2012 Camaro ZL1 Coupe Debuts with 550 Horsepower; and Technology Rivaling Corvette and Cadillac at $50,000?


GM Design VP Ed Welburn unveils the 2012 Camaro ZL1 -- the fastest Camaro ever offered by Chevrolet – at the Chicago Auto Show.

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 debuted today at the Chicago Auto Show. It will be without doubt the highest-performing Camaro, and Chevrolet claims that ZL1 is the most technically advanced car ever developed in its class.

ZL1 has a supercharged V8 engine, producing an estimated 550 horsepower (410 kW) and 550 lb.-ft. of torque (677 Nm). This means it will be the fasted factory-built Camaro in history. Official estimates of the ZL1’s performance capabilities will be released later in 2011, as testing nears completion. 

The ZL1 is aimed squarely at the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (540 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque), and will likely be priced in the $50,000 range. Earlier 2011 production Camaro models faced about a 300 pound weight disadvantage against the Mustang because of a larger size and more sophisticated independent rear suspension. This has been countered in the ZL1 with high-tech materials, sophisticated engine controls, cubic inches and raw torque. Curb weight, crucial here, was not released.

ZL1 also borrows heavily from the advanced technology used by Cadillac and Corvette. This will likely spur some lengthy – and tiresome – discussions among enthusiasts and debates about which cars are the better values.

Nonetheless, this Camaro is designed to achieve minimum lap times on road-racing circuits and excellent driving dynamics on the street – not unlike the Cadillac CTS-V or the Chevrolet Corvettes. The ZL1 has electric power steering and Magnetic Ride Control, claimed to be the world’s fastest-reacting suspension system, with driver selectable Tour and Sport settings.

The ZL1 name comes from an all-aluminum racing engine, which was developed in the late 1960s and installed in 69 regular-production 1969 Camaro models.

“Camaro ZL1 is about high-tech performance and design, and is a type of car no one has ever brought to this segment previously,” said Rick Scheidt, vice president of Chevrolet marketing.

“It’s the most technically advanced Camaro ever, so we’ve chosen a name from the most elite and exclusive Camaro in history.”

Outside are a new front fascia and hood with air extractors, designed into create aerodynamic downforce at high speeds. ZL1’s includes a center section constructed of carbon fiber and rendered in satin black finish. New rocker panels, wide tires, 20-inch wheels and exhaust tips complete the exterior package. The forged aluminum wheels, which are lighter than the 20-inch wheels used on the Camaro SS, come with new Goodyear Supercar F2 ties developed specifically for the ZL1.

LSA 6.2L Supercharged V8 has an intercooled supercharged induction system, aluminum-alloy cylinder heads, hypereutectic pistons, and oil cooling of the pistons among other genuine high performance tweaks.

The engine is linked to a Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual transmission – the MG9 version with a higher torque capacity. A dual-mass flywheel, a twin-disc clutch and a new, shorter-throw shifter are included.

Like the Corvette, ZL1 has a dual-mode exhaust system, which alters the sound level and character in response to engine rpm.

In keeping with current GM engineering practices, Brembo brakes are specified. Large 14.6-inch (370 mm) two-piece front rotors have six-piston calipers; the 14.4-inch (365 mm) rear rotors have four-piston calipers.

All Camaro exterior colors will be offered with the ZL1, but black is the only interior color. Inside, there are heated leather seats with microfiber inserts and ZL1 logos embroidered on the front headrests. Microfiber suede is repeated as an accent on the instrument panel.

The ZL1 will include the same content as the current 2SS package and include the following new or unique features:

  • Six-way power driver and passenger seats
  • Unique instrument panel and door panel inserts; and ZL1-logo sill plates
  • Steering wheel audio controls with Bluetooth capability
  • Wireless PDIM and USB-port
  • Boston Acoustics premium audio system
  • Rear parking assist
  • Rear camera system (displayed in the inside rearview mirror

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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