2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 | Road Test

Posted on Sep 30, 2013 by

Quick Review

GoodGood Brute force, sounds like thunder, handling
BadBadPoor visibility, Fuel economy is a joke
SpecsSpecs6.2-litre, Supercharged V8, 580bhp @ 6000rpm, 556lb ft @ 4200rpm, RWD, 6-Speed Manual
PricePriceAED 250,000
RatingEditors Rating Four Star

A muscle car that can tackle the twisties

  • Introduction and Summary

Some of you may have noticed that we drove the 2012 Camaro ZL1 before and frankly we loved it (Here is the review). In fact we loved it so much, we got to send us another one. Only this time it was with a manual transmission and a hardtop. Although the test model is a 2012, we were told the 2013 model is a carry over with no changes. Plus, this still remains the most powerful factory production of the Camaro. And this is taking into account the recently announced 2014 Z28 with a 500 hp power-plant.

Shortly after Ford revived the Mustang with a retro design, Chevrolet and Dodge followed suit much to the delight of us petrolheads. With increasing competition in the muscle car segment, the end result is a flashback of the late 60s with an all out horsepower war between the 3. Going purely by numbers, the 2013 ZL1 sits second to the Shelby. However, with 580 hp on tap this isn’t for the faint at heart. We absolutely loved the automatic version, so in manual guise all that goodness is only amplified. But what is it like as a daily driver?

  • Performance, ride and handling

Sitting under the hood is an 8 cylinder 6.2 Litre LSA engine, boosted with a 1.9L roots style supercharger, putting out 580 hp at 6000 rpm and reaching its peak 754 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm (enough to shift the earth out of orbit). In case you haven’t already realised, acceleration and thrust is available on demand and more importantly, with such brutality, that it makes riot police look soft. This is mated to a Tremec 6060 MG9 6 speed manual transmission which is built to take a massive beating every time you shift gears and is probably built to withstand a 9.0 on the Richter scale.


There are 5 different drive modes which allows varying degrees of traction control to keep you from wrapping yourself around a lamp post. As with most modern cars, launch control is available giving you to get the perfect start at a signal leaving everyone around you in a cloud of smoke. Not that we would ever try such a thing. Really. If you hypothetically did this, the revs climb up to just a little over 4000 rpm and the car goes into an absolute frenzy when you dump the clutch. There is a little bit of wheelspin before the ECU computes that you want maximum acceleration and you can feel your brain shift and bury itself into the headrest as the American brute pulls with so much torque it seems unreal. But the fun doesn’t end there. The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 comes with a “no-lift” feature which allows you to shift gears without releasing the accelerator making sure you don’t lose boost even for a fraction of a second. The result is a jolt that feels like Satan himself has slapped you on your back, egging you on to keep going.

There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe how savage the car feels when you fire it up, under acceleration, during overtaking or even when you are just idling at a signal. Drivetrain vibrations are plenty and you soon understand it is part of the character of the car. The drivetrain vibrations are gratifying in a perverse way. Sort of like knowing you are trying to tame a wild beast.


Turn off traction control and even a slight stab at the loud pedal will send you sideways.

The suspension setup is the same as in the Cadillac CTS-V and employs magnetic ride control which allows you to change suspension settings on the fly. The PTM (Performance Traction Management) system offers 5 different drive modes to choose from. Dry, Wet, Sport (with or without traction control) and Race. As with any car, engaging the Sport or Race mode stiffens the suspension and makes acceleration even sharper (as if it was enough) but more importantly there are minor tweaks with the traction control. Switching off traction control on this monster requires some serious “cojones” and won’t be something that you will be doing too often. To be able to differentiate between all the modes you would really have to push the car to its limits on a racetrack. For every other occasions, Sport mode with traction control switched on will be enough to get the hair at the back of your neck standing in excitement!

With great power comes even greater stopping power. The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 comes fitted with 6 piston Brembo brakes that does a fantastic job at bringing this fire breathing barbarian to a halt or when you brake late while entering that corner.

  • Comfort & Practicality

So this is a 2 door proper muscle car with an exhaust note that sounds like Satan shouting expletives. In spite of that you will be surprised to know it is actually quite comfortable when driven with ease. By ease, we mean if you keep your rpms below 2000 revs and use alternate gears on the 6 speed transmission. Yeah, we don’t really expect anyone to be able to drive this with ease. Thanks to the torquey engine, shifting gears is mostly optional. You can even move from a standstill in the 4th gear. How crazy is that!


The seats are more comfortable and less supportive.

The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is surprisingly comfortable when in “Tour” mode. The magnetic ride control soaks up most road bumps keeping the cabin relatively comfortable. Well, as comfortable as you can be with a 580 hp engine sending drivetrain vibrations into the cabin.


The PTM offers 5 different modes to select from.

Being a 2+2 seater, (with pretty much useless rear seats) practicality isn’t exactly on the top of the list. But then again, practicality can’t possibly be on your shopping list if you are looking at a proper American muscle car. Fuel consumption is beyond what you would imagine. Apart from your passenger, storage space is limited to a toothpick. With performance parts all around, servicing isn’t going to be cheap either. But lets not kid ourselves. You don’t look for practicality in a muscle car. A proper muscle car is one that has enough power to scare the living daylights out of you while also giving you a crazy adrenaline rush. Sort of like a cowboy on a rodeo.

  • Features, including Safety

The interior is not very different from its SS cousin. The dash and the seats are wrapped in a mix of leather and faux suede with some glossy bits thrown in for good measure. The retro gauges sitting down below in the centre stack includes a boost gauge. But the gauges are such a funny position, you are guaranteed to crash if you attempt to read them while driving. The touch screen sitting in the centre of the dash is probably the only element that did not get the retro treatment. Thank god for the rear view camera, you can actually park this beast without having to guess its massive proportions. The seats are big and comfortable, although we would have liked it better if it offered more support during spirited driving. You get steering controls, a decent set of Boston Acoustics speakers, a very basic but very useful, monochrome Heads up Display, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. You don’t get navigation, but that is hardly a deal breaker for us here in the UAE.


Chevrolet couldn’t have found a worse location to place those gauges.

In case you manage to get past the main safety net of the traction control, there are dual stage air-bags up front, side and curtain bags to protect you. Hopefully you wouldn’t be needing it, but good to know it exists.

  • Cost

At a cost of AED 250,000 the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 probably has the cheapest hp to price ratio. That is another checkbox ticked for the proper muscle car formula. Choosing between the manual or the automatic will hardly come down to price considering the local dealer sells both at the same price. The convertible is priced at AED 265,000 making it slightly more expensive.

  • Verdict

The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is by far one of the craziest cars you could ever buy for this kind of money. And it is no surprise that we love the car. However choosing the right transmission for you is important. The automatic transmission is great. It is more practical, more efficient, slightly quicker and of course offers consistent gear shifts every single time.


The most powerful Camaro ever.

However, the feel you get, the connection you make to the car with a manual, is what makes all of those compromises worth it. It is analogous to comparing an email to a handwritten letter. Sure in today’s world the handwritten letter seems almost foolish. But it feels a lot more special. It is a heart over head decision and as petrolheads we can tell you, the heart is the one that is always right.

One Response to 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 | Road Test

  1. kathie Americanmusclecar Reply

    October 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm


    ZL1 has the good speed and no

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