Going Topless: The Beauty and The Beast


In the fifth installment of the series, Amy Tokic takes out her last two picks for a test drive. Miss the other articles? Catch up on all her adventures – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Test Drive #3: Chevrolet Camaro

I need to push my test drives into high gear. Both steering and the brake fluid have started to leak for my current ride and have left a nasty stain in my parking spot. It’s a good thing my last two test drives were on the same day. (Note: Just after I finished the first draft of this article, my battery died. I had to replace it – it’s not one of those things you can ignore. And now, it sounds like I need to replace my brakes.)

Honest truth time: I was not looking forward to taking out this car. I was doing for my dad, who is pretty pissed that I’m not automatically buying a General Motors product. But I’m a good daughter, so I decided to humor him. This one’s for you, Dad.

The Chevy dealership was pretty average in the looks department. Everyone there was super friendly and a few people came over and introduced themselves while I waited for my sales guy, Mike. We chatted for a bit as he went over the car I’d be taking for a test drive: a 2012 Camaro Convertible, bright orange, highlighted with black racing stripes. It was time to give ‘er!

Although I had never been in one before, I assumed that it would be a huge car. And I was right. I felt less like I was driving a car and more like I was navigating a boat (Arrrrrrr matey!). Instead of having a lot of junk in its trunk, it was all up front. I felt uncomfortable turning into the parking lot with it – I thought I was going to hit the median.

Not everything about the Camaro was bad. I did like the heads-up speedometer display on the window. It was much easier to see and one less thing to worry about. It had a lot of room inside and it made me feel powerful driving it. And I did like Mike the sales guy. We chatted about the weather, school and the car – he was easy going and fun to chat with.

For the test drive itself, we didn’t go far. It was twice around the block, then home Jeeves. We didn’t even make it out on the highway, although I’m sure if I asked, Mike wouldn’t have minded. But he didn’t suggest it. In fact, he had a pre-determined route and we stuck with it. So if this car could give ‘er (and I’m pretty sure it can), I didn’t get a chance to experience it.

Out of the convertibles I had already taken out, this top (soft) took the longest to put up and down (22 seconds). Compare that to the Miata’s 12 seconds – the Camaro’s top sure takes its time.

When we got back to the dealership it was time to crunch some numbers. The model I took out (2012 two-door convertible 1LT) has an MSRP of $31,560. Out of all of the dealerships I visited, GM had the worst financing. If I chose a 60 month financing option, I’d be paying 6.18%. And it didn’t matter how many months it took to pay off –whatever option you chose, it was 6.18%. I guess the Camaro sells well, so they don’t need to offer pricing incentives.

On the plus side, I could take advantage of my dad’s GM discount (my dad even offered to give me all his Visa GM points if I went with the Camaro.) And for the month of October, this dealership is giving away a free iPhone 5 with every new car purchase. Tempting… but no.

Chevrolet Camaro Pluses

Lots of power (so I hear), free iPhone, Dad’s GM Visa points and discount.

Chevrolet Camaro Minuses

Huge front end, high financing, soft top roof, crappy gas mileage (city), mullet wig not included

Chevrolet Dealership Experience

I’d say a 6.5 out of 10. It would have scored higher, but my sales guy still hasn’t followed up with a call. All the other salespeople I dealt with called at least once to see if I had any questions.

Test Drive #4: Volkswagen Eos

I was so excited to take this bad boy out for a spin. Like I said before, this car is the front runner in my search for a convertible. And this test drive also marks the first time I was paired up with a saleswoman.

One of the first things I noticed when I walked into the Volkswagen dealership was that there was a higher percentage of female salespeople than male. My saleswoman’s name was Stacy and she was fairly new to the position. In fact, this was the first Eos she had taken out for a test drive.

I loved watching the retractable roof in action. It was smooth sailing from start to finish. Another bonus is its sunroof, perfect for those days when it’s too chilly to put the rood down, but you need a little fresh air.

After some initial issues with getting the top down (like I mentioned, it was her first time in the Eos), we started off on the test drive. Stacy was behind the wheel for the first few minutes to demonstrate some of the car’s safety features. She pulled a sudden stop on a gravel road to show me how it wouldn’t lose control on unstable road conditions. As well, I appreciated the Eos’s built-in safety features and construction. Even though I’m after a convertible, it doesn’t mean that I’m not safety minded.

When I got my turn behind the wheel, I took it out on a long and winding road. The Eos did not disappoint – it boasts some amazing handling capabilities. I got to take it out on both the city roads and the highway, and loved the way it felt with the top down.

As for Stacy, we got along great. We both have the same breed of dog (a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua mix) and live in the same area. I recommended some bars for her sister’s upcoming birthday party and got the low-down on her career in the automotive industry.

Inevitably, the test drive came to an end and it was time to see how much owning this beauty would cost me. Not surprisingly, a hell of a lot. The Eos had the highest price tag of all the new cars I took out: the Sport model that I test drove starts in price from $36,500 (plus taxes, of course). The dealership did have 0% financing option for 36 months, but even with my down payment, I’d still have to shell out about $670 a month. Ouch. Perhaps it’s time to look at used options…

Volkswagen Eos Pluses

Power start, wind barrier, smooth acceleration, quality safety features, sleek styling, four seats, decent rear visibility (compared to the other models I took out), hard top retractable roof with sunroof.

Volkswagen Eos Minuses

Expensive, less sporty looking than the other convertible models.

Volkswagen Dealership Experience

7 out of 10. Stacy is really determined to put me behind the wheel of an Eos, but most of the contact initiation has been on my part. I would really have liked to have seen her follow up after our first visit.

Things Learned

  • My old car knows I’m looking for a replacement. So it’s no surprise that it’s started to crap out. You have to know when enough is enough. I’m glad I started researching and shopping in advance, because if my car is beyond repair, I’m in a better position to not rush out and buy the first car I see. As well, you need to know how much is too much to spend in order to fix it. If it’s under a certain amount, I will fix the problem, because getting it to start isn’t something you can work around.
  • Salespeople will call until you tell them you’re not buying your car. I had a salesperson from a dealership I didn’t even go to call me (I was going to go in, but they didn’t have a convertible to test drive). There’s no need to be rude – I found that by just being honest and telling them what I did and didn’t like about the car, they appreciated that I was straight up with them.

Up Next

Cutting down the list and weighting my options.