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It’s time to kick ass and chew bubblegum: new 640bhp Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 revealed

Published: 25 March 2016

► New Camaro ZL1 unveiled in New York
► Features 640bhp, 640lb ft supercharged V8
► Claimed to outperform far costlier rivals

‘The Camaro ZL1 is designed to excel at everything,’ says Mark Reuss, executive vice president of Chevrolet’s global product development. ‘It will compare well to any sports coupe,’ he adds, ‘at any price and in any setting.’

Outrageous claims, you might think, given that this is – after all – a Camaro, albeit one judged worthy of being bestowed with Chevrolet’s fabled ‘ZL1’ badge.

It’s not just received a few minor chassis and powertrain tweaks to deserve that mighty moniker, either; under the mean-looking front end you’ll find a compact supercharged 6.2-litre V8 that punches out 640bhp and 640lb ft.

All of that is merrily slung to the rear wheels, either by a six-speed manual with rev-matching tech, or by an all-new 10-speed automatic. Just got a bit more interesting, didn’t it? No official performance figures have been announced, but a 0-60mph time of around 3.5sec has been suggested.

It sounds like there’s a bit more to this than meets the eye.

Indeed. That 10-speed auto is one of the reputedly track-focused features, being designed to keep the LT4 V8 at its optimum crank speeds when exiting corners. The transmission’s been calibrated specifically for the ZL1, as well as featuring additional hardware bespoke to this car, and it’s claimed to offer super-swift upshifts and downshifts.

The slight retraction of the initial giggling fit may continue as you dive deeper into the specification sheets; this ZL1 is based on the new sixth-gen Camaro, which is a far stiffer and more competent affair than before, but bolsters its standard kit list with magnetorheological dampers and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential.

Stopping power comes from Brembo, primarily in the form of six-piston front calipers that clamp almighty 15.35-inch floating front rotors. And I thought my first car was doing well with its 13-inch alloy wheels.

Attempting to make good the promise of traction and cornering pace are exclusively developed Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tyres, measuring 285/30ZR20 up front and a steamroller-like 305/30ZR20 out back. As you’d guessed, these are wrapped around 20-inch wheels, and forged aluminium ones at that.

Chevrolet also says it’s dropped 90kg compared to the previous ZL1, and we all know how much of a different a bit of weight loss can make – then there’s the matter of the 60bhp, 80lb ft hike…

2016 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Certainly not going to miss it on the road...

No – and the looks are partly due to necessity, rather than just sheer menacing intent. Wider grille openings permit more air through the ZL1’s cooling pack, while a heat extractor integrated into the bonnet serves to draw out hot air from the engine bay.

You’ll also note the Camaro’s rear spoiler, flared arches and front splitter, which are designed to improve its high-speed stability. Chevrolet claims the ZL1 spent more than 100 hours in the wind tunnel to optimize airflow over, under, around and through it. After all, it’s got 11 heat exchangers to feed.

Any other kit I need to be mindful of when this comes barreling up behind me?

As with several other models in Chevrolet’s range, the Camaro gets a Drive Mode Selector so you can tailor the car’s behavior, as well as customizable launch control and a Performance Traction Management system. A battery of driver aids, then, which should help you make the most of what’s on offer. Or just turn them all off, and enjoy converting terrifyingly expensive Goodyears into pretty grey plumes.  

The driver will also be making the most of the interior upgrades, which are few but sensible and should serve to make controlling the monster easier. It gets supportive Recaro front seats, a suede steering wheel and gear shift knob, and there’s even an optional data recorder. “No officer… oh, 100% throttle opening, you say…”

2016 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

I want it. How do I go about acquiring one?

The ZL1 goes on sale later this year, with prices expected to start around $60,000, which is currently around £42,000. It won’t be offered in the UK, but – if you so desired – you could import one yourself for around £56k.

Read more of CAR’s 2016 New York motor show coverage here

Click here for CAR’s A-Z guide to the 2016 New York motor show

By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car

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