It almost feels like a certain BMW...
As the muscle car wars continue to heat up with multiple options that produce well over 700 horsepower from supercharged V8 engines, it feels refreshing to hop back into an American sports car that people might reasonably afford. In this case, we are referring to the 2021 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, powered by GM's tried and true 3.6-liter V6 engine. While the V6's 335 horsepower output is literally less than half of what you get from a GT500 or Hellcat, we appreciate the balance that it brings to the Camaro.
Muscle car diehards will quickly scoff at us for recommending a V6-powered Camaro, but we must remind those folks that the current sixth-generation Camaro is more of a sports car than a true muscle car. In fact, this particular Camaro didn't feel like a direct competitor to a Mustang or Challenger at all; it reminded us of a certain legendary BMW.
The Camaro's updates for the 2021 model year are not major, but Chevy has added a new color option called Wild Cherry Tintcoat. This color is available as part of a larger Wild Cherry Design Package or individually for $495. We love how this shade of red adds a vibrant yet classy style to the Camaro, especially when combined with the $1,950 RS Package that adds 20-inch five-spoke wheels, LED taillights, and black Chevy bowtie badges. If we were ordering a new Camaro, this color combination is how we'd option it.
The new Corvette proved that Chevy could build a world-class interior, but the Camaro still lives with a compromised cabin. Even on our fully-optioned 3LT trim test vehicle, the cabin materials still feel like they have rental car origins, which feels disappointing given the Camaro's other high points. Some materials, like the leather steering wheel and seats, feel premium, but the dashboard and trim feel the polar opposite.
Although sports cars aren't supposed to be practical, we still take issue with the Camaro's cabin layout. Aside from a small armrest cubby and tiny bins in the doors, there is nowhere to put anything. Both the Mustang and Camaro have far more interior compartments in which to store small objects like your phone.
While the Camaro's interior is a low point, Chevy's technology game is strong. All 2021 Camaro models now include wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, a feature that neither the Mustang nor Challenger offers. Chevy's MyLink infotainment is intuitive to use, though we wish the touchscreen wasn't tilted awkwardly down. The 3LT trim also gets a wireless charger. Weirdly, it's located in the back seat and isn't large enough for most modern phones.
Asking for a sports car to be practical might seem unreasonable, but it's the little details that can make or break someone choosing to live with a Camaro over a boring crossover. Here, the Camaro's tight back seats could put off buyers with older children. The 29.9 inches of legroom fails to match the Mustang and falls far short of the Challenger. Likewise, the Camaro's 7.3 cubic feet of trunk space is less than what's offered in the Mustang Convertible, and the room shrinks even more when you put the roof down, whereas it remains the same in the Mustang.
The Camaro drives more like a sports car than either the Mustang or Challenger, especially in V6 guise. We said this car reminded us of a certain BMW, and we are referring to the E46-generation M3. Both cars feature a six-cylinder engine with over 300 hp, both offer excellent balance and poise, and both are available as a coupe or convertible with a choice of a manual or automatic transmission. We love how easy it is to put down power in the V6 Camaro, and how well the Alpha platform rotates around corners.
Even the performance figures are virtually the same. Chevy quotes a 0-60 mph time of around five seconds for a V6 Camaro with the 10-speed automatic transmission while the E46 took around the same time. If you are lusting after an E46 but don't think you can afford the pricey upkeep, we think the Camaro is an excellent modern alternative.
If we were shopping for a 2021 Camaro, we would want a V6-powered coupe with a manual transmission and the 1LE package. The least expensive convertible Camaro costs $32,495, which is around $6,500 more than the base coupe. With options, our 3LT tester rang in at $44,625. With the coupe's price savings and the manual transmission, our ideal Camaro with the same options, plus 1LE package and the cool Recaro seats, would cost $39,860. We think spending less than $40,00 for a manual coupe with over 300 horsepower sounds like an affordable option that enthusiasts can reasonably enjoy.