2011 Camaro New Car Test Drive
A new Camaro convertible joins the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro lineup. The Camaro convertible is equipped like the coupes, and it's available with either the smooth 3.6-liter V6 or in 6.2-liter V8 SS trim.
The reborn Camaro begins its second year with the 2011 model, and it's turning more heads than ever because the striking styling is starting to sink in as more new Camaros hit the road. Ten exterior colors are available, including a Corvette yellow that guarantees the car will gather many thumbs-up. For 2011, a color called Synergy Green Metallic is added.
Camaro LS and LT models use the Cadillac 3.6-liter V6 with a 6-speed manual transmission standard and 6-speed automatic (with semi-manual shifting) optional. The V6 revs to 7000 rpm and sounds sweet along the way. The horsepower rating for 2011 Camaro LS and 2011 Camaro LT models has been upgraded to 312 horsepower. It was 304 hp on 2010 models, but it's the rating that changed, not the output. Additional testing found the Camaro's intake system to be more efficient than the Cadillac's, on which apparently the previous power estimate was based.
A steeply raked windshield helps produce a low coefficient of drag for good aerodynamics that contribute to the impressive V6 government fuel economy rating of 29 mpg Highway. However, the 2011 Camaro is nipped at the checkered flag by the 2011 Mustang V6 that makes 305 hp and reaches 31 mpg Highway.
We found the handling, ride and brakes to be excellent in both the Camaro LT and the Camaro SS with the big V8, although the SS suspension is stiffer and its 20-inch tires are firmer. The chassis structure is rigid, helping make the turn-in precise for a car this size; the grip is secure, and the damping is solid and supple. We never encountered a harsh moment with the ride, in either car, during a full day of hard driving east of San Diego in both of them, and later a full week in the Pacific Northwest with the 6-speed Camaro SS.
As for the brakes, the Camaro LT stops superbly. The Camaro SS uses four-piston Brembo brakes, but because it's 200 pounds heavier, the stopping distance isn't much shorter. However, the Brembos with four-piston calipers make the brakes on the SS more resistant to fade, important on race tracks and mountain roads where the brakes are being used repeatedly.
The TAPshift manual automatic transmission does what you tell it to do, nothing more. We love that. But the 6-speed manual transmission with the V6 is the most all-around usable sporty combination (the V6 because 426 horsepower is overkill on the street). The gearbox is solid but not slick, and the throws are shorter than some. The 6-speed shifts nicely, including easily down into first gear for hairpin turns.
Inside, the cabin is quiet, so quiet that 80 mph feels more like 70. Interior materials are good, but the instrumentation is disappointing, with GM apparently still trying to be clever rather than clean with gauges. The bucket seats are comfortable, with decent bolstering. The front seat slides 8.5 inches and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so drivers of all sizes will fit, most notably Camaro's many female buyers. The standard cloth upholstery is good, with excellent leather available in black, gray, beige and two-tone Inferno Orange.
The windows are small (doorsills high for safety) and the A-pillars wide, so it makes the cockpit feel a bit cave-like. Visibility through the windshield is compromised by the long hood and raked windshield, although careful location of the driver's seat helps. Rear visibility over the driver's shoulder isn't very good, but then it's impossible to make it good with a roofline this sporty. Rear seat legroom measures a meager 29.9 inches, so you'll want to avoid sitting back there.
Camaro SS uses the 6.2-liter Corvette V8, making 400 horsepower with the optional 6-speed automatic, or 426 horsepower with the 6-speed manual. We were disappointed by the civility of the exhaust note. The SS uses firmer shocks, springs and anti-roll bars than the V6 models, but the ride doesn't suffer for it. We found the handling balance of the Camaro SS excellent.
The convertible is equipped like the coupes but features a soft top fitted with acoustical foam in the headliner to minimize noise with the top up. This latest-generation Camaro was designed from the outset to include convertible models, and reinforcements were added in four key areas to increase rigidity.
Camaro LS ($22,680) comes with the 3.6-liter V6. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic with manual shifting is optional. Not a bare-bones model, the LS is fully power equipped, including cruise control, telescopic steering wheel, six-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 sound system, limited slip differential, 18-inch steel wheels, and OnStar Directions and Connections, offering turn-by-turn route instructions, both verbal and visual, for six months. (Prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices and do not include the $850 destination charge.)
Camaro LT ($23,880) upgrades with leather upholstery with six-way power reclining driver's seat; foglamps and integral front fascia; and 18-inch painted aluminum wheels.
Camaro SS ($30,945) features the 6.2-liter V8 with a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual gearbox. The SS has special exterior trim, a beefier suspension, 20-inch painted aluminum wheels, and four-piston Brembo disc brakes.
The convertible is offered in similar model configurations as the coupe, including 1LT ($29,150) and 2LT (V6), and 1SS and 2SS (V8) trim packages. Nine production exterior colors are available, with tops offered in black or tan. Rear parking assist is standard on all convertible models.
Option packages 2LT ($3,845) and 2SS ($3,980) include heated mirrors and seats, nine-speaker 245-watt audio system, Bluetooth and USB port, leather shift knob and steering wheel with audio controls, remote starting, and console mounted gauges including oil temp and pressure, volts and transmission fluid temp. The 2LT package also includes 19-inch painted aluminum wheels. Added to the LT2 and 2SS packages for 2011 is the Head-Up display; the HUD system projects speed and other data onto the windshield for the driver to view without taking his or her eyes off the road.
A sunroof ($900) is optional for coupes. Also available are 20-inch painted aluminum wheels and an RS appearance package, as well as a Hurst short-throw shifter ($380), new for 2011. An RS appearance package is available on LT and SS that includes HID headlamps with integrated LED halo rings, a rear spoiler on LT, specific taillamps and 20-inch wheels with a Midnight Silver painted finish.
Safety equipment on all Camaros includes electronic stability control with traction control, anti-lock brakes, frontal airbags, front side airbags, airbag curtains, and tire pressure monitor.