2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible review

Nothin' but a good time

2016 Chevrolet Camaro convertible
2016 Chevrolet Camaro convertible. Photo © Aaron Gold

It's difficult to be objective when one is driving a car like the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible.

It's even more difficult when Chevrolet hands you the keys to a V8-powered SS model, points you towards a lonely two-laner in Death Valley, and tells you to go nuts, with the caveat that any speeding tickets are yours and to please return the car in one Camaro-shaped piece.

Larger photos: Exterior - interior - all photos

I'd like to think that the sheer thrill of blasting through the desert at triple-digit speeds, the sun on my kepi and the howl of the V8 ringing in my ears, had little to do with my most favorable opinion of the new drop-top Camaro. (Yeah, I left out the bit about the wind in my hair—you can thank the Camaro's well-designed wind deflector for that.)

If you remember my review of the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro convertible (and why wouldn't you?), you'll recall that I praised the car for its engineering. A lot of convertibles exhibit chassis flex. A car's metal roof provides structural stability, and chopping it off makes the car all bendy-like. In order to compensate, engineers brace the chassis and body, but there's only so much one can do without cranking up the weight to Sherman Tank levels. General Motors did an extraordinarily good job with this on the last Camaro, and they did a good job on this one, too.

I drove the Camaro out to a rutted dirt road to get the photo you see up top, and even over the washboard surface I could barely detect any odd flex or shaking.

Now, one of the hallmarks of the new Convertible is lighter weight. Chevrolet downsized the car in order to trim its bulk, and they made extensive use of high strength steel to keep the chassis stiff.

According to Chevy, the SS model I was driving weighed 275 lbs. less than last year's model. And let's not forget that the Camaro is now offered with a lightweight four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which I drove (and loved) in the Camaro coupe.

Chevrolet has made a lot of changes to the convertible top mechanism. The old Camaro convertible had a manual top latch that sometimes required wrestling the top into place. The new Camaro's roof has automatic latches, so you can lower it with a single rocker switch. The top can now be raised and lowered at speeds up to 30 MPH, and the lowered top hides under a hard body-color tonneau cover so that once lowered, there is no visual evidence of its existence.

Unfortunately, the top switch is located right at the top of the roof, so if you push it with your thumb and rest your fingers at the top of the windshield frame (as I did) it's possible to get your fingers caught between the windshield and the top as it cinches back into place (as I narrowly avoided doing - photo here).

And while I'm complaining, I'd like to ask Chevrolet if there was some sort of internal competition to see who could devise the most complicated power-window switch—and if there was, I hope the grand prize was a vacation in Hawaii, because otherwise the winner got short-changed.

The Camaro has four lowering windows (front and back, left and right) but only two window switches, and a button that switches between front and rear—so you raise the fronts, then press the button to select the rears, then raise those. Unless, of course, the switch is in rear-window mode and you can't figure out why the front windows aren't going anywhere. I believe that all convertibles should have one button to lower all four windows at once, so the Camaro's setup is the exact opposite of the direction we should be going. Honestly, Chevy, would it have killed you to just grab the switch panel from the Malibu?

I can't complain too much about the back seat, as I expect buyers won't have very high expectations. The Camaro coupe's back seat is pretty near useless, and the convertible's is slightly narrower thanks to the top mechanism.

My advice: Don't ask anyone to sit back there unless maintaining their friendship is not high on your list of priorities.

The convertible top lowers into the trunk, and Chevy has a soft fabric divider that marks off the space where your luggage is safe. The Camaro's trunk was small to begin with, and the convertible's is so much smaller that Chevrolet has not yet published the trunk volume. Check out this photo, which shows my medium-sized backpack filling up nearly half of the available space. You'll be able to get a few grocery bags in there, but any luggage will have to go in the back seat—which is fine, as you certainly wouldn't want to put people back there.

All that said, I'm not one to recommend against a convertible for not being practical. Convertibles simply aren't practical cars. And I'll give the Camaro even more leeway because it's primary mission is to look good—Chevrolet makes no bones about that. Surveys of owners of the fifth-generation Camaro revealed that they like styling the best, and Chevy gave 'em what they wanted. And I don't think anyone will deny that this is one bad-ass looking car.

Chevy has priced the Camaro Convertible at $33,695 for starters (including destination charge) up to well over $62k with all of the options. You can compare that to the Ford Mustang convertible ($30,545 - $51,525), though brand loyalty being what it is, buying a Ford may not be an option for Camaro loyalists. I haven't had any seat time in the latest Mustang convertible; from my experience with the coupe, I can say that it has a better interior and is little easier to drive (the Mustang doesn't feel quite so wide), but handling finesse takes second place to the Camaro. I am in love with the Dodge Challenger, but the Mopar boys don't make a convertible version (which is a real shame).

So my overall verdict is two thumbs pointing straight up. The new Camaro convertible is good looking and well engineered. It's not terribly practical, but it is a thrill to drive—Camaros are quick with the base four-cylinder engine, very quick with the V6, and brutally quick with the V8, and they feel great in the curves.

I really like the new drop-top Camaro, and if you happen to get a chance to drive one—especially in the California desert—I think there's a good possibility you will too. – Aaron Gold