The Chevrolet Camaro is one of the most iconic American vehicles of all time. The baby brother to the Chevy Corvette, it's a muscle car that oozes cool, turns heads and delivers stirring performance. Until recently, it's been the preserve of our Yankee bretheren, but Chevrolet now offers the Camaro here in the UK. We hopped inside the convertible model for a week to see whether this really is an American dream or if it's a nightmare on UK roads.
Here on British roads, the Chevrolet Camaro sticks out like a sore thumb on a naked hitchhiker. Not only is it massive (it's as wide and as long as a full-size 4X4) but it's also a very distinctive thing unlike any other vehicle in Britain. The curves and sharp lines provide a clever mix of muscularity and athleticism that make it an imposing, beautiful sight.
The convertible model is gorgeous with the roof up or down, except when it's folded away and you see it up close. With the roof folded away, the ugly inner mechanics of the soft top are exposed. Chevrolet supplies an optional tonneau cover to hide this, but it's fiddly to fit and takes up space in the already small boot.
There are good and bad aspects to living with a Camaro. First, the bad: It's big – almost too big for British roads. Threading it through roadside barriers that restrict access for large vehicles requires surgical precision or guesswork. Indeed, simply threading it along a normal-sized lane can be quite scary, as the car is so wide and its bonnet so long that it's difficult to tell where this vehicle ends and the front of an oncoming car begins.
This fact is compounded by the fact Chevrolet only offers the Camaro in a left-hand-drive configuration. This is fine in most countries, but here in the UK, where we drive on the left and prefer our steering wheels on the right, it's inconvenient and potentially quite dangerous. Every left turn you make out of a junction could be your last, as you can't actually see traffic approaching from the right.
There is plenty to like about this car's practicality. Firstly, its enormous size means it can accommodate four passengers in relative comfort. There are cup holders, plenty of room to stash flotsam and the boot is relatively large unless you intend to put the roof down or you have the tonneau cover. Retracting it roughly halves boot space because you have to manually pull a boot separator into place as a safety mechanism to prevent the roof mashing itself to death against whatever's in the boot.
Performance & Handling
The Chevy Camaro is available with either V6 or V8 engines paired to six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Our UK test car was equipped with the 6.2-litre V8 engine with the auto box. On paper, it's a potent combination, – delivering 400hp. In practice, it's not quite the rampaging monster it appears. Its exhaust note is surprisingly muted unless you make a concerted effort to plant the throttle and even then the V8 burble is disappointingly subdued.
Performance can be described in much the same way. 0-62mph takes 5.4 seconds, which is fast, but it's fair to say we expected more from something with an engine as large as the one lurking beneath the Camaro's bonnet. The 155mph top speed is also disappointing considering a Porsche Boxster can do 164mph, but to its credit the Camaro cruises in beautifully composed fashion at high speed.
Its handling isn't too bad, either. It isn't very agile and it seems to take quite some time to respond to your steering inputs, but it grips well and if you're into powersliding, it'll happily swing its tail out and let you drift until the cows come home.
Equipment & Value
You get a fair bit of standard equipment for your money. The Camaro convertible comes with 20-inch midnight silver alloys, a heated 6-way electrically adjustable driver's seat, leather upholstery, a fantastic-sounding Boston Acoustics premium 8-speaker audio system, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free phone controls, cruise control and USB. Coolest of all, you get a head-up display that projects your speed, engine revs and audio information onto the windscreen in your line of sight.
Economy & Environments
The Camaro uses a 6.2-litre V8 so running costs and CO2 emissions are, understandably, sky high. Combined fuel economy is a claimed 21.5mpg, though we averaged 14mpg in our – mostly city-based – driving.
The Camaro convertible comes with a good amount of safety equipment including front and side-mounted airbags, ventilated Brembo ABS brakes with emergency braking assist, and Chevrolet's StabiliTrak stability control system. This can be switched off to a degree that will allow you to carry out powerslides and donuts, but if the car senses you're losing control – i.e. the wheels begin to slip when you're carrying out sudden, high speed changes of direction, the car will rob you of power and engage the brakes to pull you back into line.
It's worth remembering that, because this is a left hand drive car, it can be slightly more difficult to drive on UK roads. It's difficult to see oncoming traffic when turning left out of junctions, for example, and because it's harder to tell how close you are to oncoming traffic, the risk of collisions is slightly greater.
The Chevrolet Camaro convertible is a beautiful, distinctive-looking vehicle that will appeal to anyone who wants to stand out from the crowd. It's mostly good fun to drive and handles well, despite the fact it's so large. It's not perfect, though. Its size and left-hand-drive layout makes it difficult to manage on UK roads and, despite its huge V8 engine, it's not as fast as one might assume. It's also far too expensive for what it is – £35,025 is simply too much to pay, particularly as a Camaro 1SS convertible sells for around $39,585 in the US. That works out to be the equivalent of $24,692 at today's exchange rate.
Ultimately, a Porsche Boxster S is a better drive, and an Audi RS5 convertible makes more sense in this country, but if you want an iconic American muscle car and can tolerate its foibles, the Camaro convertible will put a smile on your face.
Model tested: Chevrolet Camaro Convertible
Engine: 6.2-litre petrol
Acceleration: 0-62 in 5.4 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Emissions: 304g/km CO2