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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Clarkson : "stupid and childish". Really ?

The "disadvantage" of owning a convertible is, that once you go somehwere with hot weather, where a rental car comes into question, you doesn't want anything else, than a convertible. And as a car fan, you probably want to try out better and better cars, or at least which you don't have a chance to drive otherwise.

So we're found ourselves standing after long flights at midnight at a car rental counter asking for "upgrade". "You can get a Camaro, do you want it ?" was the answer. After agreeing, paperwork and a bit waiting we've got a yellow Chevrolet Camaro 2012.

"Stupid and childish", says Jeremy Clarkson about it in this Top Gear episode. He's kind of right :) But I don't care at all. As well as about the Transformers cliché.

So here's a convertible which will drive us for a week around an island. After having an intensive experience with a Saab convertible, an unconscious comparison is always present. Even if these are very different car categories, the situations the driver has to solve are the same.

The feeling is a pretty robust, the car feels (and is) low and wide. The basic configuration has 18" wheels (245/55R18), fabric power seats, basic audioset, board computer and a few of standard things. The transmission is automatic, the engine is the "basic" one, 3.6 liter DOHC with 323 hp and 377 Nm. Stronger than my Saab in horse power but not in torque.

A very known feeling of "compactness" comes after a few road bumps. Either the chassis construction is so strong or it has a front strut brace. I open the hood and see the strut brace. Standard feature. Nice.

The 0-60 should be around 6 seconds. With the automatic transmission hardly, it has a huge delay and switches gears around 4000 rpm. Of course it's quicker when shifting manually but even after honestly trying I couldn't get used to the tap shifting. A muscle car ? Maybe the 6-liter, not this ...

The fuel economy for the 600 miles we did was 17.5 mpg, which is around 16 litres / 100 km. When considering mostly outside of the city and about 25% highways, it's quite a lot. Even with 3.6 liter engine and 1.8 tons of weight. Hm ... 

The roof is a black soft-top. No drops inside even through a huge tropical rain. But it's slow. According to the owner's guide it needs 20 seconds for open or close, Saab needs 16. It's not a tragedy but there is this slow feeling. The only really annoying thing is, that to open/close the roof you have to unlock/lock it manually with a large latch. C'mon it's 21. century.

With top down it's windy inside after about 80 kmh (50 mph), similar to Saab. There are wind deflectors available and it's absolutely understandable that car rental companies doesn't provide them. They would have to change them probably every second week. And on slow roads it's also not really necessary. As the whole car, but that's a different story.

The GM cruise control system, which is the same like in my girlfriends Insignia was driving me crazy. From all the systems I've seen, this is the stupidiest. Instead of simple and quick "set speed", you have to push down the thingie and hold for a short while. Thousand things can happen while you "start" it and find out if it works or not.

Another not very understandable thing is the AUX input. I found it on the third day when downloaded the owner's guide. It's hidden below the power outlet and looks like an unattended hole from the production. Once you know it's fine, but until you find out, some new grey hair appears.

One last and very cool thing is the output of the rear parking camera. It goes directly into the rearview mirror and it's very practical, because you see also combined things which are out of the reach of the camera. While I prefer looking around, in a convertible, especially with closed roof the view is a bit limited.

So is it childish and stupid ? In this yellow color definitely yes. In less screaming colours maybe not so. Stupid ? Not really. It did a good job, the drives around were fantastic. Two cars in front of us had a quite nasty accident, in the not very clean situation I had a very good overview what's going on and the breaks were also very good. Otherwise we would be the next in the crash.

Would I buy it ? Here in Europe in a couple of pricelists, the 3.6 liter version is not present, everything starts at 6.2 liter and 60.000 €. No, not for this price at all. But for a week rental it wasn't bad at all.


  1. The car has great looks and would be an option to buy living in the States, would go for the coupe.
    Here in Portugal you can get the coupe with prices starting at 97k € and the convertible for 102k €.... it just doesn't worth!

    1. 100k€ ? LOL. that is here in Slovakia a starting price of a 911 Carrera convertible (105k). for me the camaro was too "shining around".