It’s your move, Mustang and Challenger. The new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has got your number, or more correctly, has beaten your best horsepower numbers ... by a lot.
How does the high-performance ZL1 coupe and convertible square with General Motors’ greenification program of introducing fuel-sipping electrics, hybrids plus a couple of new ankle-biter sub-compacts?
Well, the eco trend is definitely here to stay, but at the opposite end of the oil barrel, GM’s cornerstone division isn’t neglecting its involvement in the muscle/ponycar bracket. Although relatively small, the pedal-to-the-metal gunfighter class remains unequivocal in its No Imports Allowed policy.
And in this club the numero uno bylaw states that horsepower rules and absolute horsepower rules absolutely, or at least until another club member ups the ante and overthrows the leader.
The 2011 edition of the Chevrolet Camaro’s SS model was rated at 426 horsepower and was certainly nothing to be sneezed at.
But it couldn’t catch a cold next to the Dodge Challenger’s SRT8 392 that generated 470 horses from its 6.4-litre “Hemi” V-8 engine.
That goes double for Ford Mustang-based Shelby GT500’s 550 ponies that emanate from a supercharged 5.4-litre V-8.
With bragging rights on the line, you just had to know that Chevrolet would eventually retaliate.
The 2012 ZL1’s supercharged 6.2-litre V-8 — a variation of the engines found in the Corvette ZR1 and Cadillac CTS-V — is mated to a six-speed manual transmission and dynos at 580 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of torque. This makes it the most powerful production Camaro ever built and, Chevrolet proclaims, will be the most powerful Chevy droptop ever.
The ZL1 constitutes much more than just unbridled horsepower, but represents a thoroughly sorted out performance platform where nearly every component has been beefed up or completely redesigned to handle the engine’s hefty output.
Both driver and their front passenger should have no problems stretching out inside the Camaro’s generously sized cabin with its power-adjustable heated leather seats with grippy suede-like inserts. They’ll also appreciate the sounds from the dual-mode exhaust system that becomes freer flowing (and louder) when the driver opens the taps a bit.
The ZL1’s suspension employs GM’s Magnetic Ride Control, which uses special shock dampers that constantly vary the degree of firmness, according to road and driving conditions.
There are also Tour (soft) and Sport (firmer) settings that the driver can dial in. Most of the remaining suspension components have either been strengthened or swapped out.