by Sebastian Cenizo
Do you enjoy having bugs fly into your teeth so fast that your dentist can buy his next Porsche with just your bills? With a top speed of 195 mph, an errant bee could well turn your test drive of a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible into a trip to the dentist, who will do his best to extricate the pollinating insect and your front teeth from the back of your throat. Powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 with 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, this drop-top dental demolition machine is seriously fast. Although slightly less capable than its hard-top coupe brother, there's something about speed in a convertible that makes a car feel quicker than it is. Whether it's the wind in your hair, the smell of the countryside, or the fact that you're less insulated from obstructions should you get it wrong, fast convertibles are a blast, and they don't come much faster than this animal.
The 2019 model year saw a number of updates brought to the Camaro range as a whole. Thus, Chevy's product development managers have decided that all the 2020 model needs is a new lick of paint. Rally Green metallic is the new color option, but the rest of the ZL1's features carry over unchanged.
6.2-liter Turbo V8 Gas
Instantly recognizable as the most badass drop-top in the segment, the ZL1 features a gaping front grille and a bulging hood that features a carbon fiber heat extractor vent. Massive 20-inch wheels give the ZL1 an aggressive stance, while an assortment of carbon bits that include a front splitter, extended side sills, and rear diffuser make the car even racier. Other notable highlights are the tinted taillights, LED headlights, and black bow-tie badges, and of course, a folding soft-top.
The Camaro ZL1 convertible is identical in length to its coupe sibling, measuring 190.2 inches from end to end. Width is identical too, at 75 inches excluding mirrors. Height is the first variation, as the drop-top is 0.3 inches shorter at 52.6 inches. The wheelbase measures 110.7 inches, while curb weight is 4,120 lbs, a considerable increase over the coupe's 3,907 lbs.
As the boss of the Camaro convertible lineup, the ZL1 comes with the most powerful engine. This is a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that develops 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. Connected to an optional ten-speed automatic transmission with the steering-mounted paddle shifters allowing for manual gear changes, all of the power goes to the rear wheels. For those who want real engagement, a six-speed manual is thankfully still the default option, although the auto is quicker. That auto is also remarkably smooth and sharp and is arguably better for when you just want to relax with the top down.
0-60 mph is dispatched in less than 3.5 seconds, and top speed is an unbelievable 195 mph. For a car that can do boulevard cruising just as well, these figures are ridiculous, especially when you consider that the ZL1 starts below $70,000.
Despite losing its roof, the ZL1 convertible retains most of the coupe's tech, which includes adaptive dampers to balance the ride between track-ready and comfortable, and features like line lock and launch control. The result is a convertible that handles a lot better than you'd expect, with less chassis flex than is normal for a drop-top. Naturally, if you drive the coupe and the convertible back to back, you'll notice the difference and the drop in sharpness. Nevertheless, the ZL1 convertible is an exciting car to drive and is probably one of the scariest and most focused convertibles on the market, and that includes many supercars. However, those who are more accustomed to the ride of something like a Mustang will note a hint of harshness that is not present in less focused cars.
The Camaro ZL1 convertible is not perfect, and one of its biggest issues is the insane fuel economy. With EPA figures of 14/20/16 mpg, this car is subject to a gas guzzler tax. With a gas tank that is capable of holding 19 gallons of fuel, the estimated range is 304 miles with mixed driving. By comparison, the similarly priced C8 Corvette Stingray convertible, which also uses a 6.2-liter V8 but without the aid of a supercharger, returns kinder fuel economy figures of 16/25/19 mpg.
The ZL1's sueded microfiber interior features a pair of heated and ventilated Recaro seats up front, perches that prove supportive and comfortable, with eight-way power adjustment for the driver allowing for a good driving position. However, the rear seats can only fit two toddlers at best. As with the coupe, visibility with the top up is poor, rather than average, particularly in the three-quarter region. Out the front, it can be a challenge to place the long hood, but at least the wing mirrors are mounted on the doors for a better view.
On paper, the Camaro ZL1 convertible seems fairly accommodating, with a 7.3 cubic-foot trunk allowing one to presumably fit a fair deal of luggage. It's only once you try to actually use the trunk that you realize how awkwardly high and narrow the trunk opening is, and fitting anything more than a pair of duffel bags is a real challenge.
In the cabin, things are not much better, with a pair of decent cupholders in the center console but a tiny armrest compartment for your phone or wallet. The glovebox is similarly confining, and the doors hold next to nothing.
As standard, the Camaro ZL1 convertible comes with heated and ventilated front seats from Recaro. You also get performance enhancements like line lock and launch control, as well as an electronic limited-slip differential. Additionally, a head-up display and Brembo brakes are standard, too. Other, more conventional upgrades over lesser Camaros include dual-zone climate control, remote start (if you have the automatic transmission), a heated steering wheel, wireless charging, 24-color ambient lighting, and magnetic adaptive dampers. Driver assist features are carried over from the coupe, with the exception of forward-collision warning. Instead, you make do with rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The infotainment system features an eight-inch touchscreen and includes a nine-speaker Bose sound system, as well as convenient add-ons like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot. The system works well and responds quickly, with attractive graphics and a simple interface making it easy to use. One gripe is that there isn't enough shade over the screen when the top is down, so the sun can sometimes make the screen's display invisible. Navigation is also not standard and requires some extra moolah.
The 2020 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible has been subject to one recall thus far, issued in late November 2019. This was for a fuel pump that was missing a pressure regulator. J.D. Power awarded the convertible a consumer-verified score of 83 out of 100.
Coverage includes a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. One complimentary maintenance visit is included in the first year.
The IIHS has not tested the convertible version of the Camaro, but the coupe scored the best possible rating of Good in all categories, with the exception of roof strength, where the score was Acceptable. The NHTSA has also not scored the convertible, but gave the coupe four stars out of five.
Standard safety equipment includes a rear parking assist system, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and frontal, knee, and side-impact airbags. You also get a head-up display. While the coupe gets forward collision warning, the convertible does without it.
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible is a whopping performance bargain. With 650 hp and the alternative of either a six-speed manual or a ten-speed automatic, the ZL1 is undoubtedly the most exciting and most focused performance cabriolet that you can get for the price. Loaded with most of the standard features that the rest of the Camaro lineup requires you to spend extra on, the ZL1 is a relatively comfortable, dual-purpose machine that you could realistically use every day, assuming that you have a big fuel budget. However, the rear seats are tiny, and so is the trunk. If you want to go ridiculously fast with the wind in your hair and the local flora in your teeth, the ZL1 is unbeatable. Put it on a track, and the ZL1 shows its racing pedigree and thrills the driver and passengers alike. It's clearly not perfect, but the things it does right are guaranteed to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
The 2020 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible is only available in a single trim level, and it starts at $68,000 for the six-speed manual and $69,595 for the auto. Both models are subject to a $995 destination charge and the manual gets $1,700 worth of gas guzzler tax while the auto is charged $2,100 for being a heavy drinker. Fully loaded, the ZL1 will cost around $75,000, as few options are available for this top-spec drop-top.
Well, there's only one version of the ZL1 convertible. Your choice will essentially come down to whether you prefer a manual or an automatic, and since you can't get the coupe's insane, track-bred 1LE package, we're inclined to go for the auto. Although this is the most insane Camaro convertible available, as such, it is inherently compromised and flawed. As a result, although we're all about driver engagement, we think that going for the brilliant ten-speed auto is the right choice here. Why? Well firstly, it's quicker and deletes the opportunity for you to miss a gear when you're showing Mustang drivers how a car meet exit is correctly executed. Secondly, when you want to just take it easy - which is arguably what convertibles are all about - the automatic transmission is just so much more laidback and comfy.
The Camaro ZL1's base price puts it up against some much more exotic-looking metal, namely the Corvette Stingray C8 convertible. The Corvette is slightly cheaper in base format, at $66,400, but only comes with an eight-speed automatic at the moment. Interestingly, despite its supercar looks, the Corvette offers more cargo volume, with 12.6 cubic feet. The Corvette is also powered by a 6.2-liter V8, but without a supercharger. It, therefore, has only 490 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. However, it has genuine supercar performance and, thanks to a folding hard-top, allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds. It is a strict two-seater, but considering its supercar looks and genuine curbside appeal that something like the ZL1 can never embody, it's worth considering.
If you're not necessarily too phased with having the utmost power in the lineup, you may want to consider one of the SS Camaro convertible variants. The SS starts at a base price of $43,000 and has the same transmission options as the ZL1. However, this model's 6.2-liter V8 is not supercharged and only produces 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. On the plus side, this means vastly better fuel economy, with the manual version returning figures of 16/24/19 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. However, you have to pay extra for features like ambient lighting, adaptive suspension, and Brembo brakes. You also lose out on those lovely Recaro seats, but as a fun and laidback cruiser, it's still a decent car. If you're not much of a track-day enthusiast, this regular Camaro should be more than enough for you.
Check out some informative Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible video reviews below.