From about 2 minutes after the fifth-generation Camaro went into production, speculation swirled about rumors of a high-end model that would use the supercharged, 556-horsepower LSA engine from the Cadillac CTS-V. As one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry - prodded by plenty of spy photos - the enthusiast community knew this car would be called Z28.
At the Chicago Auto Show in February, Chevrolet shocked everyone when it announced the supercharged model will be called ZL1. It's scheduled for an early 2012 release and we're told the ZL1 name was chosen because the high-tech, maximum-performance mission of the car didn't square with the spirit of the original Z28. Here's what we know about the new Camaro ZL1:
- It will be powered by a version of the supercharged, 6.2-liter LSA, but with unique intercooler and other features to fit it in the Camaro's engine compartment
- The transmission will be the CTS-V version of the Tremec 6060 six-speed, with a dual-mass flywheel and twin-disc clutch. There's also a shorter-throw shifter, but it's not the Hurst shifter
- The car will have "active" exhaust-a version of the Corvette-style system that enables two levels of flow and sound
- A completely revamped rear axle system, with a larger cast iron differential housing replacing the SS's aluminum housing
- Magnetic Ride Control will be standard. Similar to what's offered on the Corvette, the dampers use computer-monitored dampers filled with magnetorheological fluid for real-time damping that seems to defy the laws of physics-and it's not an inexpensive feature
- Larger front disc brakes, featuring two-piece rotors and six-piston calipers
- Electric power steering.
We've been told, too, that the entire suspension and chassis system was completely revamped to drastically improve the Camaro's on-track driving dynamics - changes we can expect to filter through other models soon enough. Reportedly, the Camaro's tendency to plow through corners with terrible understeer has been corrected. Chevy reps took pains to explain the ZL1 isn't simply a more powerful Camaro, but a complete package that transforms it into a true world-beating touring car with great track capabilities.
From an appearance standpoint, the ZL1 has subtle body mods, but all were done for the sake of reducing lift or creating downforce. The most noticeable change is an extractor-style hood, which features a raised section made of carbon fiber. The vents draw air out of the engine compartment and over the top of the car, rather than allowing it to push down on the ground, where it would contribute to lift. The car rides on massive 20x8-inch front wheels and 20x9-inch rear wheels, which are larger than the SS wheels, but weigh less.
As we mentioned, Chevrolet is targeting early 2012 for the ZL1's release. And by the way: Chevrolet is very aware that a track-focused model called Z28 would be a great answer to the recently launched Mustang Boss 302. That would give Camaro a three-model V-8 lineup to counter Mustang's GT, Boss and Shelby range, too.