2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible First Drive Review
The new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro looks cool. Menacing yet sophisticated with its hunkered-down stance, it’s a great car to be seen in. But like the previous-generation Camaro, the sixth-gen car’s chunky, chopped-roof design makes for terrible visibility, both inward and outward. Enter the new-for-2016 Camaro convertible, which opens up the coupe’s pillbox view at the press of a button without sacrificing the Camaro’s excellent driving behavior.
Let It All Down
As with Chevy’s previous softtop pony cars, the latest model sticks with an insulated fabric roof, in colors including black, dark blue, and a dark brown called Kalahari. Its execution, however, is better integrated into the car than previous efforts. All of the actions are automated and a flush-fitting tonneau cover now conceals the folded structure behind the rear seats. You can even drop the top from a distance with the car’s key fob. We found the roof takes about 12 seconds to lower and 14 to put back in place, and either operation can be performed while moving at speeds of up to 30 mph. The new Camaro’s elevated cowl and instrument binnacle still crop the view ahead and the A-pillars are thick, but with the top stowed the car’s massive blind spots disappear and the views out become largely unobstructed.
The painted hard tonneau lends a nicely finished appearance to the Camaro convertible. There’s no jumbled mass of fabric and metal here. Moving the shark-fin antenna to the rear decklid crowds the spoiler a little, but overall it’s a sleek design that’s sure to draw admiring stares. Atmospheric intrusion with the roof lowered is well managed, too. Buffeting is minimal and the rushing air is quiet enough at highway speeds that front passengers can easily converse, even with the side windows down. With the top raised, road and wind roar are only slightly increased versus the coupe.
There are drawbacks, though. With the convertible’s softtop closely mimicking the coupe’s profile, visibility with the roof up is poor, and its slit of a rear window is smaller than the hardtop’s, further limiting rearward vision. The Camaro’s rear seats are still comically tight on legroom, and the top mechanism pinches rear occupants’ shoulder room. The top also eats up precious space in the already-small trunk, with capacity dropping from the coupe’s nine cubic feet to just seven with the top up and three with the roof stowed. That’s barely enough room for two duffel bags under the Camaro’s tiny trunklid.
As you’d expect, removing the steel roof takes some structural rigidity with it. Despite the new chassis having greater torsional stiffness than the previous iteration’s, the convertible conversion requires several underbody reinforcements, as well as a front strut-tower brace on SS models. The structure still feels solid, though. We didn’t notice any shakes from the windshield on the smooth desert roads during a drive in Nevada and California, but slight quivers could be felt through the steering wheel over larger bumps.
Chevy says that the 2016 convertibles are about 200 pounds lighter than comparable 2015 Camaro droptops, including the couple hundred of extra pounds brought by the additional braces and top mechanism. Expect the V-8–powered SS to brush the two-ton mark. The convertible’s added mass should also impact acceleration by a few tenths versus the coupes, with the SS’s quarter-miles climbing into the mid-to-high-12-second range and lesser models stretching into the mid-14s. We’ll confirm those estimates, and how well the modified structure copes with Michigan’s broken pavement, once we get a chance to fully test the cars.
The View Costs
Equipment and trim largely mirrors the offerings on coupes, but at elevated base prices ranging from $33,695 to $44,295—a hearty $7000 higher than similar hardtops. Either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic ($1495) can be paired with the new 275-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a 335-hp V-6, or the SS’s 455-hp 6.2-liter V-8. All of General Motors’ latest safety, convenience, and infotainment gear is available, as are a bevy of appearance and wheel options for customization.
The droptop Camaros’ overall feel is only slightly softer than that of their fixed-roof counterparts, and they share the coupes’ near-neutral attitude at the adhesion limit, precise steering, and willingness to clip apexes. Fuel economy is rated the same, too, led by the turbo four and its 31-mpg highway figure. This is still much the same Camaro that won a C/D 10Best Cars award upon its debut and, in SS guise, beat the 2015 Ford Mustang GT in its first comparison test. Being able to lower the roof makes it easier to see out while cruising on a sunny day—and easier for others to see how much you’re enjoying it.
Specifications >VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door convertible
BASE PRICE: 2.0T, $33,695; V-6, $35,190; SS, $44,295
ENGINE TYPES: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 275 hp, 295 lb-ft; DOHC 24-valve 3.6-liter V-6, 335 hp, 284 lb-ft; pushrod 16-valve 6.2-liter V-8, 455 hp, 455 lb-ft
TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 110.7 in
Length: 188.3 in
Width: 74.7 in Height: 52.9 in
Passenger volume: 81 cu ft
Cargo volume: 3–7 cu ft
Curb weight (C/D est): 3600–4000 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 4.2–5.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 11.2–15.1 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 12.6–14.4 sec
EPA city/highway driving: 16–22/25–31 mpg