Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro If...
Should you be one of those who thinks V6 and V8 horsepower should be delivered without mercy to the rear wheels of a sports car and that fresh air rushing about the sun-filled cabin should be part of the equation, you will enjoy the Camaro Convertible.
You May Not Like The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro If...
Need to hear yourself think? Like to meditate while you drive? Do your passengers like to stretch their legs (read the "Interior" section for more on that)? Or are you a hardcore Ford guy? If so, you’ll like others cars better.
So what’s new in the 2011 Chevy Camaro Convertible? Well, the fact that there is a brand new 2011 Chevy Camaro Convertible. The canvas-top convertible comes in the same V6/V8 iterations as its hardtop coupe counterpart, both available with a choice of standard six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. Our test Camaro SS Convertible came with a 426-horsepower V8 and a six-speed manual gearbox.
The Camaro convertible’s inside story is a mixed bag of nuts. For the driver, the leather-trimmed front seat is a comfortable and supportive enough pilot’s chair, but the front passenger has to deal with a glove box that bulges irritatingly into the poor rider’s knees and makes entry and exit a challenge too. Rear seat room? Don’t bother–this is a two-seater with rear seats that should probably never be used to carry adults, which is more than okay because the 2011 Chevy Camaro Convertible is a legit sports car, not a glorified taxi. The pleasure and convenience features, like the Boston Acoustics audio system and OnStar information systems are excellent (and standard on both the LT and SS models), but too many of the other gauges, knobs and buttons are ill-placed and non-intuitive.
We didn’t entirely get the 2011 Chevy Camaro Convertible when it made its debut in L.A., but when we saw it in public, on the road, we got it. In traffic, it stands out without screaming. The additional Camaro SS bodywork that adorned our test car–including the SS-specific front end and rear treatments, rear deck spoiler, plus 20-inch wheels–kicks the 2011 Camaro Convertible up a full measure in that all-important category: presence. This is true top up or down, although top down is, of course, our preference.
In our test drive of the Camaro Convertible SS, we noted that the car’s weight is impossible to ignore. In spite of a beautiful onrush of low-end torque, the V8 is always working hard. Nevertheless, a car with this much mass has no right to be going as quick as the Camaro. Likewise, the big Brembo brakes need everything they’ve got to stop the SS. The Camaro Convertible SS lumbers around corners with a kind of casual expertise and unconcern, weight and all, thanks to the standard performance suspension and limited-slip differential. That same suspension setup makes the Camaro ride old-school firm. And as mentioned earlier, the interior is a noisy place, top up or down. All that said, the Camaro SS Convertible is surprisingly easy to drive. Each of the weight issues is well compensated for with smart engineering or V8 guts. The car comes by its muscles honestly.
Looking at the V6 LT version of the 2011 Chevy Camaro Convertible is seeing a price tag that starts at just a tick over $30,000. A starter 2011 Ford Mustang with the V6 is two full ticks below that, at $27,995. The V6 Camaro delivers more power, but it also carries more weight so there’s little bargain to be found there, unless you’re hopelessly in love with the Camaro’s looks. The pricing between the two convertibles and their standard features is eerily in balance. Likewise, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible SS and 2011 Ford Mustang Convertible GT Premium share a strange symmetry that goes beyond V8 power. In the end, however, the Fair Purchase Price (around $37,000), weight and fuel economy considerations give advantage to the Mustang, while the horsepower and standard-equipment setup leans in favor of the Camaro (Fair Purchase Price: $38,000).
Full credit to Chevy: There’s nothing all that base about the base LT Camaro Convertible’s interior. From the 8-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system to the tilt/telescoping steering wheel, the standard equipment list is substantial and competes pretty well with the up-scaled SS version. Other standard highlights include power front sports seat (power-recline for the passenger), power windows with express up/down in front, a head-up display, two power outlets, and fog lamps at every trim level.
Getting a V6 LT Camaro Convertible up to ultimate V8 SS levels is relatively easy if you know how to pick options. While you can’t get the powerhouse Camaro Convertible’s V8 engine, performance suspension or quick-launch rear axle, you can opt up to the SS’s limited-slip differential and 20-inch wheels and tires.
Convertible topVanity is the only reason not to love a convertible, but that’s why they invented hats and SPF 30. The Chevy Camaro Convertible’s top has a single center latch, released by hand. A single button does the rest of the work, power-folding the canvas top into the trunk while limiting the usable space, but not quite as much as in the Mustang convertible.6.2-liter V8 engineThis is how you win muscle-car, pony-car and NASCAR wars: Big Power. The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible SS brings it big, with 426 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torquey V8 acceleration. The roaring V8 soundscape is just an invigorating bonus.
Under the Hood
We could write a love letter to the Camaro Convertible SS’s V8 engine, but let’s talk about the rest of our test car’s drivetrain. The six-speed manual transmission is not a silky-shifting unit, but like a bronc, if you take charge of it, the results will pay off and you’ll get used to each other. The clutch take-up is quick, almost abrupt–this isn’t the car you’d use to teach someone how to drive a manual transmission. It’s really a four-speed gearbox, with 5th and 6th gears being very tall and purely for fuel-economy purposes. Your mileage will definitely vary, but the EPA gives the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible credit for 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, which is where you’ll probably be spending your best times with the car.6.2-liter V8426 horsepower @ 5900 rpm420 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4600 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/24 (manual)6.2-liter V8400 horsepower @ 5900 rpm410 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25 (automatic)3.6-liter V6312 horsepower @ 6400 rpm278 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5200 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/29 (manual)3.6-liter V6312 horsepower @ 6400 rpm278 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5200 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/29 (automatic)
Introduced at last year’s Los Angeles auto show to a rain of pretty much universal admiration, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible is the open-air chapter in the Chevy Camaro renaissance. The coupe version of the new Chevy Camaro has been hunting for Ford Mustang buyers for a couple of years, but a convertible challenger for the drop-top versions of the Mustang has been a bit longer in the waiting. The 2011 Chevy Camaro Convertible–available in "LT" guise with a 3.6-liter V6 or our "SS" test car’s 6.2-liter V8–is the pony car challenger that the Base (V6) and GT (V8) Ford Mustang convertibles have been stomping the ground waiting for.