wheel as they are the extra heft. GM says that the 2011 Camaro Convertible with the six-speed manual gear box can scoot to 60 mph in a mere 4.9 seconds and do the quarter-mile dash in just 13.2.

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible engine

While you aren't likely to feel the weight gain in a straight line, it does rear its head a bit in the Camaro's steering. With the mighty LS3 (or L99 in auto guise) V8 lodged under the hood, the tiller feels a good bit heavier than it does in the hard top, though it's not enough to be an issue. Switch to the standard V6 and the weight is much less pronounced. Despite GM's best efforts toward banishing steering column shake, we did notice a bit of wiggle on some of the more abusive sections of road on our drive. According to the company's engineers, there was a choice between softening the suspension to eradicate the shake and maintaining the vehicle's handling. They opted for the latter, and given how rarely the issue arose during our time with the car, we feel they made the right decision.

What's most impressive is that the Camaro Convertible reacts nearly identically to its tin-top twin when the tarmac turns twisty. Start wrenching on the wheel and you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two were the sun not on your face and the wind in your hair. This isn't a car we'd be particularly interested in taking to our local autocross, but it's far more athletic than we anticipated. This is a convertible grown men don't have to be embarrassed to drive.

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible grille2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible wheel2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible top down2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible taillights

The current Camaro has always been plagued by rearward visibility that's dismal at best, and you'd think that lopping off the top would be a quick step toward curing that ail. Sadly, you'd be wrong. Thanks to the high hip line of the Camaro Convertible, checking your blind spots only yields a detailed glance at the nice grain work on the interior plastics. That's partially due to the relatively low seating position in the Camaro. Fortunately, parking your derrière low in the cabin serves to shield you from the vast majority of wind buffeting, at least at speeds below 100 mph.

Raise the top and you're rewarded with a drive that's nearly as quiet as that of the coupe. The cloth lid boasts an insulated acoustic liner to help keep road and wind noise at bay, and it functions admirably. At near-interstate speeds, we observed a slight hint of wind noise and a little flutter from the all-glass back window.

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible rear 3/4 view

GM has priced the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible starting at $29,150 for 1LT trim, and prices ratchet all the way up to $39,650 for 2SS guise, both without $850 in destination charges. Step over to rival Ford, and the Blue Oval will be happy to put you into a V6 Mustang convertible for a comparatively lean $27,145. Still, given the way GM is minting money with the Camaro, we doubt the price differential will cause Bowtie buyers to lose a wink of sleep.

The engineers at GM have done an impressive job of keeping the traditional convertible gremlins at bay with the topless Camaro, and the result is a car that asks buyers to make few sacrifices for the joy of open-air driving. Of course, we'll see if we keep that opinion after we spend a bit more time with the car. Look for the 2011 Camaro Convertible to hit showrooms in February.

Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      Now all Dodge has to do is get off its collective arse and make a Challenger convertible. Then we'd have a true trifecta of muscle ragtops.

      Are you listening, Dodge..? (crickets chirping...)
      • 3 Years Ago
      This looks really good but my favorite part of the Camaro is the how the roof line (on the coupe) combines with the rest of the car. It gives it a certain stance that I really like. Like it's angry. I'm sure i'll see plenty of these on the road soon enough though!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Reminds me of the corvette, looks awsome.
      • 3 Years Ago
      After seeing this car at NAIS I thought the tonneau cover was hideous; acres of black plastic; like a cheap toy made in Taiwan.
      • 3 Years Ago
      When they cut the top off, they should have got rid of that ugly ass dash too. Looks like its out of the Chevy Citation.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I like the car but that grill looks super cheap!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I agree with Suraj. The Camaro's interior is pathetic. GM still thinks people will accept meritocracy. Wait a minute...looking at sales figures, they are right. That's sad.
        • 3 Years Ago
        you have to realize the camaro had not been on sale for quite a while before this came out
        there are a lot of camaro fans that the interior takes them back to thier original cars of the 60's or their dads cars so GM did this right and I think they have another year or two before those fans qould run out then sales will depend onthe regular public, at which point GM should have a new improved interior ready

        that said, I totally hate the current interior, so much in fact that it wold keep me from buying this car even if it was the best reide ever.

        I'd take the Mustang
        • 3 Years Ago
        Your right its sad that people are still convinced to buy the tranformers under-performer. The build quality means so little to so many.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Despite the interior being nothing short of hideous, I absolutely love this car, be it either Coupé or Convertible. Unfortunately chances of running into it over here will remain rare :(

      Really like the quality of the reviews over here as well btw, they're all very nice reads. I can only wonder why I didn't come here earlier.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm going to get down voted for this but personally i would take a Mustang 5.0 convertible over this, not because this car is drop dead sexy but because I've never liked the Camaro's interior, it just seems to plasticky and fake. And I'm pretty sure the 5.0 is the better engine compared to the LS3 but I'm not sure for sure... either way great job GM but sorry i'm going to have to take the Mustang.

      Now i just have to wait for the comparos to start...
        • 3 Years Ago
        Suraj: Gotta agree with you there. This car is drop-dead gorgeous until you look inside. Was flipping through the pics in the gallery, and lost all interest in this cat once the first interior picture opened. Sorry, same thing happened at the NY Auto-show last year. After sitting in the RS model on display, it ruined every positive thought I had about GM that day. My son and I looked at each other shook our heads in disbelief and walked out of the Jacob Javits center.

        GM: Please do not introduce another color, trim-package or special edition of this car in this condition. Fall on your collective swords, and fix that god-awful interior IMMEDIATELY.

        Mr. Welburn, I am very disappointed that you let this interior reach production.

        This car reminds me of the hottest girl I ever dated. She was the girl to be seen with, just not the girl to sleep with.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The overhangs for the instrument panel remind me of Abe Vigoda's eyebrows.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Oh and good god look that that C-Pillar with the top up... you could hide a semi truck in that blind spot... can some explain to me how that isn't a safety hazard?
        • 3 Years Ago
        I got to drive one a while back and, the interior is beautiful; not cheap feeling at all. BUT!!! There is one major reason why I would never get one: visibility. If you think the C-pillar on the convertible would be the only thing that restricts your view, try looking out any piece of glass in the car. The windshield is blocked by the overhead console (and the wicked rake of the screen itself), the beltline of the doors are ungodly high, and the rear is blocked by... everything. The Mustang's interior IS of better quality, and much better visibility. Just my 2¢'s
      • 3 Years Ago
      Motor Trend was doing a comparison between drop top Camaro and Mustang, not only was Mustang faster, even Mustangs' roof does down faster.

      Mustang actually won by 2 car lengths.

        • 3 Years Ago
        Regardless of which car is faster, as they are both pretty close, if I am going on looks alone and pitting convertible against convertible, I would have to go with the Camaro for the reason that it does not sacrifice its roof line like the Mustang does in rag top form.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Kinda like how the GM's trucks have been crushing Ford's in comparos (HD mainly), yet Ford remains at the top in sales.

        The Camaro doesn't lead in the details, but the "come hither" factor must be doing something wonderful for it, cause they put a guillotine choke manuever on Ford last year in sales.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Moar downrates plz! Better yet, point out something I said that's incorrect while you're downrating me! kthx!

        Oh, my bad. I forgot...Ford is infallible around these parts.
        • 3 Years Ago

        So is trolling.
        • 3 Years Ago
        If you're buying this car, you don't care.

        It's like those fifth gear segments where they have a race to fit grocery bags in the back then parallel park - or some other ridiculous feat that is supposed to prove that one car is better than the other.

        Ultimately, buyers will have to choose between the looks, heritage, and how they feel behind the wheel [to that individual person].
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ Nick, well they were comparing SS vs. GT.

        Personally i'd go for Camaro..............looks better.
      • 3 Years Ago
      When the top is down, is the underside of the top exposed or does it fold in a "Z" like manner (where the "outside" is exposed even when down)? That makes a HUGE difference on whether the cover is necessary. If the underside is exposed (most are not UV treated), and you don't use the cover, that will wear on the top *VERY* fast.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Ok, just found a video of it. Yea, the cover is just appearance. You could never use and it would not wear the top any faster.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The car looks great with it's top on or it's top off. What most people overlook is the gas mileage that these "Muscle cars" offer (see http://www.2011ChevroletCamaro.com for stats). These are numbers that are closer to commuter car MPG's than street cars. Great way to look good and feel good at the same time.
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