When I started this article, I was sitting at my home in central Vermont on Christmas Eve pecking away at a laptop with Will and Grace playing in the background. It was a very unseasonable 60 degrees outside and a thought crossed my mind. “Boy, if I had a convertible today I would totally have the roof down!” This, coincidentally brings me neatly to the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro.

{Full Disclosure: Because of a surprisingly good deal on a one-way rental, I ended up in a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro convertible even though it was likely to be equipped with an automatic transmission and an engine with fewer than 8 cylinders. On the plus side, at least it wasn’t a Corolla.}

We picked up the car at our local rental counter. It was clean, red, the top was already down, the odometer read just over 11k miles, and it was now ours. For the next 8 days at least. By the end we put a little over 2,300 miles on it and flogged it along the full gamut of roads and situations.

Photo: The Camaro and my co-driver, Shawn, on Skyline Drive

I want to begin by talking about size. When we think to ourselves “ohh boy, a sports car!” We think of the Miata or a Lotus Elise. Small, light, seriously agile, manual transmission and a small 4-cylinder engine revving it’s little nuts off. The Camaro is not that. It’s not that at all. Mostly because the massive hood is longer than you expect and if you thought Texas was wide, wait until you’re behind the wheel of this thing on a tiny road with a pickup truck coming the other way. “I think it’ll fit, we did get the insurance, right?” was uttered several times on our journey. It’s girth also became apparent quite quickly when my co-driver found himself with one tire into the grass a couple times on the Tail of the Dragon. From inside there is plenty of room for two Americans and their beverages in the front seat while the backseat, while usable in a technical sense, was better suited to holding the camera and perhaps a cooler for your Bud Light.

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There are more things to not like about this car too. I’m hoping, like GM did with the Corvette, that there is a large improvement in one particular area with the new generation. Interior quality. Everything in this car is built with this plastic that has the integrity of a Coke bottle. Being that General Motors is one of the largest manufacturers in the world, one would expect they could design and put together an interior of nice materials free of sharp edges and huge gaps. One would be wrong. J.A.Henkle, the chef’s dream of knife-makers, would be proud of the edges around the door pockets and cup holders. I’m pretty sure though, that even Best Buy’s worst stereo installation team would NOT be proud of the gaps we found around the infotainment system in our car. We could have used it as our trash can. Don’t worry, cleaning guy for rental company, we didn’t. Speaking of the infotainment system though, who the hell designed this thing? Little ‘ol Mazda has their own infotainment system too. For some reason, it’s massively better. It’s uses a simpler screen, clearer buttons and, and, most importantly, usability is infinitely superior. Simple, easy, intuitive but packed with features. That’s how you make a good system, GM, better luck next time.

Photo: In the driveway, waiting for the off.

That’s enough complaining for today, mostly because I don’t have a whole lot else to whine about. The stereo, while obnoxious to use, sounds reasonably well and maintained a constant stream of 21 Pilots from my phone when asked. The satellite radio connection worked well enough to keep us in the loop all the time, assuming of course we avoided overpasses, or tall buildings, or shade trees. The boring gray cloth seats were very comfortable for the long highway stints but supportive and bolstered just enough to hold me in place when caning it. Covering 500-700 miles a day a couple times, I can say with certainty that this car could easily be used as a daily driver. Once you’ve put a couple bullet holes in the NAV screen, obviously. Even if you do render the stereo useless with a .45, the exhaust note will provide sufficient aural pleasure. Sadly, a beautiful snarling V8 soundtrack was missing from this journey, but, this V6 makes a pleasant noise that was really only noticeable when we were really hoping it would be and nice and quiet when we were just trying to get there quickly.

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Over the years, I have driven a pretty good range of american cars. Some old ones like a 1974 Plymouth Duster or a 2012 Chevrolet Impala, and some newer ones, like a 2004 Ford Mustang or several Chevrolet trucks. And you know what? They all drive about the same, except the Impala, which is the same, just with more torque steer. So, the first time we attacked a small, twisty road in our big ‘ol muscle car, our bar was set quite low. It rose quite quickly (the bar, that is)! It may be wide and it may have been on eco friendly tires, but, this thing actually knows what to do when it encounters a change in direction. We even threw one of the twistiest roads in the world at it, and it ate it up and spit us back out the other side. I was very impressed. No understeer, good feel, just enough power to be quick out of the corners and just a hint of oversteer in 1st on the tightest of turns. A Camaro has taken on the Tail of the Dragon and lived to tell the tail, err, tale. It took it all in stride, even when my buddy took over and tried his best to outwit the traction and stability control computers. To my gratitude, he was not successful despite a scarily valiant effort. I was even impressed by the automatic transmission. Don’t get me wrong, I would still prefer to hone my heel-toe skills and blip the throttle myself, but, this thing is pretty damn good. It shifted when I asked it to, even when I hit the paddle one to many times and found the rev limiter. The shifts were quick, rev-matched and managed nicely by flappy paddles. Plus, admittedly, when it was time to “go with the flow” to make up some time or take a nap in New Jersey traffic, it was nice to just put it in “D” and let the car do the thinking for me.

Photo: Still in the driveway, waiting for the off.

Next I want to talk about convertibles. I’ve never owned one myself but have spent some time in several. Of note, There was a 2007 Corvette, my brothers’ Miata, a Saab 900 Convertible and a 160k mile Chrysler Lebaron. There have been others here and there, but, those are the ones that stick out. My abiding memories, except for the Miata of course, would perfectly define the word “flobbery”. There was a noticeable difference in the way the front and rear suspension would handle bumps and turns. I noticed this much less in the Camaro. I’m sure the hardtop is stiffer and I could still feel a little floppiness in the structure, but it is far from feeling like it’s going to separate in the middle next time you run over something like a small pebble or a thick leaf. Having the wind in my hair and endless headroom was a reasonable trade off, and we were very fortunate that most of our weather cooperated nicely. I’ve found also that it’s a great way to see a city. The perspective of all the skyscrapers and stuff is great when you have such an amazing view out of the roof. Although, depending on what part of the city you’re in, it does put you in a more vulnerable position. More than once I looked at my camera in the backseat and said to myself “I think I’ll move that…”

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I have one more topic on convertibles and then I’ll get out of your hair for awhile. Top operation. There are so many takes on this. On one hand you have the Miata. A clip here, a clip there, arch your arm rearward and boom, job done. Others make you undo a clip and then hold a button down for what seems like an eternity while electrical wizardry folds the roof into the trunk. The Camaro fits into the second category, plus a little bit. Because the roof fits into the trunk instead of its own space. One needs to make sure that there is room in the trunk for that to happen. In order to be sure the top will fit, a little retractable cover needs to be in place. Of course, after much swearing at the car bright and early our first morning, we finally learned this from the owner’s manual.

Photo: Not bad, considering what we put it through.

Overall, though, this is actually a really nice car that I liked more than I anticipated, and if the interior was a lot better it would be high on my summer car shopping list!! Although, it is a GM product, so the 2016’s should be in budget by late summer..

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Here is the travellogue of the trip this car went on. Don’t worry it’s a quick, easy read! Just kidding, it’s excruciatingly long. Have Fun! Or, you can whip through the cliff notes version here.

Photo credit: Me. I take all the blame for the crap photos. One of these days I’ll get better at taking photos relevant to what I want to write about!