Monday, July 11, 2011

News: Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

It was a legend in the ‘60s and ‘70s and today’s Camaro is pretty much a legend all over again in its home territory, where it’s America’s best-selling muscle car and doing a good job of recalling the glory days of Chevy’s Mustang-basher.

From early 2012 we Brits will be able to get a piece of that legend, the Camaro going on sale here through Chevrolet dealers who decide to apply for the Camaro franchise. Both coupe and convertible versions will be offered, and in European homologation trim but only with left-hand drive. What you’re getting is the classic American muscle car format, a muscularly shapely and sizeable body clothing an unnecessarily large 6.2 litre V8 (excellent…) that drives the rear wheels either through a six-speed stick-shift, or an optional £1500 six-speed torque converter auto with paddle shifts.

What’s it like?

It’s the power drop-top version we sample here, at Goodwood’s Moving Motor Show. Which hardly qualifies as an extensive test, but it’s enough to provide an impression. And in theory quite a forceful one if you floor the throttle on the hill’s start line with the traction control turned off, not least because first gear is short to aid tyre-smoking departures.

In theory, because the 426 horses that the 6.2 litre V8 is supposed to muster certainly didn’t feel like Ascot runners, the Chevy launching off the line with a rather disappointing lack of thrust given its supposed muscle. Neither tyres nor exhaust mustered much aural US cop show-style excitement either. Perhaps it was down to operator error or an engine with few miles behind it, but muscular it was not.

The Chevy’s suspension didn’t feel especially sporting either, its softness producing more initial roll than you’d expect, although it firms up once the car has settled and certainly feels decently planted, as you’d hope of a multi-link rear axle. Another surprise is the braking – there might be Brembo callipers clenching its discs, but the Camaro’s pedal needs some firm treading to get this beast to slow convincingly. All of which adds up to a somewhat disappointing dynamic experience, on the basis of this short blast at least, although it’s hard not to be beguiled by the car itself.

This is a big beast, and will probably feel the more so at times with left-hand drive, but it’s an effortless cruiser and a very pleasant one with its fabric lid folded away, especially as the body structure feels pretty rigid. It’s vastly better made than muscle cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and if the cabin plastics are hardly in Ingolstadt’s league, it’s well put together and provides some pleasing details such as the nostalgic quartet of minor gauges clustered around the centre console, and their contrast with a modern head-up display. Above all, however, it looks like your quintessential American muscle car, and comes without the crudities of manufacture and functionality that the originals imposed.

Should I buy one?

You’ll probably need to be nursing a weakness for American iron if you’re going to consider this car, even though it’s hugely more sanitary than machines from the era that it so effectively evokes. Other sporting convertibles of this size are far more capable but, this drop-roof Camaro is good value for its size, power and equipment with its starting price of £39,995.

Hopefully that will be enough to induce a few star-spangled romantics into signing up for a car that makes a fine sight and is hard not to like despite its shortfalls. And a longer UK drive in a car more fully run-in might uncover a sharper tool than this Goodwood demonstrator made.

Richard Bremner

Chevrolet Camaro convertible automatic

Price: £39,995; Top speed: 155mph limited; 0-60mph 5.5sec; Economy: NA; Co2: NA; Kerb weight: NA; Engine: V8, 6162cc; Power: 426bhp at 5900rpm; Torque: 410lb ft at 1600rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd automatic


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