There is nothing better than driving in the summer with the top down, the wind in your hair, and the roar of a big V8 engine as your only co-pilot. With Chevrolet vehicles, that had historically meant the Corvette which was offered as a 2-door convertible. However, the first generation of Corvette was never particularly fun to drive thanks to a clunky solid rear axle and a general feeling of being underpowered.
Then the Mustang arrived as a vastly superior open-topped experience. It took two years for Chevrolet to respond to the very first pony car with one of their own, and when they did it began a back-and-forth war of American auto manufacturing that still goes on to this very day.
Chevy’s latest offering to the top-down market, the Camaro SS Convertible, is certainly as powerful an experience as the Camaro has ever been, but it’s starting to become one that few can afford. Even the base 1LS is over the $30,000 mark, with the big V8 driving real prices up into the $50,000 range.
We’ll get back to that argument in a moment, but first we must introduce the car. This is the 2018 Camaro SS Convertible. Under the hood is Chevy’s tried, tested, and true 6.2-L LT1 V8. Output is measured at an equal amount of horses and lb-ft of torque at 455. Power is delivered through a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic.
(The impressive 10-speed automatic sourced from Ford only comes with the 2019 model onward.)
As is usually the case with big V8s, fuel economy leaves something to be desired. On the 6-speed manual, you can expect 16 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined. For the 8-speed manual, 17 mpg for the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg combined.
It should come as no surprise that the Camaro SS Convertible was made for the open highway.
Chevrolet spared no expense in ensuring the Camaro SS is the best handling muscle car convertible on the road. A set of 4-piston Brembo calipers and discs are on all four wheels, while an electronic limited-slip differential is a standard offering. A magnetic suspension does exist, but you’d have to shell out for the $7,000 performance package to get access to it.
Along with that suspension comes an active dual-mode exhaust system that either sets your muffler to purr like a kitten or roar like a lion depending on your mood.
By turning the Camaro SS into a convertible, Chevrolet adds roughly 250 lbs over the coupe--not enough that you’d notice if you have a particularly hefty carpool partner you can ditch. But what you will notice is the view. Eliminating the roof vastly improves a common complaint with the Camaro which is its particularly narrow windows. With the top down that’s no longer a problem.
For 2018, the SS Camaro received a standard 8-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a pair of USB ports. Keyless entry and push-button start have long been standard, as has the 6-speaker audio system and 8-way power-adjustable driver seat. With the 2SS trim, you can enhance your Camaro with a 9-speaker Bose premium audio system, dual-zone climate control, a heads-up display, and a suite of driver assist features including rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, and side blind zone lane change alert.
But all this topless luxury and power comes at a price. The base 1SS Camaro convertible starts at $43,495 and adding the Performance Package for the magnetic suspension, HUD, and various performance upgrades put the Camaro closer to $50,500. This doesn’t include the driver assist suite or the 9-speaker audio system, both coming standard on the 2SS trim for $48,495. Add the Performance Package now, along with a few more customizations, and you can easily see how this car can reach $60,000 without much effort.
Since Dodge doesn’t even offer convertible versions of either the Charger or Challenger, the only competition for the Camaro SS is its old foe, the Ford Mustang GT. At $44,855, the base Mustang GT is comparable with 460 hp and 420 lb-ft from its roaring V8, but it also comes with heated and vented seats, automatic headlights, and automatic wipers.
In addition, an extra $3,995 for Ford’s performance pack gives Brembo brakes, a TORSEN differential, and myriad other suspension upgrades. It’s not quite the same comfort as the magnetic suspension possible on the Camaro, but it’s close, and it’s cheaper.
Either way you go, you’re easily spending close to $50,000, if not more, for a car that you can’t drive in the winter (in certain parts of the country) and is a pain when it rains. Like most convertibles, the Camaro SS is likely a secondary car, one to use and enjoy on bright summer days. If you’ve got 50 grand for a toy, then go right ahead. That much money can put the Camaro out of reach.
But for those people, there’s always the Mazda Miata.