DEATH VALLEY JUNCTION, CA – General Motors expands the redesigned ’16 Chevy Camaro lineup with a convertible model that makes top-down pony-car driving downright enjoyable, and outfits entry-level models with a potent but fuel-efficient 4-banger to widen the appeal of the 2-door.

There will be those coupe purists who sneer at the idea of a convertible sports car, and others who consider a 4-cyl. in an American muscle car an indignity. But after a dose of track time and close to 200 miles (322 km) of open-road testing in both models, which arrive at Chevy dealerships just in time for summer, it’s easy to see GM did its homework on these variants rather than re-engineer after the fact to make them simply passable.

The longtime problem with most convertibles, of course, is once the top gets chopped off a hefty crossbeam usually is added to keep its cowl from shakin’ like Rosanna. Smooth it out too much and it goes from a sports car to boulevard cruiser.

And let’s face it, for being topless, a lot of convertibles are not much to look at.

But this Camaro convertible is a different breed. It owes its refinement to a modular body structure, which allows engineers to tailor the chassis to each specific model – from the convertible and 4-cyl. driven here to the coming ZL1 super-Camaro.

The new Camaro 1SS convertible sheds about 275 lbs. (125 kg) from the model it replaces, as the car in general uses a heavy dose of aluminum for structural and suspension parts. Add in the Camaro’s shrunken dimensions, and the convertible has the same pinpoint handling and “tossability” of the coupe. For a convertible, the Camaro provides a tremendously composed, predictable ride and easily takes down desert switchbacks along the California-Nevada border.

The Camaro convertible also looks good, whether the top is up or down, because the design closely resembles the roof of the coupe. It folds cleanly into the body of the car and, unlike previous iterations, a hard tonneau cover provides a finished appearance. The roof folds relatively quickly, too, and at speeds of up to 30 mph (48 km/h). It will fold remotely from a button on the key fob.

Since the sixth-gen spent 350 hours in GM’s wind tunnel to optimize its aerodynamics, wind noise is held in check when the top is down. Passengers don’t strain to hold a conversation while cruising at Camaro-like speeds, and a few hours behind the wheel won’t deliver you windblown to your destination.

When the top is up, GM says, a multi-layered construction with acoustic and thermal barriers keeps passengers comfortable whatever the weather conditions.  We’ll have to verify that claim another time because, frankly, no one with an ounce of common sense would dare block out a second of the sunny, deep blue sky here with a roof over their heads.

The open vistas the Camaro convertible provide also go a long way toward solving arguably the car’s greatest drawback – miserable sight lines due to the coupe’s slammed greenhouse.

Fortunately, there’s a standard rear-vision camera and available active safety items such as rear-park assist, rear cross-traffic alert and side blindspot alert for a boost of confidence during aggressive driving.

Death Valley also is where cell phone reception goes to die, which makes it the first spot in America we’ve found where GM’s 4G LTE wireless hotspot does not work.