Chevrolet Camaro ZL1-640 Supercharged Horsepower
The new sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro offers a four-cylinder engine for the first time since the 1980s, and its 1LE handling package is now available for the V-6 model. The Ford Mustang, too, has turned to a turbo four in response to tightening fuel-economy and emissions standards. But lest you think the days of howling, rip-roaring V-8 muscle cars are fading, the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is here to change your mind.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Video:
A Z06 with a Back Seat?
Debuting just ahead of the 2016 New York auto show, the newest version of the 10Best-winning Camaro is a no-holds-barred, supercharged V-8 beast. Of course, what you really want to know is how much muscle it’s packing. The answer is 640 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque, coming from General Motors’ LT4 supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine also found in the Corvette Z06. While the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 numbers fall 10 horsepower and 10 lb-ft short of the hottest Corvette’s, those figures still represent a whopping 60 horsepower and 84 lb-ft more than the last Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 580-hp 6.2-liter supercharged LSA powerplant.
The latest Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 also weighs 200 pounds less than its predecessor, according to Chevrolet, thanks to the Camaro lineup’s move to GM’s lithe Alpha platform that’s shared with the Cadillac ATS and CTS. This improved power-to-weight ratio should make for blistering acceleration times. The last Camaro ZL1 we tested in 2014 hit the 60-mph mark in 4.1 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 12.4. The 455-hp SS version of the new sixth-generation car trumped those numbers with a 3.9-second zero-to-60-mph run and a 12.3-second quarter-mile time. So, yeah, the ZL1 will be hellaciously quick.
Six Speeds—or Ten!
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 comes standard with a six-speed manual with active rev-matching capability, as you’d expect. But the big surprise is that the ZL1 will be the first GM product to offer the new 10-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox, developed in conjunction with crosstown rival Ford, has a 7.39 overall ratio spread, and Chevy says that the smaller ratio gaps between gears help optimize gear selection for acceleration and when exiting corners. Paddle shifters come standard. During a brief ride-along in a prototype ZL1 automatic, we were especially impressed with the 10-speed’s quick, crisp shifts. This new transmission will also be installed in seven additional models by 2018—we’d guess that the Corvette Z06 and the LT4-powered Cadillac CTS-V might be the next recipients.
Although the ZL1’s horsepower and torque numbers seem strategically designed so as to not upstage the Corvette Z06, the Camaro team took more liberties with the chassis setup. Nearly all of the Z06’s best components are present in the ZL1, from the magnetorheological dampers to an electronically controlled limited-slip differential to GM’s impressive Performance Traction Management system. Standard 20-inch wheels are wrapped with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires in staggered sizes of 285/30 up front and 305/30 at the rear.
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Brembo brake rotors, although not carbon-ceramic, are humongous 15.4-inch two-piece serving platters (Chevy has not yet shared information on the rear brakes). Those front rotors are actually larger than the standard Z06 units, and they’re only 0.1 inch smaller than the carbon-ceramic rotors offered with the Z06’s upgraded Z07 performance package. Chevy also throws some shade at the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and its harder-core GT350R variant by saying that the Camaro ZL1 is prepared for track duty without any optional add-ons, as it comes standard with 11 heat exchangers for proper powertrain cooling.
Form and Function
Visually, the 2017 Camaro ZL1 looks meaner than any sixth-gen Camaro we’ve seen so far. It’s not all for show, either, as the front splitter, rocker-panel extensions, and rear wing all are designed to improve the car’s aerodynamics for better high-speed stability. Helping with engine cooling, the hollowed-out Chevrolet “flowtie” badgemakes its way onto the ZL1 after first appearing on the previous-generation Z/28. A new hood with the requisite power bulge incorporates a heat extractor, and the reworked lower grille maximizes airflow.
The racy theme continues inside, with the standard Recaro seats featuring ZL1 badges and red stitching. The seatbelts also are red, and the flat-bottom steering wheel and shift knob are trimmed in microsuede. Track rats will appreciate the availability of GM’s Performance Data Recorder, which comes with a built-in camera and a GPS receiver that allows for location-based track maps.
Look for the 2017 Camaro ZL1 to carry a starting price upwards of $60,000 when it goes on sale in late 2016. The ZL1 is significantly more powerful than the 526-hp Mustang Shelby GT350, while the 707-hp Dodge Challenger Hellcat has the Camaro beat in horsepower but has less-specialized chassis componentry. We’re certainly excited to see how the ZL1 stacks up when we get behind the wheel, so stay tuned.