2017 Camaro ZL1 Convertible Review

2017 ZL1 Convertible 
When it comes to horsepower, 580 is a lot. I've tested muscle cars with similar power before, and it usually feels like you're not getting the most out of the engine because you can't get all that power to the pavement — as in the Cadillac CTS-V and Shelby GT500. That or it just doesn't feel noticeably faster than, say, a wimpy 400-hp car.

Likewise, the 2017 ZL1 feels powerful but doesn't seem to live up to those lofty numbers. What it does do, in coupe and now in convertible form, is stay planted to the road. I tested a 2016 ZL1 coupe on the track at Road America in Wisconsin in May, and its composure amazed me on a challenging course. Remember, this is a 4,173-pound muscle car I was driving, not a lithe European sports car.

I wasn't able to take the 2017 ZL1 convertible on a track, but it, too, exhibited the same sure-footedness around winding roads. That's thanks in part to the advanced Magnetic Ride Control suspension, which reads road surfaces a thousand times a second and adjusts the shock absorbers to suit. It's the next generation of the system found on the CTS-V, and it's  why you feel in control of the Camaro while high-powered Mustangs leave you a little more tentative ... or at least they should.

Unlike other convertibles, the 2017 Camaro didn't exhibit much body flex from the loss of its roof. The mechanisms to lower the top account for most of the convertible's approximately 200 extra pounds versus the coupe, though Chevy didn't provide an exact curb weight. Driving it at high speeds with the top down was actually quite comfortable, too.

Yes, the 2017 Camaro ZL1 can blast away from stop lights in 1st gear. When you ratchet it up to 2nd, the back end squirms just a tad before snapping back straight. By that time, you're going very fast and the wind is whipping above your head; you'll likely forget what a nice convertible the 2017 Camaro is in terms of wind intrusion, though, as you'll be keeping an eye out for the local constable. The open-air cockpit also lets you hear the fabulous exhaust rumble much better than you can in the coupe.

Besides piloting the six-speed manual that carries over from the coupe, I also tested the six-speed automatic. Getting an automatic transmission in a high-performance car like the 2017 ZL1 is as close to car-guy sacrilege as you get. Buuuuut ... if you're just opting for a convertible, you may be looking for the fastest droptop to take you along coastal highways. Then you might prefer letting the car shift itself.

The automatic transmission changes gears efficiently and smoothly if you're not hammering the gas pedal. When you are, it kicks down to the appropriate gear, generates a loud burble from the exhaust and lurches forward. Cool enough. The manual shift paddles are also quite precise. When you hit one, it doesn't hesitate to shift, as do most paddle setups I come across. Chevy also designed the manual shift feature to be truly manual, meaning if you forget to shift out of 1st, the car will keep revving all the way to the redline until you do. That's bad for forgetful people, but good for folks who want to test the limits of that redline when appropriate.

Getting this much performance from a convertible isn't cheap. The 2017 ZL1 runs $60,445, just a hair above the 2017 GT500 convertible's $59,995 cost (prices include destination charges).

2017 Camaro ZL1 Convertible Review
2017 Camaro ZL1 Convertible Review