2012 Chevrolet Camaro
Given the sustained sales success of the show-stopping Chevrolet Camaro coupe
, it was only a matter of time before Chevy chopped the top, and here it is, folks—the Camaro convertible, which enters its second year of production for 2012. Mechanically identical to the coupe, the Camaro drop-top features a power-operated vinyl top that neatly dispenses with the hardtop’s rearward visibility issues when retracted, yet largely retains the coupe’s sexy roofline when in place. If you like your convertibles fast, stylish, and capable—and who doesn’t?—this Chevy generally delivers the goods.
Now for the asterisk: the Camaro’s convertible roof requires the tedious manual installation (or removal) of a tonneau cover every time you operate it. Most modern convertibles either don’t have such covers or offer them only as aesthetic enhancements, but the Camaro owner’s manual clearly states that the cover must be in place before you start driving, and we can attest that the folded top flaps around at speed if left to its own devices.
But hey, the Camaro convertible with the RS package still looks great and goes fast thanks to a powerful V-6. Just make sure you try the top out for yourself before you drive one home.
What's to Like
The 3.6-liter V-6 is shared with the Cadillac CTS
luxury sedan, and it’s plenty powerful—only true gearheads will yearn for the optional V-8’s extra power and noise. All 2012 Camaros benefit from a new steering wheel that’s actually made for human-sized hands, as well as faux-leather dash inserts that break up the expanse of gnarly black plastic. Thanks in part to its optional 20-inch tires, the 2LT convertible handles confidently with limited body roll.
What's Not to Like
The Camaro convertible’s mandatory tonneau cover is a serious inconvenience. While rearward visibility is obviously much improved with the top down, frontward visibility remains poor. The six-speed automatic transmission is lurch-prone, and its exceptionally tall gearing makes it hard to access the V-6’s powerband. Those shiny 20-inch wheels make the ride quality suffer. Interior quality is still mediocre, and the climate-control buttons are small and hard to tell apart. We encountered some technological glitches as well.
Now featuring a conventional steering wheel very much like the Cruze
compact sedan’s, the 2012 Camaro convertible is better to drive simply because our hands are finally content (the previous Camaro wheel looked cool but felt like a couple two-by-fours). The steering itself is pretty responsive, but it feels disconnected from what’s going on at the wheels, and the exceptionally high cowl makes locating the front of the car a guessing game. This dampened our enthusiasm for spirited driving, even though the suspension is actually quite capable in corners. The Camaro convertible feels stable at speed, and top-down highway cruising is perfectly civilized if you keep the windows up. With the top in place, however, wind noise is more pronounced than in the coupe, and rearward visibility is virtually nonexistent. Bumps make the car’s structure jiggle, and the 20-inch wheels increase impact harshness noticeably.
Engine and Drivetrain
The rear-wheel-drive Camaro 2LT’s direct-injected 3.6-liter V-6, rated at 323 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, is one of the best sixes in the business, delivering plenty of smooth, eager thrust. Sounds good, too. But the six-speed automatic transmission is geared so tall that it’s tough to keep the engine in its sweet spot. This is still a fast car, but it seems fuel economy is as much of a priority as speed, for better or worse. The transmission also tends to lurch during gear-changes, and the rev-matching feature for manual downshifts is half-heartedly executed. Consider sampling the standard manual transmission, which is cheaper and comes with an exclusive limited-slip differential.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
The Camaro 2LT drop-top carries impressive EPA fuel economy estimates of 18 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined with the automatic, putting it ahead of some V-6-powered family sedans. We’re impressed. Note that mileage drops to 20 mpg combined if you choose the manual transmission.
Features and Technology
Standard on the 2LT is a heads-up display that projects speed, rpm, and other information onto the windshield. In addition to the 20-inch wheels, the RS package brings xenon headlamps with cool “halo rings”— Chevy’s version of BMW’s “angel eyes.” Every Camaro convertible, moreover, has a backup camera with a display that’s mounted in the rearview mirror. Given the rear visibility issues, we applaud GM for making this camera standard across the board.
The Camaro lacks an LCD screen for navigation functionality and such—you can’t even get one as an option—but the 2LT model makes the most of its humble dot-matrix display, providing niceties like USB connectivity and claimed compatibility with most mp3 players. Our Camaro had trouble with our mp3-packed USB flash drive, however, as it was unable to navigate between music folders. Moreover, it didn’t recognize our eight-megabyte Sony Walkman mp3 player, and the standard Bluetooth system flat refused to pair with our Samsung Replenish cell phone. Your mileage may vary.
The Camaro’s dashboard looks special from a distance—with its unique array of shapes and knobs, we certainly can’t accuse it of being a corporate parts-bin special. Materials quality is rudimentary, however, even with the new-for-2012 strip of faux leather that bisects the dash. We also take issue with the tiny climate-control buttons, which are virtually impossible to decipher and actuate quickly. The two-place backseat is basically useless unless the front-seat occupants slide their seats far forward.
A few years into its product cycle, the Camaro’s still got one of the hottest bodies in the business. It’s especially dashing in profile, where it’s clear that the clipped overhangs, huge wheels, and dynamic body lines are virtually unchanged from the original Camaro concept car. Happily, the convertible roof looks great whether up or down, a rare compliment for a drop-top.
Market Segment and Pricing
At $34,100 without the RS package, the Camaro 2LT convertible is pitted squarely against the Ford Mustang V6 convertible, which is more maneuverable and doesn’t require that pesky tonneau-cover business (though the Ford’s styling is arguably less compelling). You could also get close to a V8-powered Mustang GT
convertible for this kind of coin. Front-wheel-drive alternatives worth considering include the Chrysler 200
V6 convertible (yes, really), the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder V6
, and the Volkswagen Eos
. In the rear-drive club, certified pre-owned examples of the pricier BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G37 convertible can be found in the same price bracket.
What We Think
It all starts with that tonneau cover. If you’re cool with it, proceed to step two, which is determining whether the rest of the Camaro convertible’s package is right for you. Provided that style and speed are top priorities, the Chevy’s a strong contender.