For 2013, GM added quite a bit of flair to the Camaro lineup. Overall, changes were limited mostly to the improved suspension and nicer interiors, but they also introduced the exciting ZL1 Convertible to the public along with the fabulous 1LE, a true driver’s Camaro that we tested in the summer. That doesn’t mean that the designers and engineers took a break, however, as last year’s New York Auto Show brought even more for the 2014 lineup, most notably the much-anticipated Z/28. Since there’s still always plenty going on at the Mustang camp, it’s all just more salvos in the pony car wars, but it makes for some exciting cars. And while the open version of the Camaro has never been as iconic as its Mustang counterpart, we’ve wanted a go in this drop-top Chevy ever since it first came out roughly a year after the introduction of the new coupe. Our test car this time around was an SS Convertible, and though it looked the part and certainly sounded the part with its optional dual-mode exhaust, we still had to get the full story.
Other than (re)introducing the Z/28, the only thing really new to report for the Camaro department in 2014 is in the styling. It’s not better and it’s not worse, but it is different. To start, they’ve slimmed down the look of the nose and tail. The narrower upper grille in the front gives the car a wider look, while the lower grille actually is wider, a move that improves cooling. Another cooling move was the addition of a vented hood, which also reduces lift. In the back, the decklid and the diffuser have been aerodynamically tweaked, but the most obvious change is that Chevy has ditched the four distinctive square taillights and replaced them with two plain old rectangular ones that look like they came off an old Honda Prelude. They still look clean on the car, but it’s sort of a shame to say goodbye to the quartet that was just so unmistakably Chevy.
It’s mostly the same story mechanically, and that story is a happy one. The 6.2 liter V-8 makes 426 horsepower and around the same amount of torque in SS spec, and with the vacuum-actuated dual-mode exhaust system that really roars on hard acceleration and loudly warbles after lifting off the throttle, it’s something you really can’t get bored with. This being a convertible, though, it is heavier thanks to a tower-to-tower brace under the hood and other reinforcements in the body added to maintain rigidity, not that it made a huge difference. It’s been a while since we’ve driven a convertible, but it feels a little less solid than the coupe, and this brings us to the convertible top itself. In the world of sophisticated electronic soft tops that fold at the push of a button, the top-down dance of the Camaro feels pretty slow, and it doesn’t end there. At speed, there is a lot of road noise, and since this is a brand new car and not an old MG, you have to expect better. Rear visibility is quite poor as well with the top up, so thankfully there’s a rear view camera. You don’t buy a convertible for its ergonomics, but it still wasn’t perfectly executed.
Compared to the more enthusiast-oriented 1LE, the SS Convertible is more of a boulevard cruiser, but it will still really get down the road and you can’t beat that wind in your hair feeling coupled with the sound of a big, throaty American V-8 bellowing its way through the rev range and out into the open air. And for all but the most serious driving, the open car is still fantastic. It’s a convertible, but that doesn’t mean it’s just a toy. It’s still the well-engineered and thoroughly drivable Camaro SS underneath, after all. The Tremec six-speed is a good box that gives solid, satisfying shifts, and the standard Brembo brakes give you the confidence to have more fun than maybe you should.
A convertible is a must-have in the Camaro lineup, and though this one isn’t perfect, it’s still one that’s a joy to drive and a joy to be seen in. The fifth generation Camaro has been applauded by all for its sharp handling and sophistication, huge power, and quality driving experience. Other than a couple of little things, Chevy didn’t ruin it by chopping the top off. Although the price is pretty steep for something that we’re used to thinking of as a bit of a bargain in performance car terms, it’s still a ton of car for the as-tested price of $46,360. With the arrival of a brand spanking new and beautiful Mustang, it might be tempting to go the Ford route, but the Camaro SS Convertible is still one nice machine, and droptop buyers would be wise to give it a go.
2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible
Base Price: $41,855
Options: RS Package, $1,350; Exhaust Dual Mode, $895; Navigation, $795; Black Stripe Package, $470