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10 Things You Need To Know About the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
October 15, 2011
5 min. Reading Time

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is a warning shot across the bow of all other muscle car makers to let them know that the Bowtie means business. The first special edition of the popular Camaro since it was revived from its untimely death just a few short years ago, the Camaro ZL1 is a reminder of the era when Detroit's Big Three were neck-and-neck in the horsepower wars. Fortunately for modern performance fans, big power isn't the only thing that the ZL1 has to offer, as the coupe's chassis, suspension system and high tech features add significant pleasure to the vehicle's incendiary driving experience.

Let's take a look at 10 things you need to know about the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

01. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Is The Most Powerful Muscle Car Available

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is not only the highest output Camaro ever built, but it's also the most powerful muscle car available on the market. The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 features a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine that has been tuned to provide 580 horsepower and 556 lb-ft of torque, which are elite numbers in any automotive segment. The all-aluminum engine design makes use of hypereutectic pistons and a lightweight rotating assembly, and the blower's performance is enhanced through the inclusion of an intercooler. This formidable engine (borrowed from the Cadillac CTS-V) elevates the Camaro ZL1 above both the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and the Dodge Challenger SRT8 392, neither of which are slouches when it comes to lighting up the dyno.


02. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Offers Manual and Automatic Transmission Options

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 comes with a traditional six-speed manual transmission option, aimed at drivers who love to bang through the gears on their own schedule. Designed by Tremec, the manual box has been upgraded to handle the eyebrow-raising torque produced by the ZL1's supercharged engine, and it has been given a short shifter in order to reduce the length of the throws required for each ratio change.

A six-speed automatic transmission is also available with the ZL1, and Chevrolet predicts that most of the super Camaro's buyers will opt for the auto unit over the manual. This particular gearbox features Drive, Sport and Manual modes, with the latter making use of steering wheel-mounted shift paddles to access pre-programmed "staged" upshifts that make for very quick gear changes compared to a standard automatic.


03. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Comes With Performance Traction Management

When you've got 580 horsepower to corral, like the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 does, you need to make sure that you engineer a drivetrain that can transfer that output to the ground with as little drama as possible. The Camaro ZL1 has been outfitted with the Performance Traction Management system in order to accomplish exactly this task. The PTM includes a launch control feature that aims to reduce wheel spin while accelerating the coupe off of the line, and it also offers five different "PTM performance modes" that configure the ZL1's power output to match the task at hand. These include traction management profiles for dry tarmac, wet pavement, cruising, road courses and even drag racing.


04. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Features Magnetic Ride Control

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1's Magnetic Ride Control suspension system also plays an important role in keeping the super coupe glued to the road. By making use of special shock absorbers that are filled with a magnetically-responsive fluid, Magnetic Ride Control allows ZL1 drivers to vary the firmness of the vehicle's suspension at will. The dual-coil shocks are found at all four corners, and can be set to either Tour, Sport or Track specifications, with the latter providing the most aggressive response. The Magnetic Ride Control system is also capable of automatically reacting to road and driving conditions, with up to 1,000 adjustments per second possible when called upon to handle the most extreme scenarios.


05. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Offers Extensive High Performance Modifications

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is far more than just a monster motor. The ZL1 edition of the coupe makes numerous other upgrades and improvements to the Camaro's platform, including a dual mode exhaust that maximizes gas flow at all engine speeds, a beefed-up driveshaft, strong limited-slip differential and tougher axles, enormous 14.6-inch Brembo brake discs up front (14.4-inches in the rear) as well as an electronic power steering system which has been specifically designed to provide optimum feedback and more precise driver input. The Camaro ZL1 also wears 20-inch wheels that are shod with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 tires.


06. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Is Differentiated Via Subtle Styling Tweaks

In terms of its appearance, the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 doesn't scream "Special Edition" at the top of its lungs. Instead, Chevrolet's styling team have given the car a more focused visual package that includes a number of aerodynamic improvements, such as brake ducts fed by inlets carved into the car's new front fascia and heat extractors on the hood. A front splitter helps to keep the Camaro ZL1 planted during high speed driving, and a rear wing and diffuser also contribute to straight-line stability. A final external clue as to the ZL1's special status is the carbon fiber center hood insert, which adds a touch of extra menace to the coupe's overall look.


07. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Interior Has Been Upgraded Over The Camaro SS

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 designers extended a light styling touch into the passenger compartment, where a few key elements have been accented in order to remind occupants that they are riding in a high performance machine. The ZL1 comes with a head-up display that projects not just the vehicle's speed but also other important information right at eye level, and a special gauge package augments the data provided to the driver at all times. Leather seats with suede inserts offer additional grip through the corners, while ZL1 sill and panel plates along with headrest stitching help to separate the Camaro's interior from that of the standard SS. A rear camera and parking assist feature makes it easy to handle the ZL1 in an urban situation, and a full range of comfort and convenience equipment give the top-shelf Camaro an upscale feel.


08. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Turned In An Impressive 'Ring Time

The Nurburgring Nordschleife course is one of the world's most difficult and revered tests of a performance car's true mettle - one that the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has passed with flying colors. Under the skilled control of a professional driver, Chevrolet set the ZL1 loose around the German circuit (which is open to the public) and managed to post a very impressive initial time of 7 minutes and 41.27 seconds. This is merely two seconds slower than the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 - the fastest sports car ever built by the domestic brand - and quicker than lap times turned in by much more expensive and exotic vehicles like the Porsche 911 GT3, the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera and the Nissan GT-R.


09. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Is A Link to Chevrolet's Past

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 shares its unique alphanumeric identifier with one the Chevrolet's original muscle car racing projects - the aluminum ZL1 427-cubic inch V-8 engine that managed to sneak its way from the race paddock into a very small number of production 1969 Camaros. Available through Chevrolet's notorious COPO ordering process, the ZL1 engine (which was capable of producing an amazing 500 horsepower) was installed under the hood of just under 70 Camaros. Few drivers of the era were aware of the existence of these factory hot rods, and many ZL1-code cars languished in dealer showrooms for months at a time before finding a new home. A very small number of 427-cubic inch ZL1-code Camaros survived the ensuing decades, making them one of the least common specialty vehicles ever offered by General Motors.


10. The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Will Likely Be Priced Under $60,000

Although official figures have yet to be released, it seems likely that the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be priced close to its main muscle car competitor, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. The Shelby GT500 starts at just under $50,000, and even given the additional performance offered by the ZL1 it's not at all unreasonable to expect that the Camaro will sticker for significantly less than $60,000. This would make the Camaro ZL1 one of the best bargains in the supercar segment, especially considering that the improved muscle car does far more than simply go fast in a straight line.



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