Camaro ZL1 ragtop a rocket with good manners – USATODAY.com

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.

You can imagine the discussion at Chevy.

“Hey, how about a Camaro convertible with, oh, a gazillion horsepower?”

“Um, well, that’s a lot in a car that lacks the gazillion-hp coupe’s steel top to keep it from pretzeling when all the ponies are raging.”

“We’ll just put in a lot of bracing and it’s good to go.”

“Yeah, but we already have the Camaro SS convertible, and it’s no dog. Do we really need a higher-performance ragtop?”

“Sure. Cars with tops that go down are inherently more fun. And horsepower’s like money — no such thing as too much.”

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Thus, the 2013 Camaro ZL1 convertible: 580 horsepower, 556 pounds-feet of torque, supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, 184 mph top speed, late September showroom launch, $60,445 and up. It joins the 2012 ZL1 coupe that’s been on sale since spring.

And man-oh-man, what a treat.

Except for some really cheap-looking plastic interior trim. Chevy’s gotta do something about that; it ruins the whole impression.

You could rant about the stiff price and the tight back seat, too, but ZL1 buyers probably have different priorities and higher incomes and care more about what’s under the hood.

The ZL1 does suffer in comparison with Ford’s Shelby GT 500 Mustang. The Pony car is slightly lower-priced, has more power (662 hp), goes faster (200-plus mph) and uses less fuel (the Ford’s rated 25 mpg at highway speed; the Chevy’s best is 19).

Chevy vs. Ford schoolyard taunts aside: a 580-hp sporty car, just as the feds finalize the fuel-economy clamp-down for 54.5 mpg by 2025?

But not everything can, or should, be a fuel sipper, if the price of that parsimony is tedium. Camaro ZL1 ragtop…

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