As this is being written, Chevrolet is firing up the p.r. machine to promote the sixth generation of the Camaro. But we’ve come not to bury the fifth generation but to praise it. Or at least have some fun for the last time around the the2015 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible SS.
And fun it is.
There’s no explaining, or should be none, what a Chevrolet Camaro is, a two-plus-painful-two coupe, and the Camaro convertible a topless version of that. The fifth generation of the Camaro began in 2009 with the 2010 model year coupe, following a hiatus that began after the 2002 model year, leaving a blank in the Camaro history that will require an asterisk, like one of those you find in baseball stats after someone made a mistake.
Asterisk number two is the Camaro convertible not returning until the 2011 model year. It would have been a mistake for the Camaro and the Camaro convertible to return in the same year. Better to spread out the fanfare. A bit of trivia: The Nieman-Marcus special edition car for Christmas 2010 was a Camaro convertible. The 100 Neiman-Marcus Special Edition Camaros, priced at $75,000, sold out in three minutes.
The droptop Camaro was hardly an afterthought. The fifth-generation Camaro was developed with a convertible in mind, and in addition to the structural rigidity already built into the chassis, Chevy added a shock tower brace, a transmission support reinforcement brace, an underbody tunnel brace, front “X” brace and stiffer cradle, and a rear underbody “V” braces. In other words, more braces than a sixth-grade classroom.
For 2015, the Chevrolet Camaro is available with the same powertrain choices as the coupe—not counting the ultra high-performance Camaro ZL1 or track-ready Camaro Z28—with the 323-horsepower V-6-powered LS coupe and LT, and the Camaro SS, with the 6.2-liter V-8. More about V-8 power later.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard on coupe and convertible as well, with a six-speed automatic a $1,295 option. The automatic has standard paddle shifting and includes remote start.
The RS package adds $1,295 to the bottom line. It’s available on both the LT and the SS, and includes a special grille with fog lamps separate from the daytime running lamps. Camaro convertibles with the RS package also get 20-inch aluminum wheels and high-intensity discharge headlamps with LED halo rings.
Our test 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible SS included the RS package for $1,350, and added another $900 for special polished aluminum wheels. The navigation system raised the bottom line another $495. The “gray full-length dual indy stripes” cost $510, but add a subtle and classy touch to the Black exterior. (Note: While every other color on the Camaro palette includes an adjective, black is just Black).
The fifth generation Camaro SS varies little from its predecessors. We tested a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible SS back when they were new and really liked it then. Not much has changed. The interior of our current tester was more subdued than the Inferno Orange or the 2011, but otherwise little has changed. There’s still the swoopy insert in the door panel with a fine line accent lighting, and the SS package still includes gauges down alongside your ankle for •oil pressure, battery voltage, oil temperature and transmission fluid temperature.
One welcome addition is a rearview camera. The fabric top with its little rear window made for difficult backing and especially parallel parking. It’s much easier now.
Performance is still entertaining. The 6.2-liter V-8 has a raspy and lusty roar under full throttle and the car goes just like you’d expect. With the automatic transmission, however, the 6.2-liter is designated the L99 and is rated at 400 horsepower due to, says Chevrolet, “a slightly lower compression ratio (10.4:1 vs. 10.7:1) and design features of the Active Fuel Management system.” The 6.2-liter with the manual transmission (with the engine designation LS3) maxes its power curve at 426 horsepower.
We doubt we’d be able to detect the 26 horsepower difference between the two, but the aural satisfaction level of the automatic is well below that with the stick. Mainly, the L99 is just too quiet. It might as well be your great aunt’s sedan. While the 2011 Camaro with the LS3 rumbled around, roared on acceleration and popped and cracked on the overrun, our tester’s L99 apparently thought it was in stealth mode. It was just…unsatisfying, like expecting a double scoop of rocky road on a sugar cone and getting a spoonful of low-fat vanilla in a cup.