It’s been a long-time coming, but then again so was the 2010 Camaro...GM’s answer to the GT500 has been given. There was no mystery surrounding the desired powerplant for the top of the line model of the Camaro, the 6.2L supercharged LSA as found in the Cadillac CTS-V, or that it would have beefier brake, wheel, tire, and suspension parts. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the announcement was the name for the new model. Much speculation was that it would be called the Z28, which many enthusiasts were hoping for. However, ultimately the revival of the ZL1 nameplate seemed to make the most sense given its mysticism, whereas the Z28 designation has historically been reserved for the base V-8 version of the Camaro. In the past, the ZL1 equated to an aluminum block 427 installed in a precious few (69 to be exact) Camaros at Fred Gibb, which were rated at 430 horsepower but said to make 500. GM believes the 2012 version follows the spirit of the original ZL1 by using one of the most technologically advanced motors in its arsenal, which just happens to put out a whopping 550 horsepower and 550 lbs-ft of torque.
GM held no punches by dropping in the supercharged 6.2L LSA engine from the CTS-V platform. A balanced, lightweight rotating assembly featuring high-strength hypereutectic pistons with oil squirters, powdered rods, and a forged crankshaft combine with premium heat-resistant A356T6 aluminum alloy heads based off the L92 design for a boost-friendly 9.1:1 compression. A sixth-generation, four-lobe 1.9L Eaton supercharger will force 9.0-psi of boost past the LSA’s massive 2.16-inch intake valves after being cooled by an air-to-water charge cooler with a dedicated reservoir and remote-mounted pump system that is said to reduce inlet temperatures up to 158-degrees (F). Other features include an oil pan-mounted oil cooler to keep temps under control and improve durability, and a low-lift, low-overlap cam for a smooth idle and low RPM driving characteristics. Cast stainless steel exhaust manifolds (unique to the Camaro) enhance thermal management and move air to a dual mode exhaust system. Fuel is delivered via a center-feed system to introduce fuel at the mid-point of the fuel rails to ensure even delivery to all the injectors and cut down on noise. The accessory drive system is revised from both the Cadillac and obviously the Camaro SS, which uses a unique alternator and air conditioning compressor as well as an idler pulley where the power steering pump would be located. An electric power steering system negates the pump.
The LSA uses a unique dual mass 8-bolt flywheel, which is attached to a 240mm dual disc clutch for smooth engagement and shifting. The "MG9" version of the Tremec TR6060 will back the LSA, no mention of an automatic as of yet, much like the SS model for a total of six forward (manually selected) gears with a new short-throw shifter. A revised and strengthened driveshaft and rear end housing were also needed, the axle housing is a larger cast iron unit with a heavy-duty limited slip differential, a cooler (like the Z06 and ZR1), and 3.73:1 ring and pinion.
Chassis & Suspension
Not much has changed here, it’s still a unitized steel frame with independent front and rear suspension. The biggest difference is what VP Ed Welburn calls the "next generation" Magnetic Ride Control, originally made popular on the Corvette, which will have a Touring and Sport mode. Welburn called it the "fastest reacting suspension in the world." The sway bars, particularly the rear one which has repositioned its drop links outward of the control arms, have also been slightly revised. No word yet on curb weight.
Brakes, Wheel & Tires
With a more powerful engine came more substantial brakes and tires to contain it. Similar to the CTS-V, beefy Brembo six-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers grab hold of two-piece 14.6 and 14.4-inch rotors. Forged aluminum wheels measuring 20x10 (front) and 20x11-inches (rear) will give home to a substantial set of specially designed Goodyear Supercar 2 tires.
Interior & Exterior
The front bumper is the most obvious change in the ZL1’s appearance, from the SS model that is, which was developed in the wind tunnel to improve aerodynamics using a splitter. Underneath the car there is also an air deflector and rear diffuser to make the ZL1 more slippery. The hood is also very unique, it is made of aluminum with a carbon fiber insert in the middle, which gives added clearance for the supercharger, and also has a heat extractor to let air escape from the engine bay and increase downforce. The interior has even been revised including the steering wheel and seats. The seats (which are also heated) utilize microfiber suede, which is carried over onto the instrument panel, and have ZL1 logos embroidered on them. A unique instrument panel, door inserts, and ZL1 sill plates will give further cues as will a number of high-tech features such as rear parking assist with a rear camera displayed in the rearview mirror and a Boston Acoustics sound system (like the 2SS). Black will be the only interior color offered, however all of the Camaro exterior colors will be offered.
What ever your take is on the name, clearly GM came to play. The combination of electric power steering, 550-horse LSA engine, Magnetic Ride suspension, bigger brakes and beefier driveline make the ZL1 a formidable competitor. We can’t wait to get our hands on one. Expectations are increased feedback from the steering, better stopping power and acceleration, greater durability, more well-designed features, improved interior feel, and a car anyone would be proud to drive to work as well as at the track on the weekends. So far GM claims that its engineers have driven the cars hard at a number of tracks in the U.S. and Germany, and have been very pleased, with final testing completing by the end of 2011. This means production in early 2012 as expected. I’m hoping to get handed a set of keys by the summer time, how about you?