2012 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT Convertible Road Test Review

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Published on March 13, 2012

Published on March 13, 2012

Hardly subtle, the Camaro can be had in the special Indy 500 paint scheme, that fortunately doesn't need to include the side lettering. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

Is Inferno Orange your thing? (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

The Camaro comes well equipped, especially in 2LT trim. This Orange trim is a special package. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

Attractive centre stack is high in quality and feature filled. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

Low placement of ancillary gauge package makes them hard to see while driving. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

The 3.6-litre V6 loses weight yet is up 11 horsepower! (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

You might like yours in a slightly more subtle colour, like bright red. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

Published on March 13, 2012

Published on March 13, 2012

The Camaro Convertible is a heavy car that can be felt during cornering and braking. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

Published on March 13, 2012

But boy does it look good! (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

Acceleration is adequate, if not neck-snapping. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

Published on March 13, 2012

There's no mistaking a Camaro from any angle. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

Published on March 13, 2012

Chevy has an array of antennas available for the Camaro. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

Published on March 13, 2012

The RS package adds a lot to the Camaro mix. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

The well-made Camaro Convertible top actually looks good when in place. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Published on March 13, 2012

If you were the sort of kid who liked to put firecrackers in mailboxes just for the mayhem, here's the online equivalent of sticking a firecracker in a mailbox. Log into any Camaro Internet forum and start a thread asking what the word "Camaro" means. Then sit back and watch the explosion of insults fly, as know-it-all after know-it-all declares their interpretation of the meaning of the word to be the real one.

Of course, that's assuming you got nothing better to do with your time than sit on the Internet reading about cars… oh, wait, you're doing that now- aren't you?

Seriously though, the fact people get so engaged around this topic is a testament to the passions surrounding Chevrolet's voluptuous pony car. For the record, there are many varying opinions. The word lines up pretty closely with a French word meaning "friend or companion". And, of course, there's the famous quote often attributed to Pete Estes, Chevrolet's general manager at the time the Camaro was introduced in 1967; "A Camaro is a small vicious animal that eats Mustangs."

And, for 2012, a number of improvements were made to the Camaro, which should enable it to satiate its appetite for Mustangs (and Challengers) more readily than ever. Our test car, a Summit White 2LT Convertible was a real head turner, outfitted in the livery of the 1969 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car (without the lettering-thank God). The combination of the bold orange stripes with the brilliant white paint and the orange interior proved to be a real retina arrester.

While this latest iteration of the Camaro was introduced back in 2010, the Convertible is just going into its model year, having been introduced as a 2011 model at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Available in a number of different iterations, Chevrolet's Oshawa, Ontario-built Camaro offers three different engines, two different transmissions, two different body styles, and some 12 possible configurations - depending upon your mix of body, engine, transmission, trim level, and packages.

Our 2LT Camaro Convertible test car's base price was $39,690, plus a $1,495 destination charge. The LT designation means it ran the newly updated 3.6-litre V6 engine. Camaro Convertible models equipped with this engine are offered in 1LT, and 2LT trims.

A set of 18-inch alloy wheels supports 1LT models as standard equipment. Fog lamps, six-way power driver's seat, automatic headlights, cruise control, keyless entry, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rear park assist, a rearview camera (whose monitor is in the rearview mirror), Bluetooth, OnStar and a seven-speaker CD/satellite-based sound system with an auxiliary audio input jack round out the package.

Our 2LT test car featured all of those items in addition to 19-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, and an auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors. The rallye gauge cluster on the centre console and head-up display are components of the 2LT package as well. Rounding the kit out are heated front seats, and leather upholstery. For 2LT Camaros, the 1LT's seven-speaker audio system is supplanted by an eight-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system (available as an option for 1LT Camaros).

Camaro's Convenience and Connectivity package embeds an iPod interface, USB port, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. If you order the optional automatic transmission, it also adds remote start. To get a set of 20-inch wheels and xenon headlights, opt for the RS package.

In the past, Camaro's historical rivals have always been Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger. This is still true today. However, when you start talking convertibles, the Camaro really has only one direct competitor, Ford's Mustang.

When it comes to V6 powered Camaros and Mustangs the rivalry is pretty intense.
And, as in most cases where two products are pretty much lined up eye-to-eye, a lot of it comes down to personal preference.

Camaro's new V6, at 323 horsepower, surpasses the Mustang's 307-horsepower V6 powerplant by some 16 horsepower. Additionally, though Ford has made great strides toward improving the handling of the Mustang, that car still relies upon a live rear axle, where the Camaro offers an all-independent suspension system.

On the other hand, the Camaro weighs in at 1,812 kilograms (3,995 pounds) while the Mustang bears down upon the Earth with only 1,566 kilos (3,453 pounds) - a relative lightweight by comparison. So even with the additional horsepower and more sophisticated suspension system, the Mustang is quicker and handles better.

In the looks department, if you like curves you'll gravitate toward the Camaro, if rectilinear is what stirs your visual sensibilities; the Mustang's the one.

Camaro Convertible's soft-top is capable of stowing itself or deploying itself within 20 seconds. This means if you roll up to a red traffic signal just after it changes, you'll have more than enough time to raise or lower the top, and still be able to check the envious stares of the other drivers at the signal after pulling off that smooth move.

Since it folds in a Z pattern, the outside of the top protects the headliner when the top is retracted. A tonneau cover is offered, but it's really a pain to use. Given the top folds flush with the body of the Camaro when it's down, that cover is almost irrelevant though.

Raised, the top's line blends nicely with overall design of the car, making the Camaro Convertible one of the rare droptops that looks good with the top up too. A glass rear window and an acoustical headliner keep the car quiet when the top is in place. The rear window is also equipped with a defogger to aid visibility in inclement weather.

The new Camaro was designed from the onset with a convertible variant in mind, so its structure is not compromised by the fact the top can be opened. This also enabled some clever packaging of the antenna arrays modern cars employ. For the Camaro Convertible, Chevy engineers hid the radio antenna in the tail spoiler of RS package cars. The satellite radio uses a shark-fin type antenna mounted on the rear deck lid. For models without a rear spoiler, the terrestrial antenna is hidden in the centre of the deck lid.

Speaking of the rear deck lid, in order to clean up the appearance of the rear of the car, the trunk's cylinder lock was moved from the panel between the tail lamps where it resides on the coupes, to inside the car between the rear seatback cushion and driver's side interior panel. And, of course, the keyless remote fob also opens it.

Inside the Camaro Convertible, with the top raised, you'd be hard pressed to tell you're even in a convertible. The top is finished just that nicely. A single latch secures the top to the windshield frame, making its operation a much simpler process.

One of the knocks against the new Camaro's design has been outward visibility, and with the top raised it's an issue for the Camaro Convertible too. This is why Chevy pairs a rearview camera with the soft top.

Another thing a lot of people complained about was the over-designed steering wheel's oval shape on 2010 and 2011 models. For 2012, the wheel has been reshaped to a more conventional design, making it feel better in your hands. We still question the placement of the four auxiliary gauges on the centre console, tucked together near the bottom of the dash. In our estimation, any gauge requiring a driver to take their eye completely off the road and look down into the depths of the interior of the car to glean its information is pretty much useless.

Another knock against the Camaro is the relative lack of comfort of its back seat. Yes, we know, it's a pony car - most often occupied by a driver and one lucky passenger. However, there are times when the back seat will be called into play and here, Ford's Mustang affords that occasion more concern.

Our test Camaro Convertible benefited from Chevrolet's $575 Inferno Orange Trim Package. With it, the black interior was accented with Inferno Orange accents on the front and rear seats, accent stitching on the steering wheel, shift knob, armrests, centre console, and seats.

The $1,425 RS package, as we mentioned before, laced our Camaro with high intensity discharge headlamps and LED daytime running halo rings, in addition to 20-inch Midnight Silver painted aluminum wheels.

The optional automatic transmission added $1,455 to the Camaro's bottom line, but it also endowed the convertible pony car with remote start and tap shifting for manual control of the automatic transmission.

Capping the package off was the $585 orange stripe package. Figuring in the $1,495 destination charge brought the total as tested price of our Camaro to $45,225.

Our 2012 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible 2LT was fitted with GM's newly updated 323-horsepower, 3.6-litre V6. The engine delivers 278 ft-lbs of torque and with the six-speed automatic transmission fitted to the car the U.S. EPA says the powertrain is good for the metric equivalent of 13.0 L/100km in the city and 8.1 on the highway, with a combined rating of 10.7 L/100km. The Canadian rating is more optimistic at 11.4 and 6.6 respectively. It's a good reference to other cars in the class, but don't believe it.

Up some 11 horsepower over the engine it replaces, and simultaneously some 9.3 kilos lighter, in addition to being more efficient, the engine also runs cleaner than its predecessor. A big part of the weight savings came from integrating the cylinder head with the exhaust manifold. That, plus optimized low-flow fuel injectors, also made the engine burn fuel more cleanly. Switching to a composite intake manifold, a lighter weight structural front cover and high strength connecting rods completed the weight-paring task.

The engine's forged steel crankshaft makes it especially robust, while the 24-valve cylinder heads incorporate dual overhead camshafts and infinitely variable cam phasing. These enhancements give the engine solid low-end torque for brisk acceleration and exceptionally long legs for relaxed high speed running.

Around town, on the highway, and in less athletic situations, the Camaro is a real head turner, particularly in the orange and white livery our test car wore. It rides smoothly, is reasonably quiet (for what it is) and is more than capable of holding its own when merging into fast moving highway traffic.

However, as much as we like the look of the Camaro, we have yet to find it truly fulfilling to drive. Its size is its Achilles Heel. The car is just too big to really enjoy blasting along an open mountain road, which is where we enjoy pleasure driving the most. Now, this is not to say the Chevy isn't agile, it possesses a significant amount of agility - particularly when fitted with the 3.6-litre V6 engine. Weighing less than the Camaro's V8, the V6 lets the Camaro change directions more easily.

Acceleration off the line with V6 is adequate, if not exactly exceptional, but the exhaust note leaves a bit to be desired, particularly after you've sampled, say, the Infiniti G37's sonorous powerplant. We imagine it might be better with the manual transmission, but it just doesn't possess that sophisticated sound the best sporting-oriented V6 engines emit.

Despite the Camaro's size, cornering and braking can be accomplished with considerable verve, and the steering is quite responsive, if not exactly communicative in terms of the feedback it transmits to your fingertips. Body roll is minimal, as are dive and squat, so the Camaro feels competent when it's asked to perform feats of high performance.

It's just that the size thing really cuts into the confidence you can entrust to the car. Once you've driven it for a while and know absolutely what to expect from it and exactly how wide it is, that feeling would probably pass. But driving an unfamiliar Camaro briskly over a twisty road is an exercise requiring faith.

Strengthening that faith, all Camaro models come with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, and OnStar as standard equipment.

There's a reason every parade includes a Camaro Convertible. Few other cars can match the presence the droptop pony car brings to any situation. Fluidly beautiful and retro-yet contemporary, in addition to being fast and nicely equipped, the Convertible Camaro pushes a lot of the right buttons.

If you're new to high performance driving, or if this is your first sporting oriented car, you'll probably be quite impressed with its capabilities. And frankly, even seasoned drivers will find the Camaro to be a willing accomplice at high-speed hi-jinx. But if you've driven a lot of fast cars, and better still, a lot of really good fast cars, the Camaro's flaws will reveal themselves rather quickly.

If the car were about 30 percent smaller, but still had all the power and conveniences it offers, we'd have universal praise for this Chevrolet. As it is, we can only say while you probably won't be disappointed in the way the car goes, there are a number of more satisfying V6-powered performance cars out there.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Convertible, Chevrolet, 2012, Camaro Convertible, $30,000 - $39,999,

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