Camaro ZL1: eyes-on the fastest Camaro ever made [Video]

Sep 30, 2011
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Earlier this month I mentioned the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that had just gone official. The car sounds very cool on paper with a new 6.2L LSA V8 that has an Eaton supercharger strapped to it. The engine produces 580 HP and 556 lb-fit of torque. The engine is all aluminum for weight savings and the car is aimed at being very streetable, yet ready for the owner to take to the racetrack at any time.

The car also has the cool Magnetic Ride Control and Performance Traction Management system inside. Other features that make the car ready for the track include a high-performance fuel system along with engine and transmission differential coolers. You can check out the original story we did on the car here and the official Chevrolet press release is online here.

Yesterday I spent some time at the Texas State Fair auto show press days where Chevrolet had the first near-production Camaro ZL1 in the country on display. I spent a bit of time with Brian from Chevrolet and he walked us through a general overview of the ZL1 engine and other interesting features on the car. After chatting with Brian about the engine, we spent a bit of time poking and prodding the car with kid gloves.

Brian informed us that this was the first of the near production ZL1 cars in the country and that this car had in fact made the trek from Canada directly to the State Fair of Texas auto show for its first viewing after getting a fresh coat of red paint. A few details that I liked about the car that weren't mentioned in the press release include the functional hood cooling grates.

You will see these in the video below. The grates are designed to catch the heat whisked away by the cool air coming in from the front of the car and route that hot air out of the hood grates rather than letting it sit in the engine bay where it can heat things up and cause the car to produce less power. The way the ZL1 is packaged under the hood, it is very difficult to see the heat exchanger that would be used to cool the air entering the supercharger thanks to the covers and hoses under the hood.

I suspect that one of the main reasons for the hood cooling system is to get the hot air from that heat exchanger out of the car. Another benefit of the system is that the high-speed air flowing from the grill of the car over the hood will also add a bit of down force at speed. The inside of the car looks a lot like the inside of a ZR1 Corvette with quality materials spread around and seats that have leather bolsters and some sort of suede or Alcantara centers to offer your backside more grip that leather when you are on the hoon.

I also particularly like the D-shaped steering wheel that offers more leg clearance when you are closer to the wheel for track work. I did talk to one of the other folks in the Chevrolet booth and was told that the supercharger on the ZL1 is an Eaton roots style blower, similar to what the Cadillac CTS V uses.These newer superchargers produce less heat than older style roots blowers like the Shelby GT500 line uses and less heat output allows the cars to make more power.

The more timing is pulled by the engine as it heats up, the less power is made. This is what is referred to as heat soak on a supercharged engine. When heat soak sets in the car makes considerably less power than it does when cool and typically leads to slower lap times as a race session goes on for multiple laps. It remains to be seen if the Camaro ZL1 has enough cooling to prevent heat soak from being an issue. I suspect this car will carry a price in the $55,000 to $60,000 range and come in at a price a bit more than the Shelby GT500 that is the closest comparison from Ford. The official pricing for the ZL1 will be announced closer to the launch of the car. Check out the video to see the Camaro ZL1 in person.


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