Call it a four-seat Corvette Z06. Call it a two-door Cadillac CTS-V. Or, hell, call it Shirley—whatever you call it, the brand-spankin’-new 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is a monster of a car.
Need proof? Let's start (where else?) under that long, power-bulging hood with GM’s supercharged, 6.2-liter LT4 V8. Strap it to an engine dyno and the LT4 will ring up an estimated 640 horsepower and an equal number of torques. For the sake of comparison, the LT4 variant that appears in the CTS-V cranks out just as many ponies, but 10 fewer lb.–ft. (The Z06’s version makes an even 650/650.)
But neither Z06 nor CTS-V can offer as many gears as the ZL1’s optional automatic. The maximum ‘Maro marks General Motors’s first use of its new 10-speed automatic gearbox, which they developed alongside crosstown rival Ford. (Think of it like The Transmission From U.N.C.L.E.) Specially calibrated for hi-po Camaro duty, the 10-speed gearbox is designed to keep the muscular motor as close to the peak part of the power band as often as possible. That said, the standard six-speed manual gearbox remains the muscle car connoisseur’s choice.
Actually, we’re not even sure it’s safe to call the ZL1 a muscle car anymore. Not when it comes standard with many of the best performance features GM offers, like magnetic ride suspension, Performance Traction Management, and electronic limited slip differential. Not when Chevrolet spent more than 100 hours in the wind tunnel tuning the aerodynamics for maximum high speed stability and efficient cooling, all with the goal of improving lap times. Not when every ZL1 comes with Brembo front brake calipers the size of an extra-large pizza and track-optimized Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar rubber wrapped around lightweight aluminum 20-inch wheels.
Of course, you could say the same about the ZL1’s main rival, the Shelby GT350. And in tune with the political season, Chevy doesn’t resist the chance to take a shot at the bad-boy pony—though without mentioning it by name. “Finally—and unlike some competitors—there’s no need to purchase an optional package to make the ZL1 track ready,” snarks the ZL1’s press release.
It is still a Camaro, though, so cruising the streets and looking good doing it remains very much a part of the ZL1’s M.O. Luckily, the modifications needed to turn the Camaro into a track weapon—the carbon-fiber hood insert, the ground effects, and the rear spoiler among them—also happen to make it look all kinds of sexy. The dual-mode exhaust, though? That’s just for fun.
Chevy hasn’t announced how much the ZL1 will cost, but the old ZL1 started around $55K, so expect the 2017 model’s base price to land somewhere around there. At that price, the ZL1 would neatly split the difference between the GT350 and the GT350R...as would kick of the argument as current the performance bargain of the year.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go wipe the drool off my keyboard.