When it comes to muscle cars, conventional logic equates convertibles with compromise—more show means less go. Heavier than their coupe counterparts and often more softly sprung and with flimsier structures, ragtops have almost always lagged behind hardtops when asked to do what these cars were designed to do in the first place: go fast.
No Shake ’n’ Quake
In the case of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible, however, throw that logic out the window. Not only is the new automatic the quickest convertible pony car we’ve ever tested, it utterly rejects the notion that a ragtop must be shakier, softer, or less rewarding to drive than its coupe counterpart. Powered by the same torque-rich, 455-hp 6.2-liter pushrod V-8 engine as the insanely quick automatic 2016 Camaro SS coupe, this convertible shot from zero to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds—just 0.2 second slower than the steel-roof model—and stuck to the skidpad surface with an amazing 0.96 g of lateral grip. More impressively, this car hits 60 mph 0.3 second quicker than the previous-generation Camaro ZL1 convertible—which had 125 more horsepower!—and holds the road within 0.01 g of that supercharged beast.
What little daylight exists between the test numbers of the automatic-equipped Camaro SS coupe and convertible can be attributed to the ragtop’s extra 206 pounds. It’s mass with a purpose, at least, as some of the extra poundage comes from an underbody X-brace in the middle of the floorpan and a Y-brace in the rear, yielding structural solidity that, from the driver’s seat anyway, rivals that of the coupe. We noticed no squeaks, no rattles, and no rearview-mirror shake. The steering remains as razor-sharp and tactile as the coupe’s, and our 152-foot stop from 70 mph is outstanding—and that’s without the $3200 optional Brembo brake calipers that helped yank the hardtop down from the same speed in 147 feet. Clearly, unless you’re going to hit the track in this thing, save your money on the brakes. You may need it for bail—or, perhaps, to rent storage space for your goodies, as the trunk volume is only seven cubic feet with the top up and considerably less with the top down.
To save you the trouble of looking it up, the Camaro SS convertible also bests the current Ford Mustang GT convertible—which we’ve tested only with the manual transmission—in acceleration, cornering, and braking. That Ford droptop takes 0.2 second longer than its coupe counterpart to get to 60 mph (4.7 seconds versus 4.5); holds the road less tenaciously (0.90 g versus 0.96 g); and, at 157 feet, takes five feet longer to stop from 70 mph.
Getting Your Bronze On
The Camaro SS convertible excels at traditional convertible tasks such as bronzing the faces of its occupants, encouraging extroversion, and, well, looking good. Our test car arrived in a classy Nightfall Gray over saddle-colored Kalahani leather upholstery, with 20-inch gray-painted wheels filling the fender wells. During our time with the car, we got more smiles and thumbs-up from passersby and other motorists than we could count. And when the styling didn’t get people’s attention, the optional dual-mode exhaust did. Well worth the extra $895, the system takes the SS’s exhaust note from a burble to a blast with the slightest tap of the go pedal. You’ll never know how many sound-reflective surfaces you drive by every day until you do so in one of these.
As with all versions of the sixth-generation Camaro, the interior design has been taken to a new level, and the ragtop just makes it that much easier to show it off. It’s still weird to have the navigation screen canted downward, but it makes sense in the convertible, since it makes it easier to see in bright sunlight. The low windshield is a double-edged sword: It provides a true al fresco experience with the top down by not coming too close to your noggin, but it also limits outward vision when the top is raised. In fact, the cabin is pretty cavelike with the top up, especially in the back seat. The second row, incidentally, isn’t much more useful than that of the coupe—which is to say, not very useful at all. At least the convertible’s rear seats have the potential for unlimited headroom. Top up, the blind spots are epic, to the point that changing lanes becomes a nerve-wracking affair.
Hardtop or soft, the 2016 Camaro is dynamically rewarding and, in SS form, really quick. The more versions we drive, the more this car proves worthy of the 10Best Cars trophy we awarded it this year. It’s hard to believe the SS is soon to be the middle child in Chevrolet’s Camaro convertible lineup, with the 640-hp 2017 Camaro ZL1 convertible arriving in dealerships sometime during the fourth quarter of this year. Given the ZL1’s 185-hp advantage, we imagine it will make 4.1 seconds to 60 seem glacially slow. For now, though, the SS convertible is the king of the mountain.