Russ Bond

By definition, ZL1 almost a supercar

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

By definition, ZL1 almost a supercar

Car Review

Overall rating:

8/10

Editor's Ratings:

  • Performance: 9/10

  • Price: 9/10

  • Comfort (front): 9/10

  • Consumption: 4/10

  • Look: 8/10

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

"By 90% of the definition of a supercar, the ZL1 is indeed that. But there is something about the ZL1 you can’t see on specification sheets."

Supercar – according to Wikipedia – is a term used most often to describe an expensive high end car. It has been defined specifically as “a very expensive, fast or powerful car.” Stated in more general terms, “it must be very fast, with sporting handling to match ... it should be sleek and eye-catching” and its price should be “one in a rarefied atmosphere of its own.”

MORE: 2013 Chevrolet Camaro trims and other specs

Let’s see how the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 fares up shall we?

Ah, first is the ‘a very expensive,’ part, I’ll come back to that. Next is the ‘fast or powerful’ bit. The new ZL1 is undeniably fast. How about 0-100 km/h in near four seconds? Add to that a top track speed of 297 km/h, and that makes it fast. Finally, a Nürburgring lap time of 7:41.27 (albeit not by me) makes it blindingly fast, and fits the supercar description of ‘sporting handling to match.’

It’s powered by a supercharged all-aluminum 6.2-litre V8 engine that puts out 580 hp and 556 lb.-ft. of torque. Powerful; check.

The final consideration for ‘supercar’ status is ‘sleek and eye-catching.’ I’d have to say the ZL1 abounds here from the front with the massive front splitter, sculptured hood scoop with exhaust vents and optional carbon fibre hood. Add to that 20-inch blacked out aluminum wheels, ZL1 specific rear spoiler and a very aggressive stance that is aided by the low roofline.

So, by 90% of the definition of a supercar, the ZL1 is indeed that. But there is something about the ZL1 you can’t see on specification sheets, or understand by simply looking at pictures.

It quite simply doesn’t drive like you would expect a Camaro to. By that I mean all that muscle up front – read heavy – normally amounts to huge amounts of understeer. Then an adequate dose of throttle and you are all arms and elbows trying to keep up with it.

None of this happens with the ZL1. It is actually something that most American muscle car drivers have yet to experience…and that is: it’s balanced. The turn in is crisp and sharp, at any speed. It’s very stable mid corner, and pounce on the throttle at corner exit, and shockingly the power makes it to the ground and off you go – balanced; and brilliant.

The ZL1 fails miserably to enhance the lore of terrible handling American muscle cars. I happened to pilot it – several times – around an insane fast and twisty racetrack and it was…yes, balanced (Americans, look it up).

The ZL1 is not just all pure racecar with headlights; but it’s close. The magnetic ride control saves you, and your teeth, from a bone jarring ride all the time. In addition there are five different traction settings, depending on how brave you are - OFF is the best way to experience just how much overtime the Camaro engineering team put into the ZL1.

The engineering team fought for the limited slip differential, the Brembo performance brakes, the six speed manual – a real gearbox – with a short throw shifter; all these are mandatory bits to make the ZL1 work the way it should.

My only knock is simply this: the engineer in charge of pedal placement must have mailed it in. The brake and throttle pedal are hopelessly too far apart to aid in proper heel-and-toe operations. Now, I know this is a lost art with all the flappy paddle stuff and auto blipping on semi-automatic gearboxes, but this is a real transmission; so put the pedals in the right place.

At the end of the day, if all you have to complain about is pedal placement, then I think we can agree that the ZL1 is indeed all supercar.

Now, about that pricing thing. The wiki-nition says the price should be “one in a rarefied atmosphere of its own.”

Oh, here the ZL1 falls painfully short. It starts at $58,500 and sadly that is way, way too cheap to be classified as a supercar.

Sorry, ZL1…you were so close.

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Fact file

2013 Chevrolet Camaro

Trim level: ZL1

Price as tested (before taxes): $62,095

Options on test vehicle: carbon fibre hood ($630), suede steering wheel and shift knob ($525)

Freight/PDI: $1,500

Configuration: front engine/ rear-wheel drive

Engine/transmission: 6.2L Supercharged V8/ 6-spd manual

Power/torque: 580 hp/ 556 lb.-ft.

Fuel (capacity): Premium (72L)

Fuel economy ratings: 14.9 L/100km city; 10.6 L/100km hwy

Observed fuel economy: 12.3 L/100km over 1,200 km

Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 160,000 km (powertrain)

Competitors: Dodge Challenger SRT8; Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Strengths: power; engineering; price

Weaknesses: damn pedal placement!