There are just a few hard stats necessary to signify a good convertible.
No. 1: Good air flow with the top down. There’s no excuse for shoddy aerodynamics that will make the wind rip off a driver’s sunglasses. Passengers should be able to have a conversation without shouting.
No. 2: A top that can be lowered in less time than it takes for a traffic light to turn green.
No. 3: Sexy styling. If you are going to hang it all out there, your car should be the envy of the street.
No. 4: No cowl shake.
The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro convertible fits my checklist. Its electro-hydraulic power roof can be even be opened or closed at speeds up to 30 mph, and the top can be lowered using the key fob. The fabric top has layers of acoustic and thermal barriers, and the look of the hard tonneau cover fits that of a speedster. The raising or lowering process takes about 15 seconds, so there’s no excuse for not going topless.
Body reinforcements added about 270 pounds to the convertible, compared to the Camaro coupe, but weight is not felt. Too often when a manufacturer cuts the roof off of a coupe to create a convertible, the structural rigidity of the chassis goes out with the wind. Cowl shake is the demon known as the juddering clunk at the dashboard — it seems as if it wants to bounce up and out of the car. But the Camaro feels tight and nimble.
The convertible is sold in four trim levels with three engine choices and either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. Starting prices range, from $33,695 for the entry 1LT model with a 275-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to $50,790 2SS with a 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine and automatic transmission.
Today’s tester, a 2LT with 335-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine, was $47,525, including the $995 freight charge from Lansing, Michigan. Among the tester’s extras were the RS package ($1,950), which included 20-inch Goodyear Eagle Run Flat tires and LED headlights, running lights and taillights. The low-gloss black alloy wheels for $100 were a sharp upgrade, combined with the tester’s Hyper Blue metallic paint. The V-6 and eight-speed automatic added $1,495 each. The Convenience and Lighting package ($2,800) included lighted “Camaro” sill plates, color-changing interior ambient lighting, a wireless phone charging pad, rear parking assist and rear cross-traffic alert, side blind-zone alert with lane-change alert and a heated steering wheel. The dual-mode exhaust ($895) may not be necessary with the V-6.The system opens the pipes under heavy pedal effort and closes the flaps for a quieter ride with no drone at high speeds.
The 335-horspower V-6 has a nasal snarl that sounds as if it is trying to sound bigger than it is. The car moves out nicely, but the transmission is timed to roll through the gears to maximize fuel economy. Sport mode sharpens the response, but it’s nothing like the Camaro SS V-8. Fuel economy ratings are 19 mpg city, 28 highway and 23 mpg combined.
As an American icon, the Camaro has a fairly large footprint with a fairly compact interior. There is not a lot of stash space inside and only small door slots. Back-seat space is more like luggage space, particularly if there are tall occupants in front. The trunk is small, too — about 7.3 cubic feet of usable space when the top is down. That won’t hold much more than a couple of soft-sided bags for a getaway and whatever else can be tucked alongside.
The tester seemed pricey, but it gives a convertible aficionado every reason to go topless.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage