Chevrolet’s Camaro made its triumphant return in 2010, after years of anticipation, having last seen production in 2002. The new car’s design is strongly influenced by previous Camaros, specifically the 1969 car, but incorporates those design elements with a contemporary twist. The convertible is available in four trim levels; the base V6 (1LT, 2LT) and the V8 (1SS, 2SS). The vehicle tested for the review is the 2SS convertible, which had a base price of $40,680 and a total MSRP of $44,940. Major options on the test car included a six speed automatic transmission ($1,185) RS package ($1,350) interior accent trim package ($500) and Inferno Orange metallic paint ($325).

The Camaro SS convertible comes with an impressive list of standard equipment, including: automatic headlights, keyless entry, Bluetooth, OnStar, iPod interface, heated mirrors, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, console gauges, head-up display, rear park assist, rearview camera (displays on rearview mirror), heated front seats, 9-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system, 20-inch wheels, sport suspension and leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The heart of the Camaro SS is its engine, a 6.2 liter V8 rated at 400hp and 410lb-ft torque (automatic transmission) which hustles the car from 0-60 in the mid-four second range. The SS with the 6-speed manual transmission has a slightly higher rating of 426hp and 420lb-ft. The Camaro’s base engine is a 3.6 liter V6 good for 323hp and 278lb-ft., which is an excellent option for those who don’t need the power and extra cost of the SS. The EPA fuel economy rating for the SS automatic is 15 mpg city/24 mpg highway, 18 combined, while the V6 will reach 30mpg on the highway.

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All 2012 Camaros come standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and OnStar. In government crash testing, the Camaro earned a top five-star rating overall, with five stars for overall front-crash protection and five stars for overall side-impact protection. Edmunds reports brake testing both V6 and V8 coupes with 20-inch wheels demonstrated a stopping distance from 60 mph in 111 feet, which is excellent for the segment.

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The Camaro’s interior mixes retro touches like the square hoods around the tach and speedometer with a four-pack of gauges ahead of the shifter on the console. The upper door panels are body-color and match the two-tone leather seats. The heating/ventilation console looks a bit plasticky, but is otherwise functional. New for 2012 is the steering wheel, leather wrapped with thumb reliefs at 10 and 2. There is no GPS available, so owners will have to make do with an aftermarket unit attached to the windshield.

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The main drawback for some is the car’s outward visibility. This is a result of its high window sills and low roofline, which can give a driver the impression of being in a tank turret. The test car had the rearview camera which displayed on the rearview mirror, which is invaluable when maneuvering with the top up. Typical of cars in this segment is the vestigial back seat, which is best suited for small children or one adult sitting sideways. Trunk space is a respectable 11.3 cubic feet, however the opening is small enough to severely limit the trunk’s usefulness.

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On the road, the SS displays impressive amounts of cornering grip thanks to its 20" wheels, high-performance tires and sport suspension. The steering is nicely weighted with variable boost being speed-sensitive. The SS convertible is no lightweight, but a curb weight of over 3900lb does make for a smooth ride even if there is a lot of mass to throw around. Road noise is not insignificant; this is amplified by the soft top and low-profile performance tires. On unimproved road surfaces there is a little bit of rattle and squeak which is typical of most convertibles, but smooth pavement yields a quiet ride. Previous Camaros made do with a solid rear axle, but the new car has a fully independent rear suspension which contributes to a smooth ride and improved handling.

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The Camaro SS’s forte continues to be brutal straight-line acceleration, but this new model can now handle turns as well. The convertible is a fun top-down cruising car, but with the power to light up the tires almost at will. It’s been reported that the next Camaro will be lighter, and built on a new platform. It is questionable whether the retro-inspired design will continue, as GM might seek out a new direction for its venerable pony car. For those interested in a comfortable performance car with the classic Camaro look, the SS convertible does not disappoint.

(this review was from last July)