Depending on who you ask, there are anywhere from 100 to 300-plus good convertible days per year in Houston. After you factor rain, storms and the rare days of extreme cold, it depends on how devoted you are to canceling out the elements with the car's heat/air conditioning. Some people take every chance they can get to soak up Vitamin D while others prefer not to experience Houston's sun-drenched summers without shade over their heads.
The Camaro was first shown as a concept in 2006, followed by a convertible concept in 2007. It was universally praised for being the edgiest of the pony-car revivals, and was fast tracked to production beginning with the coupe in the 2010 model year.
The convertible is all new for 2011 and went on sale earlier this spring. Visually, it makes the transition to an open-top remarkably well, although I do miss the aggressive, angular metal roofline of the coupe.
After seeing them on the road for a while now, this fifth-generation is still stunning to look at.
I don't think the red shows it off its modern, intricate creases as well as metallic colors do, but it does a great job recalling the Camaro's 1960s roots, which is an undeniably part of this car's appeal. We got tons of stares, comments and thumbs up in just a few days of driving this car.
The chrome finish around the taillamps is an unexpected, upscale touch. The rear diffuser and huge, exposed mufflers round out a very thoughtfully-designed car.
I spent some time driving the top-spec Convertible SS model: that's the one with the 6.2 liter V8, six-speed manual and 426 horsepower. As with most cars with GM's small-block V8, it was responsive and alarmingly powerful.
I was surprised by how fast it revved, and how alive the powertrain felt and sounded. Four-hundred-and-twenty-six horsepower is a lot for just cruising around, and for some the SS might be overkill.
Our tester seen in these photos is the one most people will probably buy. It's the LT-model, which comes with a 3.6 liter V6 producing 312 horsepower through an optional 6-speed automatic gearbox.
It adds the RS package, which brings 20-inch wheels, the rear spoiler, HID headlamps with spiffy-looking halo rings, and RS badging. The RS basically adds the appearance of the V8-equipped SS model without all the noise and horsepower.
It feels brisk, but I wouldn't call it fast. Maybe it was the automatic transmission, but it took most requests for acceleration a bit sluggishly. The huge, Pirelli P Zero tires, on the other hand, worked very well and did a great job holding the road.
At just a hair under 4,000 lbs, it is a large, heavy car — there's no getting around it. Due to the size — and how blind the view over the trunk is — it comes with rear parking assist sensors standard on all models.
Once you get moving, it doesn't feel so large, but its striking design takes its toll on the amount of visibility you have over its corners.
The biggest complaint about the Coupe was its poor visibility out of the cabin. The super-high, stylized beltline, low and long roofline and long hood all add to it looking epic but prohibit your view outward.
Chopping the roof off should help, right?
Yes and no. It's obviously open and airy with the top down, but it's still a bit daunting looking over the doorsills which come up past your shoulders. The high doorsills also mean the dashboard comes up very high.
The interior has some cool design touches and lighting, such as glossy panels on the doors outlined in blue light.
GM's head-up display, which has been on the Corvette for several years, is one of those features that makes you ask "Why doesn't everyone offer this?" It's non-intrusive, very subtle and you never have to take your eyes off the road.
You can pick from several display settings and adjust its dimness or turn it off altogether. But don't, because it's great.
These gauge clusters are look spiffy without compromising functionality. A retro speedometer like this can get cheesy if it's not executed correctly, but thankfully this one gets it right.
At night, the inner section of the needle disappears into the dark, so the red tip just 'floats' through the digits.
Putting the top down is simple — grab a central handle by the dome light, twist, and then hold the button nearby and wait as the top folds up electronically in under 20 seconds. It's not quite one-touch, but it's still easier than the two clamps-style latches on either side of the windshield found on many cars.
Top up, the Camaro Convertible tries very hard to emulate the angular, rakish roofline of the hardtop model. Wind noise when driving with the roof up isn't noticeable, and it keeps rain out just fine, as I found out when we got some relief during Houston's record drought.
Stowed away, the roof is kind of ugly and embarrassingly exposed. There's a cover included with the car that fits over it, but who's going to put that on?
The Camaro Convertible is rated at 17 mpg city and 28 mpg highway from a 19-gallon tank.
The 2011 Camaro Convertible starts at just under $30,000 for the V6 with a manual transmission and around $36,000 for the SS. What you get for that is open-top fun wrapped up in a chiseled, iconic design.
Cars like this, with such a purposeful design don't really have competitors. Someone who wants a Camaro Convertible probably isn't cross-shopping because nothing else looks like this.
It's the type of design that speaks to the heart. And the type of person who listens to his heart is usually the type of person that can find 300 days a year to put the top down.