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Cars of Summer: Beating the Heat in the Chevy Camaro

For most people, summer is driving season-- day trips, road trips, drives to the beach, festivals, fairs, visiting friends and commuting in the bright sunshine. This summer, U.S. News is putting the cars we test through their summer paces and giving you tips and advice for making the most of your summer driving. In this installment, the Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible fights for top-down time.

The Chevrolet Camaro Convertible is great, so long as you don't put the top up.

Nothing says summer like a convertible. I’d been hankering for some wind-in-my-hair action all summer, so of course when it was time for me to test the Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible, we got hit with record-breaking heat, which made the idea of putting the top down intolerable. That heat was followed by rain. To put it bluntly, I didn’t get all the top-down time I wanted in the Camaro.

But, based on test drives early in the morning and late at night when the temperature wasn’t unbearable, I can say that, as a convertible, the Camaro is impressive. I picked it up at a press event in Maine and drove the two hours back home to New Hampshire with the top down. In contrast to the BMW 3-Series convertible I had driven earlier that day, the Camaro was quiet, even with the top down. In the BMW, I had to blast the stereo just to hear a few snatches of music. In the Camaro, I could listen to NPR with the top down on the highway and hear every word (though listening to NPR in a Camaro is a lot like listening to country music in a Maserati).

With the top up, the Camaro convertible suffered from wind noise and roof flexing. That’s common in most soft tops, though. If the Camaro were my car, I’d solve these problems by only driving it with the top down. Having the top up on such a pretty, summer-fun car is a shame.

Speaking of pretty, the Camaro got appreciative looks almost everywhere I took it. This is not a car for fitting in. But, even in New Hampshire where people aren’t ostentatious, people liked the look-at-me Camaro. By people, of course, I mean men. Guys in parking lots, road workers, other drivers and my husband could not get enough of the Camaro, and more than one tried to lure me into a drag race. Women seemed pretty indifferent to it.

Top up or down, the Camaro had plenty of power, a smooth six-speed manual and better handling than I expected. Other sporty cars have rides harsh enough to ruin a weekend jaunt, but the Camaro was comfortable for long hauls. All in all, it’s a great convertible – so long as you have something else to drive when the weather won’t let you put the top down. 

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