That Chevrolet and Ford are brutal competitors is understood. That the Ford Mustang has long dominated the Chevrolet Camaro in performance isn’t always grasped, with the former regularly producing high-performance models, typically in conjunction with the late Carroll Shelby’s design team. Chevrolet, however, refuses to let its revived Camaro line play second-fiddle to Ford and now offers the Camaro ZL1, the new top-of-the-line edition for the iconic Camaro. The name is a familiar one to the Camaro enthusiast, resurrected in 2012 after a four-decade hiatus.
Among muscle cars, the 1969 Chevy Camaro ZL1 was one of the most powerful and rarest of its kind. The original model was powered by a 430-horsepower V-8 engine and paired with four-speed or turbo-matic transmissions. Just 69 copies were built and it took until the early 70s for most to be sold with the unsold copies returned to Chevrolet.
The current iteration of the Camaro ZL1 has been on the market since the 2012 model year. This vehicle is sold in coupe and convertible iterations and represents the fastest Camaro ever produced.
Chevrolet says that the ZL1 is “barely street legal,” a marketing tag meant to draw attention to this vehicle. Powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine and paired with a Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual or Hydra-Matic automatic transmissions, this rear-wheel-drive model offers explosive power. Its 16-valve, supercharged engine is rated at 580 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and makes 556 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200 rpm. This engine has a 9.1 to 1 compression ratio and makes uses of an intercooler and sequential fuel injection. To achieve maximum performance, Chevrolet recommends that the ZL1 be fueled with premium grade gasoline.
In a test pitting the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 against the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500, Automobile magazine found that the ZL1 went from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds compared to 3.9 seconds for the Ford. Its top speed is 180 mph, while the Shelby can hit 200 mph. Other tests have shown the ZL1 coming in at under 4.0 seconds.
Camaro makes use of a unitized body frame and is of galvanized steel construction. This vehicle features a double ball joint, multi-link strut front suspension with progressive rate coil springs and a stabilizer bar. For the rear, an independent suspension and stabilizer bar are present. The ZL1’s suspension system features Magnetic Ride Control that makes use of body motion actuators and damper technology to keep the Camaro planted.
Camaro ZL1 rides on 20-inch aluminum wheels that are set with summer tires. This model offers variable ratio electric power steering, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and Brembo brakes.
The Camaro ZL1 is a 2+2 model. This vehicle sits on a 112.3-inch wheelbase and is 190.4 inches long, by 75.5 inches wide by 54.2 inches tall. It weighs in at just under two tons.
Cargo volume measures 11.3 cubic feet in the coupe and 10.2 cubic feet in the convertible.
Priced from the mid-50s, Camaro ZL1 comes loaded with engineering, technological and in-cabin goodies. Performance track management, Chevrolet MyLink, OnStar and numerous safety and crash-avoidance features are included. The convertible carries a $5,000 price premium.
Photo courtesy of General Motors Company.