You’d think that with tightening emission standards and fuel economy at the tip of everyone’s tongue, the rip-roaring days of the muscle car would eventually be no more. But Chevy is back, this time with a new Camaro, and she’s now a no-holds-barred V8 beast that is known as the 2017 Camaro ZL1.
If your knowledge of the Camaro is only limited to a yellow, black-striped muscle car with an Autobots badge, that’s totally fine. However, before the Camaro was recognised as Bumblebee by the mainstream, the car had already been a pretty big deal since it made the roads in 1966. Launched as Chevy’s call-to-action in response to the Mustang, the Camaro sparked one of the biggest automobile rivalries with Ford then. Following a temporary hiatus in 2003, Chevy was back with its fifth generation in 2010, and a new era of muscle car production was set in motion. Special edition models and variants soon became some of the best-performing cars the American automobile firm ever produced.
As the sixth of its kind hits dealership, the “fastest of all-time” deck looks set to be reshuffled again. The 2017 ZL1 is the lightest, leanest and meanest one ever produced, and will power 650hp and 650 lb-ft (880Nm) of torque thanks to General Motors’ supercharged LT4 6.2-litre V8 (also used in the Corvette Z06). This is 60hp more than the ZL1 in 2014, which had 580hp from its 6.2-litre supercharged LSA powerplant. The new ZL1 will also shed some kilos — 200lbs (90kg) to be exact — thanks to General Motor’s lithe Alpha platform. This improved power-to-weight ratio means more speed, and a better acceleration of 0 to 100kph in 3.5 seconds, narrowly beating its current rival’s — the Dodge Challenger Hellcat — 3.6 seconds.
The ZL1 might come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but for the first time in GM’s history, a new 10-speed automatic transmission option will also be available. Developed in conjunction with longtime rival Ford (surprise!), the smaller ratio gaps between each gear optimises gear selection so acceleration and cornerings are a seamless process.
Visually, the 2017 Camaro ZL1 looks meaner than before, but it’s not all just looks; every feature has been calculated to optimise performance. From the roof’s “reverse Mohawk” channel to the wider opening and precise draft angle of the grille, it’s obvious the good guys at Chevrolet really thought this through. Inside, the cockpit is as optimised for performance as its facade. Recaro seats with ZL1 badges and contrasting stitching are standard. If you happen to be in one, take a peek behind the inside of the rearview mirror. Inside the little notch cut into the window tint is a small 720p HD digital camera that records video footage of your perilous track activities. This works in tandem with the Performance Data Recorder system, which will also capture engine rpm, braking force, and transmission gear selection amongst many other things.