If the muscle car called Camaro set hearts aflame in 2009 when Chevy revived it after years of abandonment, it truly gave its long-dominant rival, the Mustang, a run for its money with the completely made over 2016 edition. Now, it's partner, the 2017 Camaro Convertible, is shaking up the ragtop sector with its own impressive credentials.
Both models ride atop a new and, unexpectedly, smaller platform, shared with the Cadillac ATS sedan. That pairing may have been a concession to the bean counters' bent for "economies of scale," but buyers made out, too. The underlying platform and suspension are more sophisticated and nimble, transforming what was long little more than a straight-line sled into the sort of machine you can happily flog around the tightest of corners, giving chase not only to a Mustang, but such vaunted imports as the BMW 3-Series.
While ragtops typically sacrifice some body stiffness—early versions of the Camaro Convertible were as limp as an overcooked ramen noodle—that's not so this time 'round. By baking the al fresco model into the initial equation, the new convertible (starting at $33,695) maintains virtually all of the coupe's rigidity. Translation: it's solid as a rock.
Meanwhile, the clunky old convertible mechanism that seemed to require three hands to operate is now a one-touch affair that opens or closes in seconds—and it can be operated either from the key fob or a button on the center console at speeds up to 30 mph. Forget fitting a plastic tonneau cover around the top when it's down. The cover now deploys automatically. And Chevy designers have done a good job of eliminating that bowed, "hungry horse" appearance when the top is up. The downside is somewhat limited rear visibility.
Inside, the new Camaro is much more refined, with upscale materials and a very driver-centric instrument panel. The optional navigation system is easy to use and the infotainment system now runs both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while also offering a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot.
The 2017 Camaro Convertible is available with any of the engine packages offered for the coupe: that includes the peppy, mid-range V-6, and even the 455-horsepower Camaro SS edition. And yes, that big 6.2-liter LT1 engine actually churns out the same number of ponies as the latest-generation Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. The big surprise is the new 2.0-liter turbo-four which offers a lot more fun than its small displacement suggests, as we recently discovered during a day's run from Las Vegas down into the sun-scorched Death Valley. The jaunt literally gave us the chance to scorch the tires when we switched to the LT1 package.
For a car that seemed destined for the automotive graveyard, Camaro managed a remarkable resurrection. The new convertible is one more reason it's gaining traction among muscle car fans.