Chevy’s ‘11 Camaro ready for February delivery

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Brace yourself for a fast February. The segment-leading Chevrolet Camaro opens a new chapter as the 2011 Camaro convertible, which begins production this month and goes on sale in February. It includes an enhanced body structure and well-tailored top mechanism - a combination designed to deliver sports coupe-like driving fun and precise quality.

“The launch of the new convertible opens Camaro design and performance to a new set of potential customers,” said Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “The 21st century revival of Camaro is tremendously popular, so it’s a natural to now expand and elevate the product range in new directions.”

The convertible will be offered in similar model configurations as the Camaro coupe. The standard model will have a 312-horsepower direct injection V-6 engine delivering 29 mpg highway. The SS model will feature the 6.2L V-8 engine producing 426 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission will be standard, with an optional six-speed automatic.

Camaro seized leadership in U.S. sales in its segment with the original coupe model that launched in spring 2009 as a 2010 model. The right to purchase one of the first convertibles was recently sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction for $205,000, with all proceeds donated to charity. The 2011 Neiman Marcus Edition Camaro convertibles, a group of 100 exclusive cars with custom-designed elements and priced at $75,000 each, sold out in only three minutes.

The Camaro convertible delivers great refinement, along with uncompromising, coupe-like driving dynamics. Its enhanced body structure helps prevent cowl or steering wheel shake, for a strong, confident feel in all driving conditions. The top has a smooth, tailored fit, with acoustical foam in the headliner that helps deliver a quiet ride with the top up.

Camaro convertible is offered in 1LT/2LT (V-6) and 1SS/2SS (V-8) trim packages and priced from $30,000 MSRP (including $850 destination). Nine production exterior colors are available, with tops offered in black or tan. Rear parking assist is standard on all convertible models.

The Camaro’s architecture was designed to accommodate a convertible model, which means customers enjoy the fun of top-down cruising with coupe-like driving dynamics. Four strategic reinforcements enhance the already-stiff body structure to eliminate common convertible maladies of cowl and steering wheel shake.

“Our goal in development was to make the convertible match the coupe as closely as possible in ride quality, handling and overall performance,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer.

A telling example of the Camaro convertible’s strength is evidenced in its suspension tuning - specifically, the lack of changes between the convertible and coupe models.

“To compensate for the reduced structure of an open car, engineers often will make the suspension softer, making the convertible a boulevard cruiser,” said Oppenheiser. “Instead, we took the more difficult, but better path of bolstering structure rather than softening the suspension. We didn’t change a strut, bushing or spring rate from the Camaro coupe.”

The result is a convertible that preserves nearly all the acceleration, road-holding and performance capabilities of the Camaro coupe.

Additional safety structural reinforcements are designed to improve noise and vibration characteristics, while also contributing to the elimination of cowl/steering wheel shake. They include a hydrofromed tube in the A-pillars, an inner reinforcement bracket in the windshield header, a reinforced front hinge pillar and reinforcements inside the rockers.

The structural changes to the Camaro convertible body give it superior bending and torsional stiffness than its closest competitor, and better torsional stiffness than the BMW 3-Series convertible.

At the outset, designers and engineers sought to eliminate the common appearance of convertible top support ribs and they succeeded, using composite knuckles rather than aluminum ones, as well as extending the top material below the belt line and revising the top’s stitch lines. The result is a top that has a smooth, taut and carefully tailored appearance that also retains the sleek roofline of the coupe.

The power-folding top retracts in about 20 seconds. It is built in partnership with the same manufacturer as the Corvette convertible top, and operates in a similar manner. That means it folds in a simple “Z” pattern and latches with a single, convenient handle located at the center of the windshield header. Other convertible models in this segment still offer convertible tops with dual latches, forcing drivers into two-hand operations reaching across the car.

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