When it comes to muscle cars, more power is always a good thing. Not content to rest on the Camaro outselling the Mustang in 2010, Chevrolet rolled out their answer to Ford’s Shelby GT500 at the Chicago Auto Show. Called the Camaro ZL1, the car represents the highest performing Camaro ever built, and Chevy is calling it the most technically advanced muscle car ever developed. Maybe the biggest surprise was the car’s name: Chevy opted for ZL1 in honor of a limited production, aluminum block racing engine available for 1969 Camaros. Only 69 were ever built, but the cars have achieved near mythical status. Chevy hopes the same will happen with the 2012 Camaro ZL1, and leaves the door open for future models between the Camaro SS and the ZL1. Camaro Z/28, anyone?
The ZL1 is powered by a slightly detuned version of the Cadillac CTS-V’s supercharged 6.2 liter LSA V8. The Caddy is a flagship car, so it has to put out more horsepower than it’s lowly Chevy brethren (at least on paper); still, the Camaro is rated at 550 horsepower, just 6 horsepower less than the CTS-V. Torque for the Camaro ZL1 is rated at 550 ft lb, or just one less than the Cadillac CTS-V. The best news of all is that Chevy is pulling heavily from the Corvette and CTS-V parts bin, so the ZL1 gets GM’s superb Magnetic Ride Control suspension, dual-mode exhaust and Brembo brakes (developed especially for the Camaro). The ZL1 also gets an entirely new electronic steering system, which should provide better feedback and control than hydraulic systems.
As you’d expect, virtually everything in the driveline and suspension has been beefed up to handle the additional power and capabilities of the car. The ZL1 gets a stronger driveshaft, a cast iron differential housing, stronger axles and a heavy duty limited slip differential. Stabilizer bars are increased in diameter, and the rear bar gets drop links repositioned to the outside of the control arms to further reduce body roll. The car rides on 20” forged aluminum wheels (lighter than those used on the Camaro SS) and gets Goodyear Eagle Supercar F2 tires developed specifically for the ZL1.
On the outside, the ZL1 is distinguished by a unique front fascia and aluminum hood with carbon fiber insert, featuring air extractors to control airflow over the car. The front fascia includes vertical fog lamps and air intakes for brake cooling, and well as a front splitter for improved aerodynamics. Out back, the rear gets a spoiler and a diffuser equipped rear fascia.
Inside, all ZL1s come with a black leather interior. The heated front seats feature suede microfiber inserts and ZL1 logos on the headrests. The cars get a revised steering wheel, unique instrument panel, ZL1 sill plates, alloy pedals, a heads-up display and “four pack” auxiliary gauges in the center console. Chevy hasn’t announced pricing yet, but I’d expect the car to be priced competitively against the Shelby GT500 Mustang. I’d call a starting price right around $50,000 when the car goes on sale in early 2012.