Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Convertible
Power: 426hp, 420 lb.-ft.
Engine: 6.2L V8
Fuel Consumption: 16 city, 24 highway
Price as tested: $42,220

There was a time in this country when driving a Camaro was about as American as you could get. Somewhere along the way, though, Chevy’s toned and buffed muscle car lost the grip of its James Dean image and became decisively more Arthur Fonzarelli in character. But much has changed since the legendary sports coupe fell into some unfortunate stereotyping. Thanks to a massive design overhaul, the Camaro has returned to Chevrolet’s lineup stronger than ever. And just in time for summer, it’s available in the coveted SS + convertible configuration. Rejoice, America, it’s t-shirt time for the rest of us once again!

While many an auto-phile fell in lust with the “new” Maro’s retro-inspired styling long before it became Transformers’ Bumblebee, its big-bodied bold presence is still quite alluring years later. And though many tuning houses and body-shops rushed to chop the roof off the latest in bad-boy toys, those who remained patient can now cop the official top-let-back remix from the factory. Utilizing a powered soft-fabric roof that adds a mere 246 lbs. to the car’s curb weight, (no different than giving one fat friend a lift) the fit and finish of the drop-top is seamless and simple. Twist open the latch by the rearview mirror, hold a button, and you’ve replaced the roof with the sky in just a matter of seconds. Sure, Chevy could probably have outfitted a retractable hard-top, but going the traditional route delivers more of that classic Camaro feel, not to mention additional trunk space that will accommodate a duffle and then some, if you plan right.

Behind the wheel, Chevy has also opted to forego another feature popular with many of its peers—the push-button start. An oversight? More like a good move. Something about a traditional key-twist makes firing up the SuperSport’s 426 horsepower V8 that much more rewarding. The Camaro’s traction-control, however, is a simple touch away from disarmament; not that we’re necessarily recommending doing so. Just sayin’, you know? Though pop out the clutch too fast, and you might be glad you didn’t mess with the safety net. The Camaro SS’s power is, compared to its predecessors, refined, but it still manages to have a raw edge that almost begs you to misbehave. Even with the top up, the engine’s tone is throaty and loud. Forget your iPod? No worries. It’s menacing growl that grows exponentially with RPMs is all the music you need to stay entertained, or to drown out a nagging passenger.

Obviously, the Camaro is most in its element when pulling up to a stoplight, or the track’s Christmas tree. But dip into some curves, and it stays surprisingly nimble. Thanks to a tightened suspension, the SS is responsive to more than just straight-line driving and stays planted when pushed properly. Firm, yet forgiving, the ride is well adjusted and needs no tinkering with for everyday forays. The V8’s fuel consumption would never be confused with that of a hybrid, but its surprisingly decent, even after under a heavy foot, and might keep you on the road long enough for the Art-Deco type cabin ambiance to kick in. Lights on, then Camaro’s interior is a vibrant sea of electric-blue and red, highlighted by unique illuminated accents in the door panels that envelope occupants in the personal sexiness of their own red-light district.

The Camaro is, of course, not perfect. Buttoned up, the convertible’s side visibility probably classifies as legally blind, and the foursome of unnecessary gauges in the lower center console is a prime example of the whole retro vibe being taken a little too far.  Still, those or any other minor gripes do little to chip away at the fact that this American legend is back better than ever, and in the right hands, relatively speaking. Maybe a little fist-pumping is in order after all. Just be discreet about it, ok?

[Ed. Note: Pictures are of a similarly-styled RS version. Mother Nature rained out our shoot!]