This week, I am behind the wheel of the just-released 2016 Chevy Camaro convertible.
As a quick history lesson, the Camaro came out in 1967 to compete with the Ford Mustang and this is the sixth-generation Camaro. The first convertible version of this car came out in 1969. The Camaro was discontinued after the 2002 model year but was re-introduced in 2010.
Not much changed from 2010 through 2015, but the 2016 is a very different car.
This 2016 model is about 2.5 inches shorter and sits about an inch closer to the ground. It is based on the Cadillac ATS chassis, which I loved when I reviewed it. The interior has been redone and the car has shed almost 400 pounds.
You have three choices under the hood. New for this year is a 2-liter 4-cylinder turbo, the first turbocharger ever offered in a Camaro. You can also jump up to a 6.2-liter V8 in the SS and you’ll get the 455-horse engine that comes in the Corvette.
The third choice is the one I am testing, the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder, which is probably by far going to be the most popular engine in this car. It puts out a terrific 335 horses and has 284 pound-feet of torque. My test vehicle has an 8-speed automatic transmission, but there is a 6-speed manual available too.
Checking the 0-to-60 times, 5.1 seconds was the best time I had, but I was pleased considering it is a 6-cylinder.
The chiseled exterior appearance of the Camaro with the RS package is super good-looking, top up or top down. The 5-spoke, 20-inch black wheels, rear spoiler, RS grill, and HID and LED headlights give this car the look of a big V8 muscle car that is sure to turn heads.
As you open the door, you are reminded that all the ragtops in this class have small interiors, lack headroom and have a rear seat suited only for children. The interior is tight and doesn’t have a lot of storage.
This is the 2LT package, which is next to the bottom-of-the-line 1LT, so I had no expectations for luxury, but I was surprised at how beautiful the ceramic white accents on the seats looked.
From behind the wheel, the gauges are easy to read and see, and in the middle is a driver information center that is programmable and gives you a ton of information.
In the center of the dash above the shifter is the 8-inch color touchscreen that houses all your apps, Bluetooth and the stereo controls. The Camaro comes standard with Apple Car Play, which is a great system to integrate your phone with the car. You can also use the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot that is built into the system, and like OnStar, it is available as a subscription for a monthly fee after an initial trial period.
One really cool feature of this new Camaro is the air conditioning controls. There are two large, round vents in front of the shifter, surrounded by big chrome bands. You turn those to adjust the temperature on each side of the car, thanks to the dual climate-controlled air.
This 2LT package comes with a lot of standard features. Most notable are push-button start and passive keyless entry, dual power front seats that are both heated and air conditioned, Bose stereo, a flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls, and a rearview camera.
The review car has the RS package, which is $1,950 and includes the 20-inch wheels, HID headlights and LED front and rear lights, and a rear spoiler. The upgrade to the V6 and automatic transmission is $2,990, and for $895 you get a dual-mode performance exhaust system that makes the car sound like a big V8.
For just $495, you get the MyLink system that gets you navigation and Bluetooth streaming.
It also has the $2,800 convenience and lighting package which includes heads-up display, wireless cell charging, blind-spot monitoring – a must in any two-door car – heated steering wheel, rearview camera and rear park assistance.
Way cool is the interior lighting called color spectrum. Lights run around the radio, door trims and cup holders, transitioning between 24 selectable colors. The color spectrum reacts to changes in drive modes, the lighting gives off an ambient nighttime glow, and selecting “show mode” triggers a pulsing, full-color light show.
Let’s talk about the convertible top for a moment. It is heavily insulated and creates a very quiet cabin. It operates exactly like my Corvette, with the trunk opening from the front, the top going into the trunk, and then a nifty cover going down to completely hide the top.
You can raise or lower the top at speeds up to 30 miles per hour, and perhaps the neatest thing is that you can lower the top from the key fob. The top will go down in about 12 seconds, and it takes just 14 seconds to put it up. This top operates as well as any I have ever used.
The Camaro handles very well and corners great, and you can configure the suspension to snow and ice, touring and sport modes.
Also pleasant is that you don’t get the typical shakes and vibrations often associated with a convertible, and at highway speeds, with the top down, you can actually have a conversation in the car. Gas mileage is really good at 19 miles per gallon in town, 28 on the highway and 23 overall.
Manufacturer’s retail price with options is just over $47,500 on this Hyper Blue Camaro, and I find the price to be a good value. I like this 6-cylinder as a great combination of power and fuel economy.
• What I liked most: Exterior looks and convertible top operation
• What I would change: Car could use more storage space in the cabin
• MSRP: Base price $36,800, as equipped $47,525
• Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined
• Fuel tank: 19 gallons with filler on the passenger side
• Dimensions: 188 inches long, 64 inches wide, 53 inches high
• Weight: 3,339 pounds
• Trailer towing: N/A
• Miles when tested: 323 miles
• Final assembly point: Lansing, Michigan
• 2016 Camaro ragtop in a few words: A head-turning ragtop that is a joy to drive.
• Warranty: 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper, 5-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty with roadside assistance, and complimentary courtesy transportation
• Manufacturer’s website: Chevrolet
Jerry Reynolds is the nationally syndicated automotive talk show host of the Car Pro Show, heard coast-to-coast and locally Saturdays on News/Talk 820 AM and 99.5 HD2 FM WBAP, as well as KRLD 1080 AM. Reynolds is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association and is the automotive expert for CBS 11 TV in DFW. www.carprousa.com
Longtime GM design chief to retire
Ed Welburn, General Motors’ longtime head of automotive design and the first African-American to lead global design for any automaker, is retiring after 44 years with the company.
Welburn, 65, has led GM Design in North America since 2003 and was appointed global design chief in 2005. He was responsible for the company’s interior and exterior designs, leading upgrades as the company emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy.
Welburn steps down July 1 and will be replaced by Michael Simcoe, who has been with the company for 33 years. Currently Simcoe is vice president of international design.
GM said Welburn set up a network of 10 design centers around the world with over 2,500 employees. He’s responsible for functional designs of everyday GM products as well as iconic performance cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro.
During Welburn’s tenure, General Motors Co.’s designs have improved, with mainstream cars striking a good balance between functionality and looks, said Jake Fisher, auto testing chief for Consumer Reports magazine.
Under Welburn, most of GM’s designs haven’t been flashy, but they have been smart, offering good visibility and interior space with a conservative yet appealing look, Fisher said. “I think they’ve improved the design of their cars without compromising their function,” he said. “It’s hard to make a car that looks good but also is packaged well.” – Associated Press