First Drive: Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible

Story and photographs by Benjamin Greene

Originally published by Dupont Registry:

2012 Camaro Convertible front

With the transformation from coupe to convertible, some cars change dramatically. One vehicle that comes to mind is the Infiniti G37. We have had both coupe and hardtop convertible forms in our hands, and although Infiniti did a great job of keeping performance of the convertible on par with the coupe, the convertible’s extra weight was perceptible, its structure was noticeably less rigid, and the trunk was nearly useless. Chevrolet’s convertible pony car is not like the Infiniti.

We found only one glaring negative from the conversion from coupe to convertible on our 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible test car (more on that later). But, first, let’s look at what it does right. The coupe’s classic looks, rigid qualities, feeling of power, direct steering, grip on the road, and passenger space have all been retained. This wasn’t an accident. An unconventional folding cloth top and a large strut tower brace in the engine bay are just two of the evident modifications that Chevy engineers employed to keep the two similar, and we are sure there are many more hidden details.

With the top up, the Camaro looked as sleek as (and maybe even better than) the coupe; it is a large triumphant for GM. The convertible’s top hinges at two spots to form a Z before being squeezed flat into a cubby behind the rear seats. During this process, the cloth top disconnects from the two cant rails. The front of the top forms the top the Z that becomes the flat plane between the top of the trunklid and the back of the rear chairs while the two cant rails slide into a space on the either side of the two rear chairs. Everything can be masked by a tonneau cover that we never once bothered to install, and we don’t believe owners will either.

2012 Camaro Convertible interior
The action is all performed after the twist of a single center handle where the roof connects to the windshield frame. All the windows lower and the top retracts in about 20 seconds. Closing the top takes a few more seconds, and the windows don’t rise back up once process is complete; it is a small barely noticeable intricacy that quickly became an annoyance. Off subject, but another small annoyance, was our test car’s two-step locks, which required two pulls of the inside door handle before it would unlock and allow exodus.

Since we are on the car’s negatives, let’s bring up the only in-your-face issue between the coupe and convertible: road noise. With the roof closed, the windows sealed, and in sixth gear, outside noise still infiltrates the cabin. Maybe our proximity to industrial roads put us too close to too many dump trucks and semis, but we found ourselves checking windows to make sure none were left slightly ajar. It was also apparent on the highway, where wind noise near the passenger-side A-pillar was especially powerful at speeds of more than 60 mph. Don’t get us wrong, we know that convertible tops are going to allow in more noise, but the levels in the Camaro Convertible seem elevated. Then again, after driving the Audi A5 Cabriolet with its special acoustic roof, maybe we are just spoiled. The obvious fix is to put the top down as much as possible. 

2012 Camaro Convertible

Our SS model was equipped with the six-speed manual transmission that pairs with a 426-hp version of the 6.2-liter V-8 (the optional six-speed automatic gets a slightly detuned 400-hp derivative). It is a sprightly engine with bountiful power reserves always waiting on standby. The only drawback to the powertrain is the tall gear ratios. Like the coupe, the first gear in our manual-equipped convertible was good for 50 mph, so we had to rely on its fat low-end torque in first and second gear for most of our around-town motivation. This is fine. But sometimes you just want to plant the pedal and row some gears, an act that will put you at some very illegal speeds outside a Texas highway. As would be expected, the convertible weighs more than the coupe (by about 250 pounds) and is thus slightly slower, but we noticed the car's weight in the coupe more so than the convertible. The same can be said for its dynamics. Some hard numbers may prove the coupe faster in the corners, but from the driver’s seat, both exhibited high, nearly equal aptitudes in steering heft, feedback, road grip, and cornering attitude.

For 2012, the Camaro receives a slightly revised instrument panel and a new steering wheel. An even sportier FE4 performance suspension, with retuned front and rear dampers, will be added to the on SS coupe’s options’ list. Also new is a Rear Vision package, which adds a rear-view camera system to complement the rear park-assist feature.

2012 Camaro Convertible Rear

If you didn’t already know, the Mustang and Camaro are in a V-6-power war. The 2010 Camaro V-6 made 304-hp, but it was outgunned by the 305-hp 2011 Mustang. So, in 2011, Chevy retested its Camaro and claimed its output was actually 312, not 304 hp. To solidify its place at the top of the V-6 pony cars, the 2012 Camaro V-6 will now make 323 hp.

Vehicle Specs

Base Price
$39,650 (2011 price)

6.2-liter V-8

426 hp @ 5,900 rpm

420 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm

6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic

0–60 mph
4.9 seconds

Top Speed
155 mph (limited)

4,116 lb

190 inches

Front: 245/45ZR-20, Rear: 275/40ZR-20

Just as fun and nearly as capable as the coupe

Road and wind noise with the top up