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Modern Chevrolet Camaro convertible lacks legend-building personality

Consumer Reports News: June 18, 2012 03:38 PM

With the approach of summer, it seems a natural supposition that a muscle car would be even more enjoyable with its top down. While there is some truth to that, the reality is most convertibles spend much of their time with the top up. And as we have been experiencing, the Chevrolet Camaro convertible doesn't shine when closed.

We have concluded our testing of a Chevrolet Camaro 2SS, with a 400-hp V8, six-speed automatic transmission, and lava-like orange paint. It stickered for about $43,000. For that price, an auto enthusiast is treated to a modern reinterpretation of the first-generation Camaro, complete with contemporary conveniences, performance, and safety. Yet, by today's standards, the car doesn't achieve its potential.

Sure, the Camaro feels taut and agile for its size, and it excels in our accident avoidance maneuver. Further, its braking distances were among the shortest we've tested. Yet, despite the instrumented measurements, it lacks a certain bravado and fun factor that its Dodge and Ford rivals offer. The strong engine delivers power when called upon, with exhilarating acceleration, but it does so without the expected V8 roar and excitement. As the Dodge Challenger reminds drivers, a muscle car should have a hearty rumble, making it fun at any speed. This Camaro V8 has the symphonic thrill of a single-speaker AM radio.

Packaging has a roster of limitations, too. As with the coupe, outward visibility is limited to all sides for the sake of styling. A short windshield makes seeing traffic lights a struggle, and backing up requires a strong dependency on the tiny rear-view camera screen.

Having driven it this past weekend, I am reminded of the compromised rear seating and trunk space, especially for a car its size. Interior storage is likewise limited; even the massive doors have but a tiny map pocket. The doors swing wide, making parking-lot access a challenge for all but pilates instructors, and even the interior door handle is awkward to access. Plus, the road noise is distracting. Cruising with the top raised, I found myself frequently confirming that the windows were up, as they sure didn't sound it.

Why in this age of retina-display phones and tablets does Chevrolet continue to use monochrome displays, with the graphic finesse of the original Space Invaders coin-op? Plus, in my driving, the satellite radio reception proved poor, with the most-frequent station ID being "No XM Signal." And that does not rock.

There are no surprises with the Camaro convertible over the coupe, only the familiar shortcomings and laudable track abilities. Since there is no Challenger drop-top, domestic competition is limited, but the Ford Mustang offers a more compelling choice, even though it's an older design.

Check out the video to see the car in action. Ultimately, it is the styling and the dynamic abilities that are the biggest draws. Read our complete Camaro road test for the full story.

Jeff Bartlett

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