It was 2002 and sadly the last year of the Chevrolet Camaro. Those were dark days and some postulated that it was the end of an era. But, Chevrolet promised that the Camaro would come back. Eight long years later that promise was fulfilled in the form of the ’10 Camaro. Just like the fourth-gens, the new generation of Camaro was anchored by a commuter-friendly V-6–powered version, but all we cared about was the thumping 6.2L LS3 under the hood of the SS. The power was decent, however with a curb weight hovering around 3,800 pounds, every pony was needed. The handling was a bit heavy, but we had our beloved Camaro back and all was good. Still, we wondered what the GM engineers could unleash if given the chance.
Thankfully someone locked up the accountants and gave the gearheads at GM free reign to build the most badass Camaro ever conceived. It would have a blower, well, because blowers are cool. Even so the vision was that the new über Camaro wouldn’t just be an SS with a sticker package, a few fake scoops, and a supercharger; instead it would be a whole other animal named the ZL1.
Christened in honor of the ’69 427 big-block–powered ZL1 Camaros that GM churned out to rule the dragstrip, these instead would be geared toward the road course. To get this done, the engineers at GM adjusted and tweaked every aspect of the SS. In fact, 30 percent of the new ZL1 differs from the previous SS, and almost all changes revolve around improved performance.
In terms of power, the ZL1 is the most potent Camaro ever produced, by a lot. Its supercharged 6.2L LSA V-8 spins out 580 hp and 556 lb-ft of torque, but that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The goal was to turn out a track-ready ride full of the best technology available. Performance Traction Management and Gen III Magnetic Ride Suspension keeps the Camaro firmly mated to the asphalt under full throttle, while huge Brembo brakes reel it all down from speed. Other trinkets, often only offered as options on other cars, like brake cooling ducts and a differential cooler, are standard fare on the ZL1. In fact, the option list on a ZL1 is pretty short. Extra fuel pickups were added to the fuel tank for high g maneuvers, weight balance is 52 percent front and 48 percent rear, and the list of refinements goes on.
The ZL1 is the first Camaro to feature electric power steering, which adjusts steering effort to match the driving conditions. GM also performed a plethora of aerodynamic tweaks to get the car pushed down to the pavement at speed. On its standard Goodyear Supercar F2 tires it zips from 0-to-60 in 3.9 seconds, has a top speed of 184 mph, and has a full g of lateral grip. Put it all together and it makes for a Camaro like none before it. MSRP is right at $55,000 and that’s a lot of bang for the buck. After all, a well-optioned SS will set you back $35,000, and trust us, dumping $20,000 into it will not make it close to a ZL1.