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Old 04-15-2014, 05:40 PM   #1
brt3
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Review on Driving.ca

New review on Driving.CA, eh? READ IT HERE

First drive: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28



Once porky American muscle car has been transformed into a truly impressive top-tier track weapon

By David Booth
Originally published: 8 hours ago

Monticello Motor Club, N.Y. — I hate it when Motor Trend gets it right. But props must be accorded when props are due, and the latest May edition of the magazine was absolutely right when it dared to compare Chevrolet’s new Z/28 with Porsche’s 911 Turbo S and the Track Edition of the Nissan GT-R. I can’t vouch for its contention that the Chevy “pony” car was quicker around Barber Motorsport Park’s 3.6 kilometres (like many of you, I have always found it suspect when the magazine anoints yet another American-made machine superior to the imports), but author Jonny Lieberman was completely correct in saying that “never in one million years” would one have predicted that a Camaro could compare, favourably or not, to two of sportscardom’s most iconic hot rods.

Indeed, the latest performance version of the much maligned Camaro is proof positive that if you’re willing to throw enough high-tech and high-priced (the Z/28 will retail for $77,400) performance parts at something, you can turn a ponderously steering sow’s ear into a corner-carving silk purse. The Camaro, after all, isn’t even a true sports coupe. The underlying chassis is something General Motors calls its Zeta II platform, itself an offshoot of Australia’s soon-to-be-defunct four-door Holden Commodore.



Early renditions of the transformation were hardly encouraging — the transition from Commodore to Transformer-inspired Camaro hardly had the stuff that made GT-Rs and 911 Turbos quake in their boots. The V6 was just plain piffle and, while V8-powered SS may have made the requisite vroom noises, it, too, largely failed to disguise its origins. It wasn’t as waffly soft as Dodge’s Challenger, but a good Mustang would eat it for lunch, and trying to mention the Camaro in the same breath as Tier II supercars would have been laughable.

The 2012 introduction of the ZL1 gave a slight indication that there might be more potential to the Camaro formula, its Corvette ZR1-sourced 580-horsepower supercharged V8 mustering some serious moxie and its Performance Traction Management (PTM) was one of the better vehicle stability control systems, allowing even the most lead-footed of drivers the ability to oversteer the big Camaro with none of the abrupt “throttlis interruptus” common to lesser electronic nannies.

The basic handling was still lumpy, however, there being the typical overweight American muscle car delay between when you turned the steering wheel and when the car actually responded to said inputs. And then, despite much stiffened suspension compared with the base models, the big ZL1 would heel over, not quite as much as SS or V6, but much more than a true sports car should. Only the magical throttle control of the PTM saved the ZL1 from being yet another long-on-brute-force, short-on-sophistication, over-engined muscle car. Impressive it was, but still no real indication that a Camaro would someday stand comparison to 911s or Nissan GT-Rs.



And yet here we are hurtling towards Monticello’s decreasing radius corners — New York State’s poshest club track has no shortage of those — in something that looks suspiciously like a Camaro but feels surprisingly like a 911. Indeed, the Z/28 has — dare I say it — a delicacy of steering that all but matches the usually untouchable Porsche and way, way more front end grip and steering feedback than the oft-understeering GT-R.

How did they do that? How does one render silk from such an obvious sow’s ear?

The first thing, says Mark Stielow, Performance Variant manager for Chevrolet, was the decision to jettison the ZL1′s LSA supercharged V8 in favour of the Z06-sourced LS7 7.0-litre V8. Yes, 75 horsepower — 580-hp versus 505 — is lost in the transition, but the lesser engine precipitated all manner of weight loss. Sans blower, the reduction in maximum torque — 556 pound-feet versus 481 lb.-ft. — also permitted ditching the ZL1′s heavy cast iron rear differential in favour of a lighter Torsen limited-slip affair. Smaller 19-inch tires and rims remove even more weight as do the Z/28′s standard carbon ceramic brakes. Thinner rear window glass and the deletion of the air conditioning system also helped lighten things. All told, 137 kilograms (300 pounds) have been Slim-Fasted in the transformation from ZL1 muscle car to Z/28 track weapon.



Surprisingly, the Z/28′s ultra-sophisticated Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve suspension system was chosen for exactly the same reason. Despite the Multimatic system’s (manufactured right here in Canada, by the way) advanced spool valve damping adjustment mechanism, Al Oppenheiser, the Camaro’s chief engineer, says the DSSV system was chosen over the ZL1′s Magnetic Ride Control mainly because it reduces weight. According to Oppenheiser, the ZL1′s magnetorheological suspension offers as much damping adjustability as the new DSSV, but unsprung weight is substantially reduced using the Multimatic system, helping suspension performance and steering feel.

This last — despite the Z/28′s monumental grip, phenomenal brakes and excellent balance at maximum cornering g’s — is really the most amazing thing about the new Z/28′s transformation. GM chose Pirelli’s PZero Trofeo Rs for their massive grip — lateral acceleration is said to peak at a Porsche-challenging 1.08 g’s — and specified the monumentally wide 305/30R19 front tires to combat the Camaro’s traditional understeer.

And, mission accomplished, there is precious little understeer to be found in the Z/28 chassis, roll well is mitigated thanks to the stiffer suspension and the balance of front to rear grip is almost perfect. But — and this should be the biggest of buts — those front 305s are the biggest tires offered on any current mass-produced automobile and should, along with their phenomenal grip, render the Z28′s steering heavy and truck-like. Instead, thanks to the tuneability of the Camaro’s electric power steering system (I think it’s just about time to bury this growing prejudice against computer-controlled steering systems), there’s a delicacy to the Z/28′s steering wheel that is both communicative and confidence inspiring.



The rest of the Z/28, at least from a performance perspective, is equally impressive. The carbon ceramic brakes, like all of their ilk, are powerful and fade-free. Unlike some of their brethren, however, the Camaro’s work well in low load situations, not requiring the high-speed of a racetrack to generate enough heat to grip effectively.

The other superlative is the Z/28′s engine. Essentially lifted from the previous generation Z06, it revs more freely than the newer supercharged variant and produces its torque more linearly, an important advantage that favours the racetrack’s need for delicate throttle application. Ironically, for a car usually associated with brawn over brain, the area in which the Z/28 suffers compared with some of the competition it now targets is in the power department. Acceleration from zero to 100 km/h is said to be somewhere around four seconds flat, impressive enough but comparatively lethargic against the sub three-second recordings of Porsche’s Turbo S and the monster-motored GT-R.



That said, the Z/28′s overall speed around a curvy track is jaw-dropping. According to GM, a Z/28 is over two and a half seconds faster than the more powerful ZL1 on its Milford Road Course, and more than five seconds more rapid than a Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca. Motor Trend, meanwhile, saw the Z/28 besting the Porsche by 0.17 seconds and the GT-R by 0.28 seconds around Barber.

Neither of those offers independent adjudication. Thus, it is probably more impressive that the Z/28 has lapped the famed Nurburgring in 7:37.47 (faster than a Lamborghini Gallardo LP-570-4 Superleggera) in the rain. On dry-track tires. An only slightly smug Oppenheiser wants to go back, certain that a time of 7:28 is in the cards.

That would be as fast as a McLaren MP4-12C. Yes, in a Camaro.
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Old 04-15-2014, 06:26 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by brt3 View Post
Indeed, the Z/28 has — dare I say it — a delicacy of steering that all but matches the usually untouchable Porsche and way, way more front end grip and steering feedback than the oft-understeering GT-R.

And, mission accomplished...there’s a delicacy to the Z/28′s steering wheel that is both communicative and confidence inspiring.

The other superlative is the Z/28′s engine. Essentially lifted from the previous generation Z06, it revs more freely than the newer supercharged variant and produces its torque more linearly, an important advantage that favours the racetrack’s need for delicate throttle application.

Neither of those offers independent adjudication. Thus, it is probably more impressive that the Z/28 has lapped the famed Nurburgring in 7:37.47 (faster than a Lamborghini Gallardo LP-570-4 Superleggera) in the rain. On dry-track tires. An only slightly smug Oppenheiser wants to go back, certain that a time of 7:28 is in the cards.

That would be as fast as a McLaren MP4-12C. Yes, in a Camaro.
Damn...

I quoted the high points above. Frayed?

Again, as a car guy, not a fanboy of any manufacturer, this is some seriously good sh*t.

"An only slightly smug Oppenheiser wants to go back, certain that a time of 7:28 is in the cards." - That is just crazy, insane stuff. And I do not doubt his mentioned lap time will happen. There will be some seriously dog-faced track drivers rolling into the pits in a few weeks having been humbled by a Camaro. Man I love it.

Thanks for posting!
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Old 04-15-2014, 06:45 PM   #3
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Right on!
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Old 04-15-2014, 08:10 PM   #4
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Old 04-20-2014, 11:21 AM   #5
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Exactly.....

The new Z/28 is the most affordable track racer you could ask for! Legitimate top tier track machine within reach. I'm glad to see GM decided to "make it happen" with Camaro before the opportunity vanishes with govt regulation, corporate oversight. The fact that it was done on the gen 5 platform vs the upcoming lighter, more nimble gen 6 tells me it was a "now or never" proposition. Might be wrong but I suspect there are some changes on the horizon that required corporate to expedite the move..... Could it be getting the flame lit means it will stay lit with gen6, or it was a once in a generation event? One thing for sure, you won't be seeing many of these beasts being driven on the streets as the Z/28's of the 60's were. Maybe if the flame stays lit thru gen 6 it may come to fruition!
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Old 04-20-2014, 12:36 PM   #6
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I asked everybody at monticello yesterday about the event and none of them were allowed to drive it...only media and gm packed up and blew off the 2nd day due to rain.
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