Auto Review: The Camaro gets a cape

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Aug. 16, 2012
- Contributed Photo

There’s a challenge when you build a car with incredibly hot styling: how do you insure it goes as good as it looks? With a car like the redesigned Chevy Camaro (the sport sedan’s fifth generation launched as a 2010 model), it’s a tall order to compliment the hot, high-speed lines with the kind of acceleration, braking and handling the car clearly looks capable of. I’m not implying that the new Camaros to date have been wallowing slugs; far from it. But with the new ZL1 model, the Camaro not only reaches the kind of driving potential promised by that seductive, aggressive bodywork – it may just surpass it. It does this by dropping a potent supercharged V8 in the engine bay, and tuning the chassis with the latest suspension, braking and stability control wizardry from GM’s best engineering minds.

This blend of high-performance goodies has created a sports coupe that is even better than the sum of its parts, all thanks to the perfect integration of all the new hardware. As this is a true muscle car, the engine bay is armed for bear with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that pumps out a stout 580 horsepower. Firing up this engine is a true auditory feast for those that love that classic American V8 sound, and the supercharger’s boost is doled out in a perfectly measured fashion, as if you just increase the size of the engine when you floor the accelerator. It’s the kind of power that’s always there, but completely manageable and able to be fine-tuned like you’re dialing a rheostat.

Our ZL1 was equipped with an ideally-geared six-speed manual transmission that not only was light in action, but an ideal driving partner when shifting on tight, curvy eastern Connecticut roads. Very sophisticated traction controls (called Performance Traction Management) allow well-controlled shenanigans so you can keep all that power under your direction, but for me the greatest attribute of the ZL1 is GM’s 3rd Generation Magnetic Ride system. A special Magneto-Rheological (MR) fluid technology varies the suspension firmness on the fly, depending on road conditions, resulting in one of the most balanced suspension responses I’ve ever experienced on such a capable (and high mass) sports coupe. Steering feedback from the electric power steering is immediate and well-weighted, and standard Brembo brakes are Supercoupe strong and easy to modulate.

The Camaro’s snug interior is outfitted in the ZL1 with excellent leather sport seats, and our test mule had the Interior Sueded Microfiber Package that adds both comfort and a dramatic appearance. The rear seats are basically a parcel shelf, as there’s not much room for full-size humans, and the trunk is likewise not a vast expanse of cargo space. But this is a muscle car after all, now fortified with the kind of strength to give it (almost) super powers.

The 2012 Camaro ZL1 Coupe is EPA rated 14 MPG city/19 highway and has a base price of $54,095. With options, our sticker came to $58,190.

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