As big fans of the new Camaro convertible, we couldn't wait to get our mitts on the topless ZL1. The base and SS ragtops are tremendous fun, but if something is good with 426 horsepower, it is a lot better with 580.
Of course, a lot of not-so-good things can happen when you lop the roof off a car. Yes, the base V6 and SS models feel great when you drop the top, but on a car with as much power as the ZL1, well, it could go bad in a hurry.
We're happy to report than the ZL1 convertible, while heavier than its coupe brother, makes for a delightful open-air experience. Cowl shake is virtually non-existent, nor does the steering column move or vibrate over rough surfaces and train tracks, as can happen in some open-top vehicles. Chevy reinforced the body structure in a number of different areas. There's a shock tower brace under the hood, a transmission support reinforcement brace, underbody tunnel brace, front "X" brace and stiffer cradle, as well as rear underbody "V" braces.
Additional structural reinforcements in the ZL1 convertible include a hydroformed tube in the A-pillars, an inner reinforcement bracket in the windshield header, a reinforced front hinge pillar and reinforcements inside the rockers.
We drove the ZL1 convertible over some pretty interesting thoroughfares in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan, but it was when we took a wrong turn and deviated from the prescribed drive route that we found a delightfully demented road where we could truly find out how good the ZL1 droptop really was. This particular stretch had wicked switchbacks, plus nasty dips and roller-coaster-like up-and-down sections. There were pretty rough stretches with crater-sized bumps, grooved pavement--you name it--and we were really expecting the ZL1 to bottom out or worse at some points.
The open-air ZL1 ate this road up without ever losing its composure. The MR shocks, electric power steering, and suspension tuning gave me the confidence to go back again and again for more and more fun, while the multitude of braces and reinforcements made certain I never felt like the steering wheel would come off in my hands. The tradeoff, naturally, is weight. The ZL1 coupe we tested in the November issue weighed in at a robust 4074; figure this one to be every bit of 4,250.
In driving the hour from Grand Rapids to Gingerman Raceway, we were reminded of how peaceful the new F-body is with the top down. Conversations can be had while speaking in normal tones and wind buffeting is never an issue (at least under 85 mph), especially with the windows up. Complaints? We have two. First, the top is pretty slow to retract and go back into position. This is a ride that makes you impatient to hit the road. Second, and maybe this is just us, but the trunk seemed a lot smaller than we remember it when we sampled a V6 version in '11. You have to keep the divider in place if you're putting the top down and it just seemed impossibly tiny in this guise.
On an unrelated note, the new color touch radio with 7-inch My Link "infotainment" system and borderless rear view mirror (the latter standard on all '13 Camaros) further enhance the fifth-gen experience. So does the borderless rear-view mirror, which wouldn't look out of place in a '60s F-body.
As for the price, it's got a base of $59,545, plus a $1,300 gas-guzzler penalty. With the $500 microfiber faux suede package, you're staring down the barrel of $62,245 (including destination). That's a tough pill to swallow, but think of what an L78 Camaro convertible is worth today, not to mention 427 Corvette roadsters (L88 anyone?) or LS6 Chevelle ragtops. They weren't cheap when new, but they command a premium today. In fact, they rank among the most valuable of all classic muscle cars.