ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I’m not sure what else to say about this 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 coupe -- it’s an OK display pedestal for a tremendous engine. It’s interesting to drive the ZL1 after some time in the Challenger SRT Hellcat. The eight-speed Dodge I drove had more power, of course, but there’s a certain point after which you just can’t put it down to pavement on stock tires.
The manual transmission definitely improved driver engagement here; there’s something about building up revs and dropping into second gear that’s just addictive. You’ll want to give your best Picard “Engage!” just before you launch forward.
On the other hand, more energy spent shifting means less focus to devote to making sure the wheels are pointed straight. The blown 6.2-liter V8 has a well of grunt to draw from that it’s both wide and deep. The specter of fourth-gear wheelspin at speed is haunting, but also exciting.
The downsides are the car’s weight, interior appointments and price. Here, you get a cabin that features all of the tech you could want, but not much of the refinement. There’s suede here and there, but also a lot of hard plastic. I doubt we’ll get a major refresh before we get a new Camaro, but who knows?
You could get a Chevy Corvette for this price. Or a Hellcat, almost. But people who want a Corvette will get a Corvette, and Mopar fans will get a Hellcat. Don’t expect a BMW M4 with a bowtie on it (although, how cool would an M4 with this motor and transmission be?!) and you won’t be disappointed by the ZL1.
Tooling around town in the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Coupe is actually quite nice, refined and almost tame.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I see the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat has two key fobs. The red one opens the gates of, um, hell; the black one kills the horsepower, while Valet mode locks out first gear, ...
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: This blown V8 so thoroughly dominates the driving experience, it’s hard to write about anything else -- from the addictive, wonderful sounds to the near-unfathomable oomph, it’s about as dominant as I can imagine. As we’ve written before, driving this car makes you feel like you’re getting away with something.
I gotta admit this car intimidates me some. Tooling around town, it’s actually quit nice, refined and almost tame. The ride is fine, the steering direct, the clutch take-up and weight just fine for around town, though there’s so much torque here almost any gear works…
There is a bit of steering correction needed on sloppier roads but good Lord, look at the tires. Of course there’s gonna be a little. It’s really not bad at all.
Then I leg it, and I always had in the back of my mind the notion this thing is gonna pitch up on to the sidewalk any second. Not to say it doesn’t handle well -- for its size and weight, it does. The stability control system allows for some fun, in other words it’s not overly sensitive/restrictive. Turn off the traction control and slide it around some. Good times…
The car looks good, and I like the ZL1 body mods -- bigger air openings, bulging hood, front spoiler. Cool. The interior looks nice, as well.
The supercharged V8 in the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Coupe thoroughly dominates the driving experience.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: With the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat stalking around beating its chest with 707 hp, the 580 hp that this 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 packs doesn’t seem like much does it? Except that 580 hp is a whole lot of power. It’s crazy to sit back and think about how many cars are available today that have engines producing north of 500 hp. Sure, you have all those pricey performance models from the luxury German automakers that will put at least a $100,000-sized dent into your bank account. But for $60K, anyone can walk into a Chevy dealership and then drive away with a Camaro with close to 600 hp. That’s kind of nutty.
But then you get behind wheel of the Camaro ZL1 and idle around town with the magnetic suspension softened and just roll gingerly onto the throttle, and it’s a relatively relaxed experience. The underlying Camaro chassis still feels substantial and steering is weighty, but not overly so. The ZL1’s ability to behave like a normal car is something I’ve always respected about it in comparison to the outgoing Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, which seemed like it was ready club you over the head with a lead pipe the moment you let your guard down.
When it comes time to wheel the ZL1, it again doesn’t feel like this overpowered monster. Most people with a ZL1 are probably just going to mash the throttle in a straight line to impress their friends and do a smoky burnout or two, but I doubt they’ll be looking for a bunch of twisty roads to blaze. It is a heavy boy, tipping the scales at 4,120 pounds. However, you can have some fun throwing it around turns where there is descent grip, considering its weight that you do feel in the corners. The good news is that there isn’t a bunch of roll, thanks to the magnetic suspension keeping things fairly tidy. Push a little too hard and the front end washes out with a little chatter felt through the steering wheel.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: The ZL1 is my favorite Camaro, but I would opt for the coupe. Don't know that I'd get the automatic transmission, either, though this seemed a fine example.The car's shape looks ...
Graham is correct in saying that the car is all about the supercharged LSA V8 engine. It makes all the right rumbly V8 noises, but most important of all is that power. I’m personally a road-course person who likes to round corners, but even I can’t deny that it’s a thrill to have a ton of horsepower propel you forward in a straight line at an alarming rate. The six-speed manual features fluid shifts, and the clutch pedal isn’t super heavy and difficult to modulate.
Besides the car’s weight, the cabin is still a disappointment. The microfiber inserts on the dash and wrapping the steering wheel and shift knob help break up the hard plastic cave, but the large areas of exposed hard plastics look and feel cheap. Being a Camaro, it’s still difficult to see out of the darn thing with blind spots big enough to fit semi-trucks in. The optional Recaro seats are great, though.
For the street, the ZL1 is the ultimate Camaro that can be handled by a competent driver. Personally, I would have myself a Z/28 with the optional air conditioning (hey, it gets hot here in Michigan in the summer!) if I was shopping for a Camaro. I do look forward to seeing what Ford will do with the future Mustang GT500 and its independent rear suspension, which I’m guessing won’t behave like it wants to murder you, and seeing how that stacks up to the ZL1. And of course, there’s the Challenger SRT Hellcat which has the horsepower bragging rights and a much improved interior. It handles like a battleship, but the novelty of having 707 hp is neat, and would make you king of the streets. Given the choice between a ZL1 and Hellcat, I think I would go with the Mopar as a street car.
The optional Recaro seats in the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Coupe are great.
Options: Recaro performance seats ($1,995); exposed carbon fiber weave ($600); interior suede microfiber package with suede shift knob and steering wheel ($500); navigation ($495)
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