The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will not be anywhere near as rare as its
1969 namesake when it arrives during the first quarter of next year,
but the most powerful production Camaro to date should deliver
performance more than worthy of its model designation.
Camaro engineers on Thursday offered media members a preview of the
upcoming Ford Mustang Shelby GT500-fighter, and the tale of the tape
is impressive, especially in terms of grunt: The 6.2-liter,
supercharged LSA V8 will make 580 hp at 6,000 rpm, and 556 lb-ft of
torque at 4,200 rpm, besting Chevrolet's original targets for the
engine's output and bettering its efficiency in Cadillac's CTS-V by 24
hp and 5 lb-ft.
For those keeping score against the GT500, the ZL1 trumps the top-of-
the-range Mustang's ratings by 30 hp and 46 lb-ft.
NoOp Comment: Hence why Team Mustang is said to be increasing
displacement from 5.4 to 5.8 and a new, more efficient S/C being
As the Camaro team explained, the engine's improved numbers come
thanks to “a unique induction system, with a lower-restriction air
filter, dual ‘bell mouth' inlet paths, and improved airflow through
the supercharger housing. Other changes include a higher-efficiency
supercharger intercooler and electric power steering system, which
consumes less engine power than hydraulic-steering systems.”
NoOp Comment: I get the feeling Chevy is low-balling these numbers.
I'd bet the ZL1 will be putting out over 600.
However, Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser and his colleagues made
it clear that they intend the ZL1 to be far more than a drag-racer
right out of the box.
“[This car] is track-ready from the showroom,” Oppenheiser said, then
pointed to the list of standard equipment to make his point: A liquid-
to-liquid oil cooler lifted straight from the Corvette ZR1, deep-sump
oil pan, rear-differential cooler and, according the Oppenheiser, a
fuel system with additional pickups that should feed the engine during
hard cornering even when the gas tank is low on fuel.
The ZL1 also comes with the third-generation of Magnetic Ride Control,
which reacts faster than before and now adjusts the suspension up to
1,000 times per second. Chevy said the new design “uses new twin-wire/
dual-coil dampers at all four corners. The smaller dual-coil system--
with one coil at either end of the damper--replaces the larger single-
coil design of the previous generation.
“The new design allows even more precise control of the electrical
current and magnetic flux, allowing greater range than before between
the softest setting for ride comfort and the firmest setting for track
Meanwhile, the latest version of Performance Traction Management is
also present, with five settings spanning conditions from “wet” to
From a driver-interface standpoint, the decision to adopt electronic
power steering might appear an odd choice for an overpowering, rear-
drive performance car, but team Camaro insisted that the system is the
best solution for controlling such a powerful automobile at speed
while also making it comfortable for drivers at relatively low speeds
in “real-world” scenarios. “Hydraulic steering wasn't going to get it
done,” Oppenheiser said.
NoOp Comment: The GT500 vs ZL1 is going to be one heck of battle!!
Likewise, he stressed that the optional, six-speed Hydra-Matic 6L90
automatic gearbox is “not for poseurs who don't know how to shift.”
We'll almost always choose the six-speed Tremec manual transmission,
but at least the auto box has been built for performance, with three
different driving modes including a “manual” setting that only shifts
when a driver commands it; automatic upshifts will not occur even at
the engine's redline, and we were promised that it will select and
hold the appropriate low gear into corners in order to match the
manual-equipped ZL1's performance.
NoOp Comment: Makes you wonder is Ford will eventually offer an
“Contrary to what we could have done [by taking the easy way out with
a simple, off-the-shelf transmission], the automatic is not a
compromise,” Oppenheiser said. “We spent a lot of time working on it
for the track.”
Other ZL1 items of note include Brembo brakes (six-piston front, four-
piston rear), an active exhaust system like the one featured on the
Corvette, and aerodynamic elements including a “belly pan” beneath the
car (Chevy would not reveal final downforce numbers). Variable
stiffness halfshafts, and strengthened joints and suspension parts are
intended to help reduce wheel hop under acceleration. As for rubber,
Goodyear designed ZL1-specific Eagle F1 tires (285/35 ZR20 front,
305/35 ZR20 rear).
Chevy still will not confirm final details such as price (expected to
fall in the low $50,000-range) or production numbers--figure on about
5,000 ZL1s built per year in General Motors' Oshawa, Ontario, assembly
plant. But from what we've seen at this point, the Camaro ZL1 has
plenty to look forward to when first drives occur in about two months--
test drives timed to coincide with dealerships opening their books for
orders. The preliminary spec sheet, like the Corvette's, promises top-
notch speed, ride and handling at the limit, while also enough comfort
for daily driving and road trips.
NoOp Comment: These are truly the good ol' days.
Speaking of which, we have reason to expect that fans who make the
trip to Florida's Homestead-Miami Speedway for NASCAR's Sprint Cup
Series season finale in November might well find themselves on hand
for the definitive ZL1 production car's official public debut.
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