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IOMZL1 03-05-2012 07:20 AM 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 First Impressions (video)

ALTON, Virginia - There are 17 turns on Virginia International Raceway - and only 4 expletives in the English language fit to express the sensation of the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 exiting them at full throttle.


Those hitting racetracks in Chevrolet's latest sheet-metal speed demon will be repeating themselves.
The 'ZL1' code once designated an all-aluminum Chevrolet racing engine from the sixties. Today, it's plastered around the body and cabin of the fastest production Camaro yet.

Numbers; The ZL1 is all about them. It gets a 6.2L LSA V8 good for 580 hp and 556 lb-ft of torque. That's thanks in part to a belt-driven Eaton supercharger bigger than a Hyundai Accent's engine.

Six forward gears come in the driver's choice of automatic or manly-man manual. As in, the kind with a clutch pedal that requires some muscle to stomp on. With power-twisting rear wheels the size of halved fifty-gallon barrels, ZL1 smashes 0-60 mph in under four seconds, and the quarter mile 8 seconds after that. That's worth another expletive.

Face peeling begins to describe the acceleration. Explosive is a good word, too. Really, ZL1's performance numbers are the sort that make enthusiasts drool. Gas station owners, too.

Magnetic Ride Control suspension ( la Corvette) is on board - as are Brembo brakes, transmission reinforcements, fluid coolers and Eagle F1 Supercar tires with the viscosity of warmed Gummi Bears. So, yea. Serious machine.

Of course, the Euro-car fanclub will whine and moan and post harshly in YouTube's comments section about the ZL1 merely being a blower-enhanced Camaro with a body kit. But engineers tweaked the chassis, suspension, brakes, aerodynamics and virtually all other systems for maximum awesomeness here. And ZL1 will put down numbers that'll embarrass, say, a BMW M3, an Audi R8 or a Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG.

No, really.

Oh, and its fifty eight grand. Those over-the-pond rockets aren't.

And since ZL1 isn't classy, prissy or delicate, owners can still rock out to AC/DC, eat fries from a greasy box on the dash and sport a mullet while driving it.

So, about the track. Assaulting the often gently twisting asphalt ribbon that is VIR requires initially ripping through gears 1, 2, and 3 like wrapping paper, en route to a tight right-hander. There's a lot of noise, violence and lung-squeezing torque in the opened-up ZL1. It's overlapped by a cool but alarming sounding whine from the supercharger. Holy fludgestickles.

Sweeping corners (VIR has many) saw your cautiously aggressive writer pressed into the door or centre console, hard, while the ZL1 bit down into the track's surface. Cornering grip is in the same ballpark as your average rail-mounted amusement park ride, and the steering ratio feels quicker and livelier than the standard Camaro SS, too.

You're working less to guide the ZL1 around. But you still work.

The heavy clutch, tight shifter and steering system all require some force. And though ZL1 is taut and locked down, you feel the car working hard to keep things stable while tossing its weight in various directions. You feel like you're applying a good chunk of your own muscle to control a manly, heavy beast of a car. That's because you are.

But the traction management system (left on slightly so your writer could live to thirty) kept things from getting scary-squirrely with the taps open. That Magnetic Ride Control suspension kept the body planted tautly to the wheels and the wheels to the track - even on lumpy bits at speeds over 110 mph. You feel the suspension adjusting fluidly in real time, and the car staying stable and flat on top of it. So for the weight and size of the ZL1, it does a decent job of feeling tight and tidy.

End of the day, this is a machine with big levels of hardware and software at play to make it stick and steer and go like absolute hell. But it's still a big heavy machine.

Braking performance is equally impressive. The Brembo clampers at each corner repeatedly defied my brain's projected requirement for pre-corner stopping space. It really decelerates "that quickly", and braking power is just as cussworthy as the acceleration.

So those Brembos are well matched the power output, which is massive. And chassis and steering and tires and suspension all feel nicely integrated with the package, too. No part of the ZL1's performance seems to overwhelm the others.

So, there's balance to be sure. But the pure velocity of this thing somewhat masks it for a ham-fisted driver like yours truly. Admittedly, the ZL1 is less graceful, classy and tactile - and more about encouraging its operator to grab it by the scruff and kick it around.

After some hot laps, I felt like I'd just been to the gym, a little. But the effort level was appreciated, as this is a machine that almost forcefully makes you part of its capabilities, rather than doing all the work for you.

And when you're piloting this level of six-digit performance for well below the six-digit mark, doing a little work is just fine.

b4z 03-05-2012 07:58 AM

Not sure I agree with his assessment. Every other review had said how easy this car is to drive fast.

Bad@ssCamaro 03-05-2012 10:05 AM


Originally Posted by b4z (Post 4590044)
Not sure I agree with his assessment. Every other review had said how easy this car is to drive fast.

If you check out his bio, he's very knowledgable about different cars, but I don't think he's familiar with american muscle cars. His comparisons seem related to those higher end vehicles.

Scarrzz 03-05-2012 10:10 AM

Still, he didn't miss the mark about how much [expletive edited] fun driving our beasties will be.

SlingShot 03-05-2012 12:00 PM

IMO it was a good write up, in a nutshell he says it's 6 digit performance at a 5 digit price ... Nothing wrong with that !!!

DangerZL1 03-05-2012 12:36 PM

I like AC/DC and fries, but I'm not about to grow a Joe Dirt mullet.

Drew10 03-05-2012 01:07 PM

I enjoyed reading that. Usually when I read articles, the voice in my head sounds like one of the pissy guys you see at a country club in the movies. Writers usually will swear by anything imported before they will give credit to any American made performance car. This guy makes me want to buy a ZL1 from just the caliber of bad assness the car exuberates.

rrubio 03-05-2012 01:17 PM


Originally Posted by DangerouSS (Post 4591609)
I like AC/DC and fries, but I'm not about to grow a Joe Dirt mullet.

In his defense, joe dirt didn't grow it, remember it was a wig that got all infused with his skull.:laugh:

Mr. Wyndham 03-05-2012 10:11 PM

I enjoyed that one. He seems to have caught the "terror" factor quite well on paper. ;)

I will disagree, rather strongly in fact, that the clutch was heavy. We drove an SS up to VIR within 14 hours of racing the ZL1....I definitely felt as though the clutch pedal was smoother, if not a tad lighter than the SS. :iono:

It's sort of like anesthesia, I think....some people will fight the car, and all its driving aids...while others will just let it work its magic. That *could* be some of the separation from other reviews this one has....he sounds as though he was fighting the car pretty hard - when there's really 0 reason to.

Deki 03-05-2012 10:26 PM

That thing sounds incredible. I just watched that burn out video 4 times lol

c4maroboy 03-06-2012 04:06 PM

"you can still rock a mullet, jam to AC/DC, and eat greasy food while in it".....He just described me perfectly...minus the mullet ofcourse.

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