2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1: First Drive #the #first #camaro


2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1: First Drive

Like all iterations of the new Chevrolet Camaro, the ZL1 suffers from mediocre forward visibility. The mail-slot view is akin to that of a WWII pillbox, save that you grasp a suede steering wheel rather than the leather grips to a .50cal Browning. It’s fitting, because the fire mission is roughly the same in both cases: kill anything that moves.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Equipped with a wet-sump version of the Corvette Z06’s 650 hp supercharged 6.2L V8, Chevrolet’s heavy caliber Camaro is anything but subtle. Its arrival is heralded by the shredding of air by a trio of enormous air intakes, its departure by V8 thunder reminiscent of late-sixties Can-Am racing. It is styled like a visual uppercut. It does ridiculous burnouts. It comes with stripes. The seatbelts are red.

But do not mistake this loudly bellowing beast for the overpowered dim-bulb of its predecessor. The Alpha-platform ZL1 isn’t just lighter than its fifth-generation ancestor, it’s far smarter, more approachable, and considerably quicker around a road course. If there’s still a whiff of mullet going on here, it’s now more Corvette-infused: think Jordan Taylor on the podium at Le Mans.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

“The fifth generation Camaro came with a lot of baggage, for want of a better word,” said Lead Development Engineer Aaron Link.

Sharing its Zeta platform with the Australian Holden Commodore, the previous Camaro had dynamic foibles baked right in. Call it down-understeer, an unwillingness to dance that required 305 series tires at all four corners of the track-focused Z/28, best of breed for the fifth-gen car.

Where the Z/28 only had a single job, the ZL1 is required to be jack of all trades. Excellence is expected at the dragstrip, the track, and on the street. Surely, some compromises will need to be made.

Lining up first at the burnout box, the ZL1 delights with an easily accessed line-lock feature that holds the front wheels locked for fifteen seconds. Once smoke starts creeping out from under the hood, simply press the select and cruise control buttons on the left and right of the steering wheel, and lock will release, letting the ZL1 glide forward from the cloud of tire smoke like the Phantom of the Grand Ol’ Opry.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Launch control is similarly as easy to use: select either custom or automatic mode, apply braking with the left foot, then mat the throttle. When the Christmas tree lights up, the ZL1 chitters and squeaks down the unprepped surface, hammering suddenly into full power as the rear wheels hook up partway down the track. Launch control’s custom mode allows the driver to vary revs in increments of 100rpm, and wheelspin in half-percentages.

The LT4’s 650 hp at 6400rpm and 650 lb-ft at 3000rpm don’t peg headlines in a world of 707hp supercharged Mopar muscle, but the ZL1 should hold its own. On street tires, Chevrolet claims this car will run a 11.4 second quarter-mile, with a trap speed of 127 mph. Engineers confirmed that Chevrolet had strapped on a set of 18 inch drag radials, and seen elapsed times drop by a further four-tenths of a second. On paper, Dodge’s Hellcats are faster. Door-to-door, tenths-to-tenths it’s anyone’s game.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Smelling slightly of eau de Goodyear, we aired-up the tires and headed for the serpentine tarmac of the Angeles Crest highway. Strapping a Z06 engine into a Camaro is a great way to make a straight-line charger, but the varied curves and gnarly pavement of the California canyon roads are designed to trip up automotive linebackers.

At 3944 lbs for the automatic, the ZL1 is still a heavy Chevy–this is not quite the small, vicious animal we were hoping for. However, with a posted 7:29 lap time at the Nürburgring, it’s still good enough to eat Mustangs: specifically, it outperforms the GT350R that we crowned our 2016 Performance Car of the Year.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Green Hell times don’t always translate to usable street speed, but time spent honing the ZL1 for pace down the rollercoaster of the Pflantzgarten has made for grip and confidence. The chassis is greatly improved, and tweaks to GM’s excellent Magnetic Ride system have improved damping response times by a claimed 40 percent. Instead of a single magnetic collar, there are now two smaller rings, which engineers indicated as analogous to going from a single turbo to a twin-turbocharger setup.

The ZL1 sits on the same staggered-fitment Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires as the 1LE version of the Camaro SS: 285s up front, 305s out back. Claimed maximum lateral grip is above 1g, and the ZL1 and 1LE benefit from the Corvette Z06’s spooky-good electronic rear differential.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Now add in GM’s new 10-speed automatic transmission. Ten speeds. Like a bicycle.

The 10-speed automatic takes up about the same space as GM’s 8-speed auto, and was developed in conjunction with Ford. It’s incredibly complex, and Ford’s introduction of the technology into its F150 lineup met with some delays due to programming issues.

Thus, the ZL1 could have been a hot mess of bonehead upshifts and dropped downshifts. It is not. It is possibly the best thing about the ZL1. Hail Hydra-matic.

Take the lift-foot gear-hold mode, for instance. Approaching a series of twisties at speed, simply give the throttle a brief goose and the transmission holds the gear, backing off only when you do. In practice, the 10-speed dumped from eight to third in an instant, then held the gear through a tight turn, only upshifting as the road straightens and the ZL1’s V8 blasts all 650hp at redline.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Yes, the ZL1 comes with paddle-shifters, and no, you probably won’t want to use them. Not only do they feel cheap, clicking surprisingly loudly, but also this performance variant of GM’s 10-speed has a telepathy matching Porsche’s PDK. There are three layers of algorithm here, with the car reading lateral forces to interpret whether the driver is merely zipping down a winding road, or attacking apexes at the track.

Around the high-speed environs of Willow Springs, the six-speed version of the ZL1 was both riotous and inviting, with a hugely flexible powerband that let you leave it in third gear for most corners if you just want to practice your lines. Snapping off a rev-matched fifth-to-third under braking at the end of the front straight, the Tremec TR-6060 six-speed is meatily gratifying, backed up by great pedal placement.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

However, if the manual ZL1 is fulfilling, the 10-speed astounds. As on the street, it seemingly never selects the wrong gear, banging hard through the shifts down the front straight of Big Willow approaching 150mph.

Set in either Sport 1 or Sport 2, the traction control allows a considerable amount of leeway, allowing the car to rotate under trail-braking at turn three and five. The brakes are sized 15.35 inches up front and 14.4 inches in the rear, with six pistons up front and four pistons in the rear; even under repeated heavy braking down from the front straight, little fade was noticed. There are eleven different heat exchangers, ducting to cool the brakes, and functional downforce front and rear. The ZL1 simply laps Big Willow again and again, planted, composed, eager.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *