I used to be Dragoneye...
Drives: 2014 Camaro 1LE
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Buffalo, NY
At Home on Country Roads
It was at this point that the one of the dedicated street-drive cars came back…and conveniently it was a gorgeous silver & black car…just like the one I ordered. The lines of the car were so crisp, and the contrast with the other black parts worked so well. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – it looked so good, I knew I made the right choice!
Chris Frezza and I piled into the car, and followed Chevy’s directions for a 45 minute loop of the streets around the track. You could tell they picked the route very carefully in order to showcase the car’s mild manners. On one stretch of road, the bumps and imperfections were constant for about five miles. The ZL1 soaked them up beautifully – you could feel the bumps, but they weren’t irritating as they would be in a normal car. It almost felt as though the car put a pillow between us and the road. The steering was light & easy, and the turning circle was thankfully the same radius as other Camaros. This was Tour mode.
On this same road, I pressed the Sport button in front of the shifter. It was shocking what happened next…the suspension stiffened: it felt stiffer and more sensitive to imperfections than an SS. The steering wheel tightened up, and became noticeably harder to turn. Not only that, but the wheel returned to center as though it were spring loaded! With the push of a button, you can change the entire character of the ZL1. In tour mode, it’s more comfortable and easy to drive than the Malibu Eco we drove back to the airport in; and then sport mode makes it feel…well…sporty! In either mode, though, steering response is immediate and sharp like the car is riding on rails.
The automatic shines on the road just as brightly as the rest of the car does, too! It’s smooth and smart – always seeming to pick the right gear…and it’s equipped with a new feature called Performance Algorithm Lift Foot. This is an odd name for a handy ability: Say you’re cruising behind an 18-wheeler, and you’d like to pass but there’s traffic in the way. In anticipation of the traffic, you can punch the pedal and let off quickly – this will trigger programming within the transmission to downshift into a gear with near peak torque. It will hold this gear, waiting for you to gas it again and pass the truck after traffic lets up.
Suddenly I noticed the exhaust system proves it has a purpose on the street, too. Speedo said we were traveling about 45mph on a very smooth road. I was in fifth gear, and I had one of those moments where you realize you’re hearing…nothing. Nothing except tire noise that is. The valves were closed and I had to check for a moment that the engine was still running, because it was eerily silent. It’s not always like this, we happened to be in that “sweet spot” of resonance, I think – and if you want to ensure this never happens to you – we were told that they intentionally put the Dual-Mode Exhaust control on its own dedicated circuit…the valves default to OPEN, so if you pull the fuse you’ll have a 2.5” straight-through exhaust.
As we were finishing our journey, I found myself fiddling with the DIC menus…and came across a new, third menu: Performance. Curious, I hit select, and I was offered two functions: A Lap timer, and performance gauges. The former is a full-blown lap timer, with start/stop/lap selections that counts right there on the DIC! The second function displays the coolant temperature in degrees and if I remember right, oil pressure below that. This is a pretty neat addition, if you ask me!
There was just one more thing that the car surprised me with while we were out on our drive. This car had just over 600 miles on the clock…and we all know how GM engines don’t seem to “wake up” until 1000-1500 or so miles. I mention this only because it increased the shock-factor when I checked the average fuel economy that I set just before we left VIR – and it read 19.8 mpg!! 19.8, out of a new engine on a route full of hills and stops. I believe my Cobalt would have returned about 26 mpg on this same route by comparison. I can’t say I drove the ZL1 like a granny, either. I imagine if I had tried…I could have gotten near 21 mpg…and on a highway, I have to believe the car is good for 23-24 using cruise control on level roads. Impressive for a nearly 600hp car riding on sticky 305mm Goodyears!
Farewell, Until We Meet Again
After we came back we were treated to a good lunch, and a little bit of fun from the engineers…one donned his helmet, and with a grin dropped into a red ZL1 and rolled onto the track...He proceeded to do a series of three burnouts that had all of us glued to the windows of the lunch room overlooking the pits where all the smoke was coming from. By the time I got down there he tried to do another, but the tires barely spun twice before coming to a stop…he got out and inspected them…telling us they felt “gooey!” It turns out that the three previous exhibitions heated the tires up so much; even 580hp in first gear couldn’t keep them spinning on a damp track. You’d think our fun was over…but instead they just got another car to do a few more!!
It was a fitting end to a wonderful couple of days. I truly do feel blessed to be able to have been part of this. The Chevy people were just great fun to hang out with…the cars were fantastic…and the location couldn’t have been better.
I said it earlier, but it’s worth saying again: The engineers that were present truly have a mastery of every part of this car: it’s in their blood. And they are full of confidence in the masterpiece they’ve put together in the ZL1. They wanted us to have fun at VIR (and we did!), but they also wanted us to understand that this car isn’t just about the power or the suspension alone…it’s the sum of its parts that is the most important: The ZL1 is the total package. It’s so well engineered that it becomes an extension of yourself on the track or the road – I compare it to the Iron Man suit on wheels. If you have ordered one – you will be blown away without a doubt. Ultra Grin, as the Fbodfather puts it, I don’t think really expresses what you feel as the driver/owner of one of these. It’s much, much, more!
The last half of this batch of picture is courtesy of Boyd Jaynes on behalf of Chevy.