Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible
2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible
2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible
2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible. Click image to enlarge

If you’re into barking mad droptops, step right up folks, puts your money down (64 grand, or thereabouts) and takes your chances.

Chevy has lopped the roof off its vicious ZL1 Camaro and offers the resulting mayhem up to the delight of your ears, follicles and backside. It’s a brutal beast – bellicose, ballistic, a bit wobbly and completely unencumbered by subtlety.

The heart of the matter lies under the carbon-fibre-topped hood protrusion – a detuned version of the same supercharged 6.2L LSA V8 that powers the Corvette ZR1, here making 580 hp and 556 lb-ft (versus the Vette’s 638 hp and 604 lb-ft).

Somehow the term “detuned” just doesn’t to fly, unlike the car itself. Ferocious acceleration is a given.

With a base price of $64,250, the 2013 Camaro ZL1 Convertible comes with a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual with dual-mass flywheel, twin-plate clutch and short-throw shifter. My tester had the optional Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed automatic at $1,710.

Lest you think the ZL1, introduced as a coupe in 2012, is merely a Camaro with a monster motor, think again. Chevy went to great lengths to make this pony car more than just a straight-line throwback.

Underpinning the ZL1 is third-generation Magnetic Ride Control, which utilizes magneto-rheological dampers in conjunction with myriad sensors to give the Camaro a compliant ride along with exceptional body control – and seamless transition between same.

Unlike the Mustang, Camaros have independent rear suspension, and this ZL1 is a sophisticate when compared to the live-axle Shelby GT500.

With a focus on creating downforce at speed, Chevy added a race-style front splitter, front tire air deflectors, two belly pans for reduced underfloor turbulence, redesigned rocker panels and a new rear deck spoiler.

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible
2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible
2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible. Click image to enlarge

The 20-inch alloys are shod with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar Generation 2 tires (285/35ZR20 front, 305/35ZR20 rear) that were designed specifically for the ZL1. (The damn things were nearly bald on this tester – a testament to the type of activity the ZL1 inspires.)

As the almighty Nurburgring lap times were a part of the ZL1’s development, you know the brakes gotta’ be good. Big discs clamped by six-piston Brembo front calipers and four-piston rears relay a positive pedal feel and really haul this beast down.

A limited-slip differential is also part of the package.

The ZL1 Coupe has proved to be an effective high-speed track car. So what about this convertible that weighs an additional 120 kg due to chassis-stiffening measures?

Can’t say. I didn’t get anywhere near a racetrack, and I highly doubt anyone buying a droptop ZL1 will either. Chevy thinks so too, as the five-mode performance stability management system on the Coupe doesn’t make it to the convertible – just a two-mode system. Nonetheless, once up on its toes on a high-speed track I expect this ragtop would show its stuff credibly.

On the road at more legal velocities, however, it comes across as a tad brutish. It’s big, feeling every gram of its 1,987 kg, and the front wings are not in sight, making the car hard to place on a winding back road. Chuckable is a word that doesn’t come to mind. Granted, the Magnetic Ride Control does a marvelous job of smoothing out the ride, but it can’t hide the fact that despite all the structural stiffening measures (hydroformed steel tubes in the A-pillars, strengthened door-hinge pillars, and a reinforcement bracket in the windshield header, beefier four-point front suspension X-brace) the structure still quivers over the rough stuff. Better than the Mustang, though.

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