2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Introduction
When it comes to having fun in the sun, just remember the three Cs: Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. Even without a convertible version, the Chevrolet Camaro has been very popular since its introduction in 2009, but the 2011 model brings with it an all-new convertible body style that is heating up the classic Camaro versus Mustang rivalry even further. Except for the second-generation model, the Chevy Camaro has always been available with a convertible body style, and fans of open-air driving only had to wait a year to get this option on the latest Camaro. Instead of just chopping the top off the new Camaro, Chevrolet actually designed its latest muscle car to be a convertible from the beginning which allowed for improved ride quality and interior refinement. Above all else, we were more interested in finding out how far the base-engine Camaro V-6 Convertible has come in a muscle car’s most telling attribute: performance.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible has been on sale since February with a starting MSRP of $29,275. Available in four trim levels (1LT, 2LT, 1SS and 2SS), Chevrolet let us test out the Camaro Convertible in the 2LT trim for this review which ups the starting price to $33,625. Adding the stylish RS package and some other options, this Chevy Camaro Convertible had an as-tested price of $36,185. The 2LT is definitely the way to go for a good mix of styling, technology and luxury. Among the few competitors, this pricing is about what you can expect to pay for a well-equipped base model, and the Camaro’s peppy V-6 and retro-styled interior really help it stand out from other cars in this class.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Competition
It goes without saying that the biggest rival to the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible is the drop-top version of the Ford Mustang, but new-car shoppers looking for equally sporty convertibles should also check out the Nissan 370Z Roadster, Mazda MX-5 Miata and even the Chrysler 200 Convertible. The good news for Chevrolet is that the addition of a convertible model should help the Camaro sell even more units. Aside from the sales comparisons between the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt, the new Camaro versus Mustang rivalry has made monthly sales figures entertaining. With more than 56,000 Camaro models sold so far this year, the Camaro is handily outselling the Mustang by almost 10,000 units. In addition to the convertible model, Chevrolet is also about to release a new Camaro ZL1 to go up against the Shelby Mustang GT500.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Exterior
Cutting the roof off a coupe to make a convertible can usually lead to some awkward body lines, but the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible manages to keep the same basic Camaro shape despite its power-folding cloth top. Although the soft top is only available in black, it looked good in contrast to our test vehicle’s Victory Red exterior color. With the top down, the Camaro Convertible 2LT comes standard with an easy-to-install tonneau cover that just slides in place and uses two clips to hold it in place to hide the top and keep the car’s look clean. If there was any added clutter on this new convertible design, it is the rear decklid. When the roof was removed, items such as the LED third-brake and shark-fin satellite radio antenna had to go somewhere, and unfortunately for the Camaro Convertible’s lines, both of these are now affixed to the decklid making the rear of the car look very cluttered. Opting for the RS appearance package hides this a little with the addition of a rear spoiler, and the package also includes plenty of additional styling upgrades.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Interior
Like the exterior styling, Chevy made sure the interior kept the same retro attitude on the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, and the rear seats were the only major changes to accommodate the new soft top. This means that the deep, three-spoke steering wheel and lower auxiliary gauges carry over continue to add to the classic styling similar to the first-generation Camaro, while the soft top has an acoustic headliner to make the interior as quiet as some hard-top convertibles even at highway speeds. Lowering the top is easy with a single twist-style handle unlocking the roof and a push button for the power operation located above the rearview mirror, but the positioning of this switch is in such a place where it is easy for fingers to get pinched when raising the roof if you’re not careful. The Camaro V-6 Convertible 2LT trim level comes standard with leather seats, heated front seats, heads-up display unit (HUD), Bluetooth connectivity and an eight-speaker Boston Acoustics audio system to blast all of the ‘80s music your heart desires.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Packages and Options
Our 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible came with a couple of added options that bumped the price up to just over $36,000. First, the aforementioned RS Package added $1,500 to the bottom line but also includes sporty upgrades such as upgraded wheels, darker taillight lenses and HID headlights with a unique LED halo that comes on with the parking lights. The upgraded wheels are a set of offset 20-inch, five-spoke aluminum wheels that are painted with a Midnight Silver finish. The only other option on this test vehicle was the $1,185 six-speed automatic transmission that also came with the added convenience of a remote start function.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
Gone are the days where a V-6 Camaro sacrificed performance for price as the base engine for all 2011 Chevrolet Camaro models is a direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6 that produces 312 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. Another sacrifice Camaro shoppers won’t have to make when looking at the base model is fuel economy. Paired with the six-speed automatic transmission like this test vehicle, the 2011 Camaro V-6 Convertible delivers decent fuel economy figures with EPA estimates of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The combination of these fuel economy numbers along with the upgraded performance means that drivers can get behind the wheel of a fun and sporty Camaro drop top without having to spend the extra money on MSRP, insurance or gasoline to step up to the V-8-powered SS model. About the only downfall of this V-6 model is that the car exhibits a tinny exhaust note reminiscent of an early ‘90s Pontiac Grand Prix.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Driving Impressions
As it turns out, taking the top off the popular Camaro coupe wasn’t hard at all since Chevy engineers designed the car with the convertible model in mind. This means that the car is still rigid even without the roof to the point that Chevy claims the new Camaro Convertible has better torsional stiffness than the BMW 3 Series Convertible. While this is a great marketing line, Chevrolet definitely did a great job of giving this new Camaro Convertible a firm chassis that allows a confident responsiveness to the driver. Although we weren’t able to test the track skills of the convertible on a slalom course, it handled surprisingly well in everyday driving and exhibited none of the cowl shake that plagued the previous Camaro convertible. Even better, at highway speeds with the top up, the Convertible’s cabin was almost as quiet as its Coupe counterpart. Acceleration was surprisingly quick considering V-6 Camaro models used to be ideal for non-enthusiast drivers, and the six-speed automatic transmission made the car fun to drive in city driving thanks to the TAPshift feature which allows for a manual-shift mode.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Safety
All 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible models come standard with safety features such as six airbags, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), daytime running lights, traction control, StabiliTrak electronic stability control system and OnStar’s bevy of integrated, voice-activated safety and convenience features. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn’t separate the Camaro coupe and convertible models, and despite not having rated the 2011 Camaro for passenger protection, it did give the car a five-star rollover rating. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has yet to rate any of the fifth-generation Camaro models for occupant safety.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Final Thoughts
At the end of our weeklong review, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible proved to be far better than its predecessor and is definitely worth the nine-year wait for drop-top Camaro lovers. Not only did Chevy give the new Camaro Convertible a firm body that delivers a smooth ride, it also gave the car a quiet interior that rivals some hard-top convertibles. True performance enthusiasts should definitely check out the Camaro SS Convertible, but the Camaro’s updated base engine should provide plenty of power for most drivers. Jump up to the 2LT trim level and drivers will find equipment found on some luxury convertible as well as segment-exclusive items like the HUD. Factor in a starting price of under $30,000, and it’s really hard to find many complaints about the 2011 Camaro Convertible. My biggest complaint about the 2011 Chevy Camaro? No t-tops!
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible Review: Pros and Cons
- top-down driving enjoyment
- more powerful V-6 for 2011
- same great Camaro styling inside and out
- fingers can be pinched when roof is closing
- still no in-dash navigation
Chevrolet provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross