2014 Camaro SS convertible: Cruiser King

Posted by hpayne on May 1, 2014

Spring has finally sprung in Detroit and the thoughts of restless natives are turning to cars, cruising and Woodward Avenue. Has Chevy got a car for you.

The springtime-edition Camaro SS convertible has arrived on dealer lots. Cancel the European family vacation. Forget the second home up north. Write a check for 50 grand and you’ll be the envy of this summer’s Dream Cruise. They say spring comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. They ain’t lyin’. Turn the key on the SS and it sounds like Simba waking up hungry. Groooowwl. Males will drool. Lionesses will purr. Meoooowwww.

Behold the King of Beasts.

I haven’t driven a car in a long time that stirred interest like the SS. It was like chauffeuring a Hollywood celebrity. Cruising Metro Detroit, men and women alike poured from homes and businesses to admire the Captain America-handsome steed with the voice of James Earl Jones. “I’ll park that for you,” teased one feline who looked like Kate Upton’s brunette sister.

My wife would have been jealous if she weren’t transfixed as well. And she’s normally allergic to the muscle cars I bring home. She wanted to go topless (ahem, the car) and go cruising on Woodward all week.

What makes this alpha male tick?

Two things: Looks and power. The Summit White SS convertible is rolling sinew. Under its massive shoulders bulge 21-inch painted aluminum wheels. These saucers are nearly as large as the 22-inchers on the Cadillac Escalade or Chevy Tahoe SUVs. Captain America could slay four Hydra agents with these shields.

Like a lion’s noble nose and firm jaw, the Camaro’s front end is formidable. Extending for what seems like acres, the great snout gives way to a slim forehead of a windshield topped by a mane of blue tonneau rag top. Up front, the SS sports Camaro’s updated face — aerodynamically sculpted for maximum airflow when exercising. Chevy narrowed the headlight cowl and expanded the lower air opening to increase down force over the big front spoiler. The blue-striped hood bulge is rippled with air intakes that work in tandem with the front ducts to suck air through the engine bay.

Engine roar’s addictive

Ooooooh, that engine. Behind the Camaro’s signature maw is Chevy’s signature LS3 V-8 — shared with the outgoing C6 Corvette — producing 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. The growl from the vacuum-actuated dual exhaust headers nestled in the new-for-2014 sculpted rear diffuser doesn’t stop at idle .

Step on the throttle and the growl becomes a throaty roar over 4,000 RPM. And like any addiction, it must be fed. I revved it on the open road. At traffic lights. In the parking lot. Roar, Roar, Roar.

The deafening exhaust note helps you ignore the voices in your head saying this beautiful hunk of muscle can be terribly impractical.

The windows are so narrow you’d have better visibility out of a WW2 pillbox. The convertible’s C-pillar is wide enough to obscure the Grand Canyon.

Backseat legroom is scarce. The ragtop handle requires the strength of Zeus to secure into place. And the car handles like a pig. Throw this athlete into a corner and suddenly it’s wallowing about like a linebacker on a badminton court. Thank goodness for traction control.

Clearly, this isn’t a track car. Like a Hollywood celebrity, it just acts the part.


Comfortable cruiser

There are two kinds of performance car. Exhibit A: Stiffly-sprung sports cars that live for twisty back roads. Slashing Porsche Boxsters, agile BMW M4s — even the SS’s chassis-stiffened cousin, the Camaro ZL1. And there is Exhibit B: Comfortable cruisers that rule the stoplights with raw power. Mighty Mustangs, asphalt-pawing Chargers, the Camaro SS. Unlike the ZL1, the SS doesn’t come with magnetic shocks or stiff springs. This is a dragster, not a road racer. Cheetahs rule the rural prairie, lions rule the urban jungle.

On a 60-degree day this April, the wannabe kings were prowling Woodward.

In Royal Oak, I pulled into to a lot full of big cubic inch alpha males. Marking his territory, a Mustang owner sniffed around my SS — musing, critiquing, dismissing. The side vent gills are faked with decals, he pointed. Four square gauges you’ll never use — oil pressure, oil temperature, transmission temperature, battery voltage — hog the center console. The 21-inch wheels hobble hard cornering, and so on.

This Camaro’s just for show! Well, welcome to the strip.

A Camaro partisan could make the same critique of many Mustangs. Track your Shelby GT500 but bring your gal to Woodward in the red GT Premium Convertible. Like a Mr. Universe contest, the cruise is as much about the muscle oil as the muscle. The Camaro SS plays its part well. Chevy’s media materials don’t hide the fact. They lay on the muscle oil. The sculpted new fascia. The 245-watt Boston acoustic sound system. The comfortable (ahem, for front seat passengers), elegant, stitched dash. The perforated leather seats. The white door inlays with aqua blue LED highlights that glow in the dark.

The Camaro is a body-builder’s physique in a muscle shirt. It may not have athletic moves, but who cares when you have biceps that would make the Hulk green with envy. Deactivate the traction control, rev the needle to 3 grand, pop the clutch, and lay rubber tracks out of a Woodward stoplight. Corralling that power in S-curves, however, isn’t worth the effort. Now you know why my wife loves this car. She knows its muscle is for preening, not for terrifying her on the back roads. The SS is a velvet hammer.

With the top down, the revs up, 21-inch tires spinning, 395-cubic inches growling, the stereo crooning, and the ladies swooning — I challenge you to find a greater spectacle on Woodward than this glorious hunk of beefcake.

May has bloomed. Woodward beckons. Your dream cruiser has arrived.

2014 Chevy Camaro SS Convertible

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, four-passenger coupe
Price: $41,955 base ($50,635 as tested)
Power plant: 6.2-liter V-8 engine
Power: 426 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.4 seconds (manufacturer est.); 155 mph top speed
Weight: 4,172 pounds
Fuel economy: EPA 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway
Report card

Highs: Rude exhaust music; topless at 4,000 RPM
Lows: Could use a diet; handles like a pig (see diet issues)

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140501/AUTO03/305010038#ixzz30VcfTqxT

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