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Tested > 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible

2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible

The Muscle Beach cruiser returns

Review by Russell Purcell; Snaps by Amee Reehal

 

When the Camaro returned from extinction last year it proved a sales winner as performance car fans clambered to dealerships to place their orders and put some new muscle in the garage. When GM followed up this launch with news that a new convertible version was on the horizon the surge to Chevrolet dealers gained momentum and pre-order lists started to amass extra pages. Well the Camaro convertible has now arrived, and after spending the better part of a week with one I must say I was impressed.

My test vehicle was a loaded 2SS model equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. It was cloaked in an eye-popping Rally Yellow and featured the optional stripe package ($585) and black leather seating. The car looks very aggressive as it rolls on large 20-inch wheels and features performance styling cues such as a front air scoop, brake cooling slots, rear spoiler, and a rear diffuser. With the top in the “up” position the car looks somewhat taller than the coupe model due to a slight alteration in the profile of the roofline and the use of larger side windows. In reality however, the convertible is only one-half inch taller than the coupe. With the top down the car looks very muscular and your eyes are immediately drawn to the wide rear haunches and raised fenders.

The Camaro SS convertible is available with your choice of one of two 6.2-litre V8 engines (both of which share their architecture with the Corvette LS3 engine) and either a six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic with manual shift mode. If you choose the slush-box you will find Chevrolet’s L99 V8 under the hood, which generates a potent 400-horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, and also includes Active Fuel Management capabilities, which effectively shuts off half the engine’s cylinders when cruising. Those buyers who truly appreciate the act of driving will probably purchase the SS fitted with the manual transmission, a decision that will deliver the more powerful LS3 to the engine bay. This big thumper will put 426-horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at the ready but will rob you of some fuel efficiency.

The convertible top seems well constructed, taut, and did an excellent job of insulating the passenger compartment from excessive wind, road and engine noise. Visibility is still an issue for taller individuals due to the short windshield and tiny rear window (rear park assist is standard), but outward visibility through the side windows is much improved due to the frameless construction of the doors. Obviously outward visibility is much improved with the top retracted, which is a plus for taller drivers, but it is still hard to see beyond the tall corners of this car when it comes to placing it in your lane of travel.

Roof operation is quick and simple. There is a single latch at the centre of windshield cap which is operated by a lever to disengage it. At the touch of a console-mounted button the windows drop and the top folds quickly (about 20 seconds) into its recess in the trunk. Like previous GM designs, there is a rollaway shield that must be secured in place in the trunk for the roof mechanism to deploy.

The car comes with a semi-rigid, snap-in tonneau cover to hide the top when it is down, but this is best reserved for times when you plan to leave the top down for extended periods. Without it in place however, I did notice that the folded roof succumbed to a substantial amount of lift created by wind turbulence when travelling at highway speeds. It also makes the car look unfinished. The tonneau comes complete with a storage bag which allows you to safely store it in the trunk, but doing will rob you of even more of the convertible’s limited trunk space. Note: The tonneau was missing in my test unit so my photos reflect the look of the car without it in place.

My test vehicle was able to perform runs from 0-100 km/h in about five seconds all day long. The truth is, the Camaro SS is a fast car in any form, but the convertible variants are a little slower off the line than the fixed roof cars due to fact that they carry more weight (121 kg). Much of the weight gain can be attributed to the additional bracing and structural reinforcements required to preserve the stiffness and handling prowess of the new Camaro in an open car. I went out of my way to seek out railway crossings and drive on less than perfect road surfaces in an effort to induce cowl shake and squire out rattles, but nothing was significant enough to report on.

Handling is very good and the suspension delivers a very sporty feel. Weight distribution is near perfect (52 front /48 rear) and the car has a low centre of gravity. The car responds well to driver inputs and steering is precise and predictable due to the serious chassis strengthening program undertaken by the engineering team at Chevrolet.

Left alone the automatic transmission seemed to promote efficiency rather than brute force, so I found myself selecting my own shift points using the button shifters mounted to the back of the steering-wheel spokes. This allowed the fun factor to rise, but I would have preferred a proper paddle shifter design. This car is deceptive, as for some reason the designers created fake paddles to act as markers to indicate to the driver whether the hidden shift buttons perform upshift or downshift functions.

The four-piston Brembo brake units are heavy-duty and held up very well to my abuse. They are backed up by GM’s excellent StabiliTrak stability control, traction control, and a full complement of airbags.

There are two trim levels available, 1SS and 2SS. Both share styling and are very well equipped in the comfort and convenience department, but the 2SS adds a very nice Boston Acoustics audio system,  Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, USB port, and a driver adjustable Head-Up Display. Other niceties include the console mounted  multifunction gauge set, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated mirrors, heated leather seats, tonneau cover and a universal home remote.

Conclusions

There are very few sporty convertibles in the marketplace and fewer still that can comfortably haul more than two passengers. Factor in the relatively low price of entry for a car with the performance of the Camaro SS and this car starts to look pretty attractive if you live in a region with the appropriate climate.

 

 

Technical Specifications: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible (2SS)

Base price (MSRP):  (1SS): $43,255 / (2SS): $47,835

Price as tested: $53,600 (Includes $100 A/C tax, $4,215 options, $1,450 destination charge)

Type: 2-door, 5-passenger, full-size convertible

Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive

Engine: 6.2-litre V8, OHV, 16 valves

Horsepower: 426 @ 5900 rpm (LS3) /400 @ 5900 rpm (L99)

Torques (lb.-ft.): 420 @ 4600 rpm (LS3) / 410 @ 4300 rpm (L99)

Transmission: 6-speed manual / 6-speed automatic with steering-wheel shift controls (optional)

Brakes (front /rear): Brembo four-piston calipers / four-wheel disc with antilock

Weight (kg/lb): Auto - 1891(4168) / Manual - 1867 (4116)

Cargo capacity: Top up- 288 L (10.2 cu.ft.) / Top down- 220 L (7.8 cu.ft.)

Fuel economy (L/100km):  Manual- City 13.2 (21 mpg) / Hwy 8.2 (34 mpg)

Automatic- City 13.3 (21 mpg) / Hwy 8.0 (35 mpg)

Chevy Road Trip to the TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF) 2011

2011 Chevy Road Trip to the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF)

Story & Snaps: Amee Reehal ©

Celebrating it's Sweet Sixteen this year, the 2011 TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF) recently wrapped up in Whistler. Running from April 15 - 24, 2011, the WSSF celebrates all things snow, sports, art, culture, fashion, and music. This year, falling on the Easter Long Weekend coupled with the last weekend for the Whistler Mountain ski season (Blackcomb Mountain closes May 30), rendered a bustling Whistler village, home to a festival that saw all walks of life, from large European families to young suburban hipsters to single Vancouverites in high heels and mini skirts. A huge festival with a great vibe and something for everyone.

Once again, Chevrolet Canada was a leading sponsor of the WSSF. My man George Saratlic, Product Communications Manager at GM of Canada, asked if I'd be interested in going again this year. With a resounding 'yes,' found myself and fellow auto writer Russ Purcell, planted in a 2011 Chevy Camaro SS convertible as we set off to The Fairmont Chateau Whistler for a couple nights stay, where we'd hook up with a pair of other bloggers.

I attended the TWSSF with Chevrolet Canada last year as well, my first time in Whistler. And stoked to do it all again in 2011. Check out my blog post from last year's event here > Amee @ WSSF 2010

2011 marks the first year the new Chevy Camaro comes in the soft-top form. Fortunately, the weather from Vancouver to Whistler the Friday afternoon we departed was sunny, thus, top down the entire way. The 2011 Chevy Camaro Convertible is available in a either a 3.6L V6 producing 312-hp, or the 6.2L V8 (also found in the Corvette) making 400-hp with the automatic tranny (426-hp with the stick shift). We had the V8, of course.

For more info on the 2011 Chevy Camaro Convertible, visit here.

Below: Russ and myself at the helm:

Saturday morning kicked off with breakfast at the hotel with George and Jennifer Tice, PR Manager at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler:

While the other bloggers & tweeters attended the Chevy Test Drive Tweetup at the Whistler Conference Centre, yours truly opted for a day on the mountain. Hey, this would be my last, proper boarding day of the season and my first time hitting the infamous slopes of Whistler Blackcomb. And I'm glad I did, because spring skiing/boarding means one thing: Slush Cup. Hooking up for a quick run with Amber Turnau, part of the Whistler Blackcomb PR team, Amber led me to the slush cup taking place halfway up Blackcomb Mountain. While the slush cup is nothing new to these parts, 2011 was the first year sponsored by the WSSF. The gathering was overwhelming, the weather was just perfect, and the jumps were hilarious.

Some of the slushy shenanigans:

In addition to GM's Chevy title sponsorship in the WSSF, the automaker also sponsors the GMC Race Centre located on Cougar Milk on Blackcomb Mountain…a free, dual Giant Slalom course open to the public (yes, this is just a sign):

A not-so-terrific shot from my Blackberry camera, but a beautiful scene nonetheless:

Couple other randoms with my little Canon S95...my sole camera for the trip:

Our Chevy Road Trip to the WSSF ended off with a few drinks, the Big Air competition with the winner taking home a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze (AJAC's 2011 Canadian Car of the Year), and on my stroll back to the hotel through Whistler Village, a thumping crowd at the Chevy DJ booth with a little fireworks action in the background. A great trip with the perfect ending.

Tested > 2010 Chevy Camaro RS

2010 Chevy Camaro RS

Review & Snaps: Amee Reehal ©

Arguably the sickest, best-styled rendition amongst the recent wave of throwback muscle cars introduced by American automakers, is the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. While the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger are equally as daring, and without any bias or at risk of drawing parallels to the originals released back in the 60s as many current die-hard enthusiasts rightfully have been doing, as far as curb appeal goes, this average dude finds the Camaro unquestionably the baddest and most fearless. And starting at only $26,995 Cdn MSRP, you'd be hard pressed to find a vehicle that can make such an impact at this price-point; turning Minivan-Dads into temporary rockstars.

My tester is the 2010 Chevy Camaro RS (1LT) starting at $28,065 Cdn MSRP; the second offering in a stable of five trims available. Earlier this year, GM invited me to Whistler, BC for a few days during their Chevy sponsorship at the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival, where I had the opportunity, along with fellow journalist Russell Purcell from Vancouver, to rip around the post-Olympic ski resort in a yellow 2010 Camaro SS--the cream of the crop, V8 behemoth that proved to be incredibly fun to drive, both on the highway and through the twisty village roadways. Though not quite the ominous SS, this RS is equally as stunning and the likely the front runner in sales, rolling off the dealer lots.

Powered by a 3.6-litre DOHC V6 engine, the RS puts down 304-hp and 273 lb-ft of torque; just enough RWD power, as I realized, to sustain a joyous grin. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard, and for an extra $1435 as in tester, add the 6-speed automatic tranny with steering wheel mounted tapshift shifters for a bit more control. Other notable standards on the RS includes a sport suspension, front multi-link strut suspension with coil springs, and dual exhaust with polished stainless steel exhaust tips, to name a few.

Aggressively chiseled from front to back, the Camaro RS looks absolutely menacing just sitting there. And the longer I gawked at it, the more I realized how incredibly dissimilar this 5th-generation Camaro is from the previous version as recent as 2002 when production on the Camaro ended (crazy to think it's only been eight years). Without question, the new Camaro is a true throwback in terms of exterior styling to the original introduced in the late 60s…not the IROC-Z in the 80s, nor the convertible in the 90s. Just a modern version of the original, the way it should be! Standard features include body coloured door handles and rocker mouldings; solar ray glass; fog lamps; halogen headlamps with auto on/off control, to name a few. 18-inch painted aluminum wheels are standard, but opt for the Rally Sport Package upgrade at $1995 as in my tester, adding 20" x 8" front and 20" x 9" rear flangeless painted aluminum wheels with a midnight silver finish wrapped in performance BSW tires; body coloured roof ditch moulding; a rear spoiler; and HID headlamps and unique taillights.

Again, I'm not a Camaro-aficionado but a quick look inside the cabin and it's evident Chevy retained some prominent styling attributes from the earliest version including the larger old-school analog styled, recessed gauges. Front bucket seats, cloth seat trim, a driver 6-way power seat and passenger 2-way manual adjuster/power recline are all standards in the RS. So is a long list of others including the driver information centre; remote keyless entry; two auxiliary power outlets in centre console; folding rear seat back with trunk pass through; outside temperature display, among others. This RS came equipped with the Convenience & Connectivity Package at $1050, adding a cargo convenience net; the leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel with audio controls; leather wrapped shifter knob; Bluetooth; wireless PDIM and USB port; and rear ultrasonic park assist.

Even with $5775 in options (frankly, not a huge premium considering all you get…bigger rims, enhanced exterior styling, upgraded cabin), this Camaro RS rings in at only $33,840 before taxes/fees. For a sports car with distinct styling, huge impact, and nostalgic flair hovering around the 30K price point, the 2010 Chevy Camaro RS can't be beat.

For more info on the 2010 Camaro, visit here.

2011 Chevy Silverado HD & GMC Sierra HD Launch

Couple weeks ago, GM Canada introduced their 2011 Chevy Silverado HD and 2011 GMC Sierra HD to the media here in Alberta. The launch included head-to-head, tractor pulling drag races on an isolated airstrip just south of Calgary, allowing media and dealer reps the chance to get behind the wheel for a few pulls  and see the GM trucks' full potential against the competition.

We helped cover the event providing GM with media content, both stills and video, including shots of the event and product in action, along with unedited b-roll footage. We had two photographers and one videographer on this job. Here are some of the stills:

Product:

Event:

Event > 2010 Camaro-SS to the Telus WSSF in Whistler

Chevy CamaroSS road trip to the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival Story & Snaps: Amee Reehal©

  • Wrapping up its 15th year, Whistler, B.C., once again, played host to the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF)—North America’s largest annual gathering of winter sports, music, arts and culture. For ten days, April 16 – 25 this year, the WSSF offers the public a plethora of events and activities throughout the day, all week long. From the Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown and the 72hr. Filmmaker Showdown Second Cuts Screening to the World Skiing Invitational and the Schick Fashion Exposed fashion show, just to name a few.
  • George Saratlic, with Product Communications at GM Canada, mentioned this vague idea to me a few weeks, regarding the festival, the Chevy sponsorship and a way to expose it to various media; inviting some prominent Vancouver-based bloggers/social media folk along with some auto journalists to cover the event. I was all over the idea, and a few weeks later, George made it happen, finding myself, along with fellow journalist Russell Purcell, tearing up the Sea To Sky Highway departing Vancouver enroute to Whistler in our 2010 CamaroSS:

  • Along the way, we stopped by this joint in Squamish called Grilled Fromage, owned by this crazy, ex-Calgarian dude named Colin Bush, who serves up 57 different types of grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course, the place is adorned with ‘cheesy’ fixtures throughout:

...Colin takes these old Bob Ross type paintings and adds a little something extra to them. I tried to buy this 'General Lee hurdling a mountain river' painting from him, but he wouldn't part with it:

  • Chevrolet Canada, one of six main sponsors at the WSSF, arguably had the strongest presence and visibility, securing a stellar cul-de-sac locale within Whistler Village, enjoying consistent traffic. The setup included the Chevrolet Stage with live bands throughout the day, various Chevy vehicles on display with public access, Chevy tent offering promos and information, and a cool installment where local artists used the Camaro hood as their canvas. Chevrolet on Scene was also on deck, a crew of social media insiders covering the event from all angles.

PHOTO BELOW: Russell snapping a shot of the Chevy Girls with GM sponspored John Kucera, memeber of the Canadian Alphine Ski Team:

  • Just outside the Village, Chevrolet gave the public an opportunity to test their products on the open road, including the 2010 CamaroSS and the  2010 Tahoe Hybrid:

PHOTO BELOW (from L to R): Fred Lantenschlager, GM Sponsorship & Auto Show Manager; Russell Purcell, auto journalist; Myself; and Janice Avon, with MacLaren Momentum agency in Vancouver handling GM Sponsorhips programs, including the Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey initiatve and the GMC Cup, to name a couple:

PHOTO BELOW (L to R): few bloggers also on the trip: John BollwittRebecca Bollwitt, aka Miss604, and John Biehler, all big in the social media/technology space:

  • Here, our blogger folks tweetin' it up during lunch, relaying the Chevy Road Trip and WSSF experience out to the masses...myself, I'm debating the Twitter thing, still on the fence but we'll see:

  • The Whistler Conference Centre was home to State of the Art, an exhibition of gritty, urban art…I caught the tail end as they were tearing down, but managed to snap some cool pieces:

  • We missed the Schick Fashion Exposed fashion show, unfortunatley, but blogger John Beilher was there and took a few shots:

  • Misc. photos around Whistler Village, capturing the vibe of the WSSF:

  • Overall, the entire WSSF event was awesome, the CamaroSS was unreal (a full review in the coming months), my blind date for the weekend with Russell Purcell was delighful, and Chevrolet's tie-in with the WSSF, replacing the outgoing Pontiac brand, is a brilliant one; and one that will certainly make a positive impact.  Hopefully, I'll make it out again for 2011...but this time, I'm bringing my snowboard!

Tested > 2008 Chevy HHR SS

The 2008 Chevy HHR SS...LoL or OMG!?

Vehicle: 2008 Chevy HHR SS Turbocharged

Outlet: Performance Auto & Sound Magazine

Story & Snaps by Amee Reehal

Let’s be frank, the Chevy HHR SS looks weird. An elongated, round front end with aggressive shoulderlines; huge flared out fenders; a chopped rear end like a hearse on steroids—the HHR SS ain’t normal. But like most ‘weird’ things out there, you either love it or you don’t. And the HHR SS is no exception. Get behind the wheel, however, unleash the 260-hp turbo powerplant, and styling becomes an after-thought. You’ll never have so much fun looking so strange in your life. To be fair, the HHR (stands for Heritage High Roof) is a retro-styled wagon, so it’s supposed look different. It’s supposed to look cool, like the PT Cruiser’s younger, hipper brother, but targeting a much younger demographic. Unlike it’s LS and LT trim siblings, this SS model has performance in mind. 18” wheels wrapped in P225/45R-18 tires and a rear mini spoiler will quickly give this away. Exterior styling also includes deep tinted rear glass, front fog lamps, and body coloured power remote side mirrors. The interior is roomy and the cockpit is laid out well. The instrument cluster is simple with stylish looking gauges that aren’t oversized as you may expect. And the boost gauge on the A-pillar is a nice sporty touch too. A storage compartment up top above the centre instrument cluster is handy for storing your shades, wallet, and other small stuff. The seats are comfortable with decent bolsters (8-way power adjustments driver side only). Equally as important, the seats look hot, wrapped in premium cloth with the SS embroidered logos. Adequate rear cargo space is increased with 60/40 split rear seats, and a flat folding front passenger seat to load your surfboard (or snowboard) as the advertisements depict. Standard equipped audio comes in the form of a 6-speaker system with an MP3 capable CD player, as well as an auxiliary input jack. Upgrade to a 6-disc CD changer with premium 260 W, 7-speaker system with a subwoofer, and XM satellite radio. Power windows/doors, remote keyless entry, leather wrapped steering wheel, and cruise control come standard. The power sunroof and performance driver’s seat are optional. Dual stage frontal airbags are standard, but you’ll need to fork out about $600 extra for head curtain side-impact airbags. Steering is super-responsive; handling is tight and fun; ride comfort for passengers is not so great, but stiff performance suspension certainly is. The 2.0L DOHC I-4 turbo engine puts down 260-hp. And the short-shifting 5-speed manual transmission brings it to life. This ride handles so well, and is so fun to drive. Whether you dig the styling or not (and for the record, the SS styling grew on me really quick), looks aren’t everything. So get over yourself, get into the Chevy 2008 HHR SS, and have some fun. Trust me, you will. For more info, visit http://www.gm.ca/gm/english/vehicles/chevrolet/hhr/overview

This review is also posted at http://www.pasmag.com/index.php?option-com_content&task=blogcategory&id=19&Itemid=10