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The new ZL1 is the ultimate branch Camaro–now and apparently ever. It’s absolutely the best powerful, with 54 percent added appliance than the abominable COPO-option, big-block 1969 Camaro ZL-1. Development engineers say one-third of the ZL1’s genitalia are unique, compared with the accepted fifth-generation Camaro SS. All of those altered parts, save the ZL1’s Alcantara birr insert, were upgraded to advance performance.

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It starts beneath the awning with General Motors’ supercharged, 6.2-liter LSA V8. Accustomed from the Cadillac CTS-V, the LSA is agnate but not identical to the LS9 small-block in the Corvette ZR1, and its distinctions go aloft a abate Eaton twin-scroll supercharger. The ZL1 agent is accumulated in Silao, Mexico, while the Corvette LS9 is hand-built at GM’s Accomplishment Build Center in Wixom, Mich., with titanium abutting rods and valves and dry-sump lubrication.

Nonetheless, there are improvements to the LSA for the ZL1, starting with a added able intercooler. Packaging in the Camaro allows bigger assimilation and bankrupt flow, with a 30 percent abridgement in breeze anchor compared with the CTS-V. The aftereffect is 580 hp at 6,100 rpm in the Camaro, and 556 lb-ft of torque at 3,800 rpm–that’s up 24 hp and 5 lb-ft from the CTS-V. The ZL1 surpasses the LS3-powered Camaro SS by 154 hp and 136 lb-ft and moves to the top of the pony-car pecking adjustment (for now), binding the 2012 Ford Mustang GT500 by 30 hp and 46 lb-ft (though Ford has appear 650 hp for the 2013 GT500).

The ZL1 comes accepted with a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual, abacus a twin-disc clutch, tighter ratios and 30 percent added torque accommodation than the Tremec in the Camaro SS. Its shifter was developed by Chevrolet, appliance hardly best throws than the Hurst amalgamation in the Camaro SS, and was optimized for a alley advance rather than annoyance racing.

The ultimate Camaro additionally offers article you can’t get in a Mustang GT500 or Boss 302: an automated transmission. The alternative Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed is GM’s accomplished torque-capacity automatic, offered abandoned in able trucks and the CTS-V. Ascendancy algorithms are acclimatized accurately for the ZL1, prefilling hydraulics for the abutting accessory to dispatch upshifts and acceptance abounding chiral accessory selection, no automated override. Chevy’s clue numbers say the ZL1 automated is quicker than the chiral to 60 mph and through the quarter-mile (12.0 abnormal vs. 12.1 seconds).

There’s addition technology in the ZL1 that you can’t get in a Mustang, and it’s significant. GM’s Magnetic Ride Abeyance (MRS), now activated in supercars such as the Audi R8 and the Ferrari FF, has been upgraded for the ZL1. The Gen III MRS gets a faster processor and four abate magnets in anniversary shock, rather than two beyond ones. The cold is quicker acknowledgment time.

The ZL1 abeyance starts with the aforementioned bounce ante as the SS in front, hardly college ante in back, and adds stiffer bushings, bearings and tie rods. Already billed as the world’s fastest-reacting suspension, the MRS magnetorheological shocks get alike faster in the ZL1. Gen III decreases acknowledgment time 40 percent, according to Chevy, and absolutely pulls electric accepted out of the shocks aback they allegation to get softer, rather than aloof cat-and-mouse for the accepted to dissipate. Appliance abstracts from 18 altered sensors, accounting for council bend and anchor application, MRS reads and adjusts damping ante every inch of biking at 60 mph.

The ZL1 gets a variable-rate council rack, boilerplate arrangement 16.1:1 and variable-assist electric boost. GM’s Accomplishment Absorption Management, acclimatized from the Corvette ZR1, includes barrage ascendancy and allows the disciplinarian to clothier a ambit of cyberbanking administration systems, from absorption to MRS to steering. Approach 5 lets the computer administer adherence ascendancy abandoned to optimize longitudinal grip. It’s advised to accomplish all but 99th-percentile drivers faster than they would be with the electronics switched off completely.

The brakes are about the aforementioned as those on the CTS-V. Rotors and swept breadth are beyond than the accessible competition’s, and the amalgamation is a bit added adult (read, costly). The advanced rotors are two-piece aluminum/iron, and all of the calipers are aluminum, with six pistons in advanced and four in back. The ZL1’s auto admeasurement 20 inches in bore (as against to 19 for the added guys), accessible in two styles with three finishes and adapted with Goodyear F1 Supercar Gen II unidirectional tires (285/35ZR front, 305/35ZR rear).

The ZL1 comes accepted with clue being you don’t get on a GT500, including a chiral cooler, cogwheel acknowledgment and brake-cooling ducts, and its aerodynamics accept been optimized for aerial speed.

A key aspect is the carbon-fiber admit in the ZL1’s high-dome hood, which Chevy calls the Mohawk. The aggregate of an continued advanced splitter, taller lower grille and an extractor in the Mohawk generates 265 pounds added advanced aero force than the Camaro SS at 150 mph (that’s 65 pounds of downforce with the ZL1 v. 200 pounds of lift with the SS). The ZL1 has two abdomen pans to abate turbulence and air-conditioned mechanicals underneath, continued rockers for bean aegis and a taller rear addle-brain with chip anchor ablaze (this addle-brain would adumbrate the rear-window CHMSL in the SS).

That Alcantara birr trim? It’s accommodating with a ZL1 logo, lest the disciplinarian balloon he or she is alive the ultimate Camaro. There are additionally Alcantara inserts in the power, acrimonious advanced seats, red bond in the covering and abstract logos on the headrests. The ZL1 comes accepted with all the niceties, including nine-speaker Boston Acoustics audio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and rear-park abetment with a rearview camera. The head-up affectation offers four awning choices with a ambit of data, including a g beat and about-face guide.

Even with all the niceties, the ZL1 lapped the Nordschleife some 40 abnormal faster than the Camaro SS (watch the video here). Chevy says development included a 24-hour, accelerated beat at GM’s proving arena in Milford, Mich., with a 150-mph-plus top dispatch anniversary lap and an boilerplate of 88 mph, endlessly abandoned to change tires and brakes.

ZL1 assembly is underway in Oshawa, Ontario, and dealerships should see a abiding beck of accouterments by spring. The auto debuts at $54,995, including a $900 destination charge. Options are bound to the automated ($1,195), sunroof ($900), suede council caster and about-face bulge ($500), a band amalgamation ($470) and a clear-coated Mohawk that exposes the carbon-fiber braid ($600).

A ZL1 convertible goes on auction in the summer as a 2013 model. Chevy expects the ZL1 to annual for 5 percent to 10 percent of absolute Camaro assembly over the continued haul. Early appeal will be about abandoned manual, but it’s accepted to circle against 50 percent automated with time.

The ZL1 has a bigger front/rear weight antithesis than the Mustang Boss 302 or the GT500, a essentially best wheelbase (plus 5.2 inches), a beyond annoy application and a absolutely absolute rear suspension. It’s additionally essentially heavier–488 pounds added than the Boss, 300 pounds added than the GT500. As a result, the ZL1’s power-to-weight arrangement avalanche every so hardly shy of that of the 2012 GT500. We agnosticism anyone will notice.

The ZL1 has added jobs than either of its absolute competitors. Ford has subdivided the top of the Mustang lineup, alms the Boss 302 for added common track-day participants and the GT500 for those who appetite the bigger coquette for brilliant Sunday afternoons. The ZL1 has to ample both roles, after dispatch on the Corvette’s toes. So what absolutely is the ultimate Camaro? A super-muscle-pony action coupe, and apparently added things than any pony car before.

What is it like to drive?

Remarkable, for its mix of accustomed amenity and clue capability. On the alley or the racetrack, this pony car or beef car (or whatever we alarm Camaros and Mustangs these days) about makes the abstraction of accommodation obsolete.

As a alley car, the ZL1 is amazingly nice–tame, even–except for some accustomed Camaro things, which we’ll get to below. Abandoned the LSA’s boom hints at its adequacy on a track, area it’s up to aloof about annihilation bodies can abusively bear and agilely waits for more. The ZL1 is added adequate than a Camaro SS as a circadian disciplinarian and added acquiescent on a racetrack, with college limits. As clue cars go, Ford’s Mustang Boss 302 is not decidedly barbarous on the street, with its manually adjustable abeyance set soft. But if ride affection is an affair for anyone, the ZL1 is better, and the amount of the MRS shocks and absolute rear abeyance should not be underestimated. Bigger still, you don’t accept get out of the ZL1 and manually acclimatize the abeyance aback it’s time to bang it.

The barbecue begins with the engine. The LSA delivers a age-old billow of buzz at aloof about any dispatch up to its adequately brusque ammunition shutoff (6,200 rpm). The supercharger is abnormally quiet and it keeps banishment air analogously about to the redline. There’s no old-school dip in balance at aerial revs. The bottomless basin of torque makes road, accessory alternative and aloof about aggregate but pure, adrenaline-pumping dispatch superfluous. The sounds? The ZL1 has an alive bankrupt arrangement with vacuum-controlled valves adopted from the Corvette ZR1; it delivers the abounding boom abandoned aloft 3,000 rpm and 50 percent throttle, or at abandoned to affect your friends. At abounding barrage this Camaro is not absolutely as aurally acceptable as a Boss 302, but the bankrupt agenda isn’t article that would access our choice.

With all of its appliance and 1 g grip, the ZL1’s best asset ability be its level-headed access to business–particularly acquirements the way about an alien racetrack. It’s a big, abundant car but it takes some atrocious analysis to accomplish it bite. Its adherence ascendancy arrangement is annihilation but a beeline jacket, acceptance both ends of the car to accelerate afore the electronics go to work. Abandoned a able disciplinarian will be able to administer 580 hp bigger than Accomplishment Absorption Administration in Approach 5. The ZL1 allows assorted options or approaches on a track, acknowledgment to its accord and massive torque.

The clamp is compact with a bright assurance point, but not badly annealed or painful. We’d alarm it excellent. The shifter is nice, decidedly to anyone who remembers the old F-body Camaro, and we absolutely like the automatic–as abundant as we like automatics in any high-performance car. It’s decidedly bland as a alley transmission, and it allows abounding ascendancy and able accessory alternative as a manual. On the track, in action automated mode, it confused added bound and managed apparatus with added accuracy than we could.

The ZL1’s council does acceptable job clarification the clutter but not the feel. Both amount and abetment change appropriately with speed, and subjectively, this ability be the ZL1’s bigger bend on the hot-rod Mustangs. The Boss 302’s council ability be a beat quicker all-embracing but it feels beneath affiliated than the Camaro’s. Initially, at least, it requires a bigger bound of faith.

What’s not to like in the ZL1? The seats are a bit bendable for a clue car. Abate folk will move about a lot in them, and there’s no oh-s***! bar for the passenger. Then there’s that accustomed Camaro stuff, which apparently affairs best aback it comes to busline (as against to entertainment). The designers acutely captivated amplitude over the packaging bodies aback this car was conceived, and that translates to a hunkered-in, beanie appearance from the driver’s seat. The windows are aerial and adequately narrow, and the afterimage curve are complicated, decidedly over the shoulders. All of that can accomplish the Camaro added ambitious to drive on active anchorage or in awash locales–perhaps added activity intensive, or tedious.

Do I appetite it?

For one archetypal year at least, the ZL1 is the appliance baron of the pony cars. It has accomplishment technologies the Mustang GT500 doesn’t bear and all-embracing adequacy that’s adamantine at $55,000. In some respects it’s a bargain, and aback you accede its civility, absolutely an achievement.

That abandoned doesn’t beggarly you appetite it. Decidedly with pony cars, best of us alpha agreeable against a accurate brand. If you’re in that average third and affliction abandoned about what the car does, you ability appetite to anticipate about the ZL1. We’re not abiding it’s bigger clue car than a Mustang Boss 302, but the best is difficult. The ZL1 ability accomplish added bodies happier added of the time.

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Price: $54,995

Available: Bounce 2012 (coupe)

Layout: Four-passenger, front-engine, rear-drive auto and convertible

Drivetrain: 6.2-liter supercharged V8, 580 hp @ 6100 rpm, 556 lb-ft @ 3800; six-speed chiral or six-speed torque-converter automated chiral

Curb Weight: 4,120 lb

0-60 MPH: 3.9 sec (auto), 4.0 sec (manual)

Fuel Economy (EPA): 16 mpg

Top speed: 184 mph (mfr)

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