2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 | Road Test
Posted on March 12, 2013 by Sireesh Reddy
Let the horsepower wars begin
Horsepower Wars, every petrolhead’s wet dream and every tree huggers’ nightmare. In today’s day and age, it is the tree hugging environmentalist that wins the battle. Well most of the time anyway. Sometimes they lose and proof is in the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible that we had a go in for a couple of days.
The late 60’s and the early 70’s was a glorious time with every American manufacturer trying to up the ante with a new model. With rising fuel costs and strict emissions this didn’t last too long before the government hit hard and the word on everyone’s tongue was fuel economy. Fast forward 40 years to this day and manufacturers have enough technology to produce similar horsepower figures while not compromising on efficiency, comfort and safety while protecting precious planet earth!
Let’s lay it out on the table then. The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is essentially a regular Chevrolet Camaro SS with a few tweaks. Namely a supercharger and a trick suspension setup. What this translates to, is 580 furious loud mouthed horses grappling at the road while waking up the entire neighbourhood. Peak torque of 754 Nm comes in at 4200 rpm ensuring a maximum kick in the backside effect when you shift down a couple of gears. Obviously laying down this much power is no child’s play and the Yank’s have used the CTS-V derived 3rd generation magnetic ride control along with traction control, electronic stability control and electric steering to try and battle the exodus of power coming out at the rear wheels.
Usually reviewing a car involves us looking at what the car has to offer as an entire package and how that could influence buyers while giving an unbiased peak into the ownership experience. That would mean talking about the practicality of the car, the ergonomics, options offered, fuel consumption, etc. There is no point in talking about such details on this occasion for this is no normal car. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is a proper muscle car. And muscle cars don’t care about whether you have an intelligent key or a bluetooth audio system. Both of which are not available on this mind you. Outward visibility is minimal (an issue with all Camaros) and with the bulge on the bonnet due to the supercharger sucking in air through the carbon fibre vented hood to produce an extra 180 horsepower looking straight out of the windscreen can be quite a task. Changing lanes isn’t easy either considering how hard it is to check your shoulder. However, when you have such blistering performance on tap all you have to do to get out of a sticky situation is hit the loud pedal. The insane amount of torque on this beast makes merging into traffic such a joy!
However, this isn’t your typical muscle car. No. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 handles like a proper sports car. Ok, so it doesn’t offer Porsche like handling but for an american car, boy this handles well. You can actually step on the gas and take a turn at the same time without going sideways into a barrier and seeing glimpses of your life flash before you. There are tons of modes to partially disable traction control, set it up for track mode or for launch control. Usually switching traction control off engages ‘fun’ mode and that is one of the first things we do when we get into a test car. Not this time, we didn’t. You have to be absolutely bonkers to attempt driving with the electronic nanny switched off. Floor it and it fishtails while going in a straight line between traffic lights. With great power comes great responsibility and having this much power on tap makes it extremely hard to drive sensibly. It is like leaving a kid in a chocolate factory and expecting him to not binge on chocolate. Not very often in your life do you drive a car that is powerful enough to scare you. The 2012 Camaro ZL1 is powerful enough to make sure you have an updated life insurance policy. This is not a car for the light hearted.
The folks at Chevrolet have tried hard to make this a track machine and it is by far one of the best handling Chevrolets ever produced. As part of the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 package, the car gets a new set of lighter 20” forged aluminium wrapped in sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G2rubber specifically designed for the ZL1. Anti roll bars in the front and the back ensure increased rigidity and keep body roll to a minimum. We were a bit skeptical about the electrically assisted power steering used on the ZL1 but it far exceeded our expectations and the feedback received from the steering was brilliant at all times.
All of this translates into excellent grip and taking corners at high speeds was an absolute joy! There was hardly any understeer on turn-ins, however select a wrong gear and oversteer on the turn out kicks in a lot easier than you would imagine. The traction control usually takes care of it but not before a brown trouser moment! But the ZL1 is a proper muscle car. And proper Muscle cars were made to drag race. The ZL1 takes 4 seconds to hit a 100kph and goes on to reach a top speed of 296kph while doing a quarter mile in under 12 seconds. Clearly the ZL1 means business. Making this much power means everything used in the drivetrain and powertrain had to be strengthened to handle the added stress. The 9.9 inch rear differential is mounted in a robust cast iron center section while a differential cooler comes standard. A transmission cooler comes standard too. Chevrolet have claimed to have completed 1000 hard launches on the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 before the driveline was approved.
The interior is relatively basic, there is a mix of leather and faux suede between the seats and the dash while the standard gloss black door inserts remain. The infotainment is picked from the standard parts bin and is the same shared with the rest of the Chevy lineup. This means a touchscreen with a rear view camera comes standard along with a 9 speaker Boston Acousitcs audio system with USB and Bluetooth connectivity. However with a supercharged V8 screaming out of the exhaust, we doubt the audio system would ever be needed. Our favourite option was the HUD (Heads up Display) which made it a lot easier to keep track of the gear/rpm/speed without actually taking your eyes of the road.
So what is the verdict? The soft top takes 17 seconds to open up and is flimsy, resulting in more road noise than you would like. It doesn’t come with dual zone climate control. Hell, it doesn’t come with climate control at all, the stereo does not stream music via bluetooth, there is no intelligent key and the fuel tank needs to be opened the old fashioned way, with a key. The ride can get a bit bumpy at times due to the stiff suspension setup but all of that becomes trivial and will not matter once you get into the drivers’ seat and fire up this 6.2L supercharged monster . Having this much power on tap is intoxicating and absolutely mental. Chevrolet have re-written the rules of the muscle car with the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. This is a muscle car that you can cruise down beach road in, do the Kalba run on a Friday morning or just take to Yas Marina in track attack mode. All in stock form. The convertible retails at AED 265,000 while the hardtop has a sticker price of AED 250,000 (the MT and AT cost the same). There is however, a reason you get supercar performance at a fraction of a supercar price.The Camaro is proper American muscle, and that means it lacks refinement, feels crude and it can get a bit exhausting.
Just one piece of advice, Enjoy Responsibly!Tags: Chevrolet, Chevrolet Camaro, Road Test