Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

Big, bold sports car has its work cut out to impress on UK roads

In June 1966 the first Chevrolet Camaro was revealed to the US motoring public. It was designed to take on the big-selling Ford Mustang, and General Motors’ muscle car went on to achieve equally legendary status.

When production stopped in 2002, all four generations of Camaro had left their mark, but the original was the most revered. So during the design process of the current car, GM’s chief designer Ed Welburn left his own 1969 classic in the studio as inspiration.

And it clearly worked. Take a look at the fifth-generation model, and the historical nods are clear to see. They’ve proven popular, too, as the fifth-generation Camaro has been a huge hit in the US: in 2009, its first full year on sale, 81,300 found homes there.

Despite this success, Chevrolet has very modest expectations for the car in the UK. It’s bringing only 200 examples here a year, so exclusivity will be guaranteed, but this low volume of sales means Chevy hasn’t converted the Camaro to right-hand drive.

Aside from obvious issues at ticket machines and drive-through restaurants, the left-hand-drive layout combines with the car’s thick pillars and narrow windscreen to create numerous blind spots.

Still, the cabin itself is modern and attractively designed. The quartet of dials mounted on the transmission tunnel is a nod to Camaros of old, while the chunky instrument pod and rubberised climate dials are neat touches. But although the layout is straightforward compared to the complex Infiniti, some shiny plastics take the edge off the interior’s appeal.

The folding roof is disappointing, too. Thin fabric means the rear screen flaps a little at speed, while the manual hood release is clunky and stiff to operate. The electric folding operation is noisy, but it’s far faster than the G37’s hard-top and, unlike the Infiniti, you still have some luggage space left when the hood is folded. But buffeting is an issue at speed, while even with the hood up, plenty of road noise enters the cabin.

The large 20-inch wheels generate lots of tyre roar and thump over poor surfaces, and you can feel the body flexing and detect some vibration through the steering wheel. However, the Camaro is rock-solid when compared to the less rigid Infiniti, and it handles better, too.

Cornering the Chevy is all about getting used to its hefty 1,920kg kerbweight. There’s dive and squat when you accelerate and brake, and you’re acutely aware of the car’s weight when you turn into bends. Yet while the steering is a little slow and lacking in feel, body movement is well controlled, and on dry roads there’s lots of grip and decent traction.

But it’s the big V8 under the bonnet that makes the Camaro a genuine muscle car. So it’s a shame the 6.2-litre’s exhaust note is so muted, with none of the thunderous rumble you’d expect. Initial throttle response is a bit flat, too, and the 399bhp engine tails off at higher revs. As a result the Chevy doesn’t feel quite as fast as you’d expect. But with 556Nm of torque and a strong wave of mid-range thrust, the performance is there.

Keeping the engine in this sweet spot means the Camaro feels faster, particularly when you use the six-speed automatic box in manual mode, although shift speeds are still relatively leisurely, and there’s not much of a throttle blip on downchanges.

At the test track, the Chevy sprinted from 0-60mph in 6.2 seconds. It trailed the Infiniti in terms of in-gear response, but thanks to the £41,525 price tag, you’re still getting plenty of punch for your pound.

High emissions, pricey insurance and poor residuals mean running costs are an issue. And even with the car’s clever cylinder shut-off function, we could still manage only 14.4mpg. Nevertheless, few cars at this price have the rarity, looks and feel-good factor to rival the latest Camaro.

Details

Chart position: 1Why? Powered by a 6.2-litre V8 engine, the Camaro is available as either a coupe or convertible. We test the range-topping drop-top with a six-speed auto gearbox.

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