2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible: Almost The Whole Enchilada

Strong points
  • Amazing dual-stage exhaust system
  • Incredible thrust off of the line
  • Comfortable top-down cruising
  • Minimal wind buffeting
  • Usable rear seat
  • Looks the business
Weak points
  • Very hard to plant the power down from a launch
  • Car feels bigger than it is from behind the wheel
  • Very heavy platform
  • No PTM in convertible models
  • No Launch Control for automatic model
  • Expensive
Full report

There was a time, not so long ago, when a car like the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible would not have been allowed to exist.  A recently as the past decade, a corporate culture that insisted on protecting the Corvette as the Bowtie brand's performance icon precluded building any form of the pony car that could have kept up with it on a race track - an attitude that contributed to the eventual demise of the Camaro before its revival as a 2010 model.

Flash forward to the present day and not only is the Camaro SS a legitimate white knuckle ride, but it has spawned several even more potent special editions such as the 1LE and the ZL1.  I recently had the opportunity to put some miles on a drop-top version of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and while I'm not sure I'd ever want to park one in my driveway, I can easily understand that there are legions of Camaro fans out there who, given the means, would do so in a heartbeat.

The Personification of Aggression

It's immediately clear on first seeing the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible that this bright yellow chunk of metal means business.  A special chin splitter adds a degree of menace to an already in-your-face front fascia, and is in fact part of an aero treatment that sends more cool air into the engine bay (along with its carbon fibre hood slats) and helps to transform lift into downforce at extra-legal speeds.  Sharp eyes will also perceive the extra-wide rear fenders on the ZL1 that smooth out the air flowing around its enormous tires.  Sure, you have to take extra care when piloting the Camaro ZL1 in and out of parking lots, as the splitter is all too willing to rub itself out of existence on any available concrete surface, but isn't that part of the fun?

Liveable, But Limited Visibility

The only time I drove the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible with its top up was at the drag strip, because in my opinion a vehicle like this should be open to the elements at all times.  I can't speak to sightlines with the fabric roof in place, but I did notice that the front A-pillar's immense thickness (part of the car's rollover protection structure) was enough to cancel out a pedestrian stepping into an intersection.

The seating position inside the Camaro convertible is also extremely low - the term 'bathtub' was thrown around quite a bit by my passengers - and while I had no problem with it, some drivers aren't comfortable being surrounded by so much steel.  I transported a pair of friends in the backseat on both highway and city streets, and the offset position of the rear buckets gave them a good view of the road ahead and a reasonable amount of legroom for short trips.

The Camaro ZL1 convertible's interior amenities are essentially identical to those of a standard Camaro, which means a mix of plastic and leather, along with a nice set of console-mounted gauges and the Chevrolet MyLink vehicle interface.  Although this is an expensive car in terms of purchase price, it's nowhere near 'premium' in its amenities - you are paying for performance, not for massaging seats or adaptive cruise control.

The Fury Of Hell Itself

And then there is the sound.  The noise that is made when 580 supercharged horsepower are unleashed from a 6.2-liter V-8 engine through a dual-stage exhaust system.  A compelling case for ownership of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible could be made based solely on the tenor of its exhaust note, which races quickly into stock car territory and resonates off of tunnel walls with enough sonic force to peel paint.  It's the perfect symphony for top-down driving, and intoxicating enough that I found myself frequently dropping the car's slushbox into neutral in order to sample its wicked tones.

Yes, that's right - my 2013 Camaro ZL1 convertible was saddled with a six-speed automatic transmission instead of the available six-speed manual.  Normally, this wouldn't be much of an issue, as most convertibles shy away from the kind of track duty for which the ZL1 is prepared through its numerous suspension upgrades and chassis adjustments (including magnetorheologically-adjustable shocks).  For the ZL1, however, the inclusion of the autobox proved to be a bit of an issue, as it erased the manual transmission's launch control feature.  Compounding the problem is the fact that convertible models also see the deletion of Performance Traction Management, which is the five-stage traction control system gifted to the coupe that would have made all of the difference when I tried to launch the convertible at the drag strip.  So much available torque - 556 lb-ft - courses through the car's drivetrain with the go-pedal down that even from a roll it's extremely difficult for the rear tires to find purchase.  Why are convertible fans excluded from the high performance party?  Why not PTM for sun-lovers?  I simply don't understand it.

A Tale Of Two ZL1's

Unlike its most direct competitor, the Ford Shelby GT500, which is identical in both fixed roof and rag-top form, General Motors has essentially created two classes of Camaro ZL1 ownership.  Those who plan on lapping the Nurburgring - or at least their local road course - will want to drive home from the dealership in a coupe, as it has the full suite of track-ready features that will satisfy in the corners.  The convertible, on the other hand, is a more relaxed affair - or at least, as 'relaxed' as a near-600 horsepower muscle car can be.  There's a certain frustration in knowing that it's almost impossible to harness the full performance potential of the automatic ZL1 convertible, but that feeling is easily masked by the igniting its rear tires like a hooligan and tempting tinnitus via the deafening sound of its supercharged V-8 engine.

Share on Facebook

More on the subject

RecallsChevrolet Camaro Recalled Over key Problems
General Motors just announced a recall for its last-gen Muscle Car. This time, the problem is one well-known to the manufacturer: the key can switch off inadvertently if the driver hits it with his knee. Over 500,000 vehicles are targeted by this recall. The problematic part is used in all …
SEMA2015 Chevrolet COPO Camaro Unveiled at the SEMA Show
Chevrolet chose the SEMA Show to unveil the 2015 COPO Camaro, a limited-run car built for professional drag racing. Only 69 units will be built, and sadly they are not road-legal. Here is what separates the ultimate straight-line Camaro from its regular brethren: No interior panels or sound deadening No …
SEMAReturn Of The Yenko
During the horsepower wars of the seventies, one of the most efficient weapons for Chevrolet’s aficionados came from a dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. There, mechanics assembled Camaros that bore the Yenko badge, and people who lined up next to these cars on the boulevard quickly realised that they were no …
RacingReiter Engineering Unveils A Camaro GT3
Those of you who still think a muscle car can’t take a corner at more than 15 km/h will be disappointed when Italian supercars finish behind Reiter Engineering’s latest creation. Built to race in the GT3 category, their Chevrolet Camaro GT3 just scored its first victory on American soil, overtaking …
NewsThe Next Chevrolet Camaro Is Coming
Muscle car aficionados, get your calendars ready: Chevrolet just announced that they will unveil the next generation of the Camaro shortly. Even better, it’s less than 2 months away. The official unveiling will be held on May 16th in Detroit, where the Camaro was originally born. For the occasion, Chevrolet …
NewsThe First 2015 Chevrolet COPO Camaro Will Be Auctioned
If you are a straight-line acceleration enthusiast, you have heard of the COPO Camaro: this racing version of the popular muscle car is built to participate in professional drag racing competitions straight out of the factory. It can be fitted with a wide array of engines to enable the owner …
NewsAnother Teaser For The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro
The new Camaro is scheduled to be launched in a few days, and to make sure that everybody’s eyes are set on the muscle car, Chevrolet has given us yet another look at it. This teaser is the most revealing of all, showing us the car’s side profile and its …
NewsThe 2016 Chevrolet Camaro's Performance Numbers
When the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro was launched, we were surprised to learn that the manufacturer was going to follow in Ford’s footsteps by announcing that their latest muscle car would have a turbocharged four-cylinder under its hood. But, instead of offering it as the middle-level powertrain, it will stand as …
NewsChevrolet Camaro 1LE: Faster Than the Shelby GT350?
With the last generation of the Chevrolet Camaro, you had a lot of options: if you wanted a dirt-cheap base model, you went for the V6 coupe. More power? Check out the SS. The over-the-top version was the ZL1, and the Z/28 was created as a track-day weapon to beat …
New ModelsHere is the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Up to now, the most powerful version of the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro was the 2SS. While its 455 horsepower are more than enough to move the car's mass in traffic, it pales in comparison to its more well-endowed competitors like the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and the Ford Shelby GT350.
News2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1's Power Output Revealed
When Chevrolet launched the new Camaro ZL1, an important information was missing. We learned about the 10-speed automatic transmission, the magnetic suspension, the huge air intakes… However, the exact power output was kept secret. Chevrolet wanted to surprise us. Sadly, nothing stays hidden for long on the Internet: through an …
Comments