October 18, 2011

Camaro SS Convertible

Does this intimidate anyone else?

My main objections to the 2011 Camaro SS Coupe were the visibility from the driver’s seat and the nonexistent head room.  We understand that no one sets out to make a bad car and that the 2011 is still a really fun car to drive in a straight line.  Being the optimist that I am (Stop your snickering…) I tried to find a way to eliminate the issues that bothered me about the Coupe. 

Enter the 2012 Camaro SS Convertible!  If head room and visibility are the issue, then just get rid of the roof.  The folks at McCarthy Chevrolet were generous enough to lone us a red 2SS convertible for a couple of hours on a gorgeous early autumn day; low 70’s, slight breeze, leaves falling, roaring V8, and 426 horsepower.  Who could ask for more?  A closed course would have been one improvement.  I wasn’t speeding and spent most of the day focusing on not tailgating.

Yes, this picture was taken at 75mph!
                The interior of the 2012 hasn’t changed compared to the 2011.  This one felt a little more utilitarian and bland than the 2011.  The instrument information centers were the same, except the Heads Up Display (HUD) was much better on this model.  The HUD has some arrow buttons to move it up and down on the windscreen to make sure that all drivers can see it. 
The auxiliary gauges are still down behind the gear shift, but who cares.  I didn’t look at the gauges at all.  If the engine would have sputtered or started to smell hot then I would have a reason to check the temp., oil pressure, battery charge... I forget what else is down there.  There are a couple of cup holders in between the driver and passenger seats that did a great job of holding my smart phone.
 Other than the cup holders, there isn’t a place for your phone.  There is a console, but I don’t suggest placing your phone there, since it means looking down, opening the console, still looking down as you search for the phone, rear-ending the car in front of you, and then finally looking up after you looked at the phone to see who is calling.
The perfect go-fast interior, all attention outside of it.
The media center controls were very friendly.  At stoplights, I could easily navigate between different radio stations, the CD, and the auxiliary input.  Changing the equalizer settings was simple and straight forward.  Classic Rock felt appropriate for a car born in the 60’s.  This car had the upgraded sound system that you could hear over wind noise with ease at 75mph.

                Nothing has changed on the exterior of the 2012.  I am still infatuated with the predatory shark gills near the rear wheels.  There are LED halo rings around the headlamps that make this car look like it’s always watching you.  Between the rear spoiler, the hood scoop, and the gills this car looks like a wolf pack of one (That’s right, I will sink as low as Hangover quotes!).  The taillights are distinctive.  Every now and then I catch a glimpse of taillights that remind me of the Camaro, but it ends up being a Kia Forte.  Probably what Kia was shooting for, but at least I’m thinking "was that a Camaro" and not “was that a Kia?”

                Eighty percent of this test drive was spent with the radio off.  The 6.2L V8 was a symphony of angry American muscle.  The 16 city and 24 highway are a little low, but what you lose in mileage, you gain in exhilaration.  After getting comfortable with the stiff, short gearbox, the SS headed for the highway all by itself.  Where I quickly discovered that a 0-60 time of 5 seconds is a definite reality.  The Camaro jumps off the line.  The car isn’t squirrelly though.  There is Electronic Stability Control (Traction Control) on every Chevy model.  I only had it turned off a couple of times because the road I ended up on was demanding and I had no desire to owe anyone $40,000 at the end of the day.  Hitting the ESC off once turns off the traction control; hitting it twice turns everything off and puts the car in “Track mode.”  It says so on the information center.  If only I had a track handy…
                After the time on the highway, the Camaro founds its way onto K-5 west of 435 (Lakeside Speedway is really close, but they weren’t expecting visitors at noon on a Friday…).  If you have never driven to Leavenworth on K-5, it’s a learning experience.  The speed limits are 35mph to 55mph, but the corners and hills are blind and tight.  The gear box was in third or fourth for a majority of the drive and had more than enough power. The only down side to this route is that if you get caught behind someone not looking for an exhilarating driving experience, you’re stuck.  There was “A” passing zone.  This is where the classic rock helped pass the time.
                The Camaro didn’t disappoint on the tight corners.  The issue of the previous test was visibility and that wasn’t an issue at all.  All 426 horses were responsive and ready at all times.  After the tight roads, the highway entrance ramp was a welcome sight.   The V8 roared onto the highway.  If there had been more gas in it, I would have been headed to Topeka and the 75mph speed limit. 
                I’m glad that I got a second test with the Camaro SS.  The first test had left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth with the huge blind sections and no headroom.  This test made me realize how absolutely freeing all 426 horses could be, as long as there’s a gas station nearby.  This test also showed me that the Camaro isn’t just a straight line muscle car.  It really did handle the corners well.  If I added much more speed, the only way around the corners would have been in a drift.  To have this one for your own you have to part with over $40,000.  The iconic look, the power, and the wind hair make this car one for my wish list. 

I wonder what a GT 500 is like to drive…

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