Tuesday, October 16, 2018


The glory days for Muscle Cars may go back four or five decades, but even though there are fewer of them around today, you can still learn what they were all about without having to shop the collector's car market.

Take the Chevrolet Camaro, launched in 1967 as a competitor to Ford's Mustang.

Once seemingly destined for the same scrap heap where Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, and Plymouths now reside, the Camaro got new life when Chevy resurrected it for 2010 after ceasing production in 2002 because of lagging sales.

Let’s hope a similar fate doesn’t await the latest edition. The Camaro, especially in convertible form, deserves much better.

The Camaro, most notably with the standard 6.2-liter V8 engine that is standard in 1SS or 2SS trim, is ever bit a Muscle Car in the true tradition of the 1960s and early ’70s, only a bit more refined. It is available in coupe or convertible form, and I was fortunate to have the latter recently.

“Spartan” is what may come to mind with the interiors of Muscle Cars of the past, but that doesn’t hold true with the Camaro 2SS. If not up to full luxury standards, the upgrades made to the cabin are immediately noticeable.

Materials are of a higher quality, and such conveniences as dual zone climate control, 8-way adjustable driver’s and 6-way passenger’s seats, premium Bose sound system, Chevy MyLink with 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth streaming and phone, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and  4G LET Wi-Fi are included among standard features under the $40,000 MSRP.

Outside, the Camaro 2SS convertible gets HID headlights with LED signature lighting, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lamps, and a power convertible top that can be lowered by pushing a button on the key fob. It also can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 30 mph, handy if caught in a surprise shower.

The base transmission to go with the V8 (455 horsepower, 455 pound-feet of torque) is a 6-speed automatic, but, alas, my vehicle for the week had the optional 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. It tacks $1,495 on to the price. Other niceties, like a navigation system, dual mode performance exhaust, 20-inch 5-split spoke wheels, and more ran the bottom line to $52,820.

Given my druthers, I’d stick with the manual tranny, but that’s not the trend these days.

Of course, the Camaro is not without its drawbacks.

With the top up, visibility all around is somewhat restricted. Fortunately, blind spot monitoring, lane-change alert, and a rearview camera with cross-traffic monitoring are among standard items. Rear-park assist also is included.

Leg room in the front of the convertible is a roomy 43.9 inches, but the back offers less than 30 inches. It’s the same in coupe form as well.

Forget cargo space. It’s only 9.1 cubic feet for the coupe and much less than that with the convertible, especially with the top lowered. I question even the 7.1 cubic feet Chevy claims for it.

And then there is the gas mileage. The spec sheet put the figures at 17 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway, 20 combined, which is not as bad as one might expect. You've got to sacrifice something to get that power.

The government claims that will have you paying about $3,750 more on fuel over a 5-year period over the average new vehicle, but one must consider that the Camaro Convertible is far from an average vehicle.

What I liked about the 2018 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible: They had me at “convertible.” But to add more, it looks, and with a 6.2-liter V8 under the hood, it also acts the part of a true Muscle Car, but with a more refined interior. Top operation is simple enough as long as you have the trunk set right, and the infotainment system is user-friendly.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible: Yes, you have to sacrifice something with the top folding into the trunk, but cargo space virtually disappears when the top is lowered. The backseat doesn’t offer much in the way of space. Maybe small children can fit back there, emphasis on the word “small.” Visibility is restricted to the rear with the top raised.

Would I buy the 2018 Chevy Camaro 2SS Convertible? Yes. I still kind of lean toward the Mustang, but the Camaro has become a worthy competitor. Glad Chevy had the good sense to bring it back after an eight-year hiatus.

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