The 2014 Camaro Z/28 is the most track-capable Chevrolet Camaro to date from the factory. Everything done to the car is in an effort to shave lap times.
The big stuff begins with the LS7 V8 under the hood, which previously saw duty in the C6 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. The dry-sump lubricated engine produces 505 hp and 481 lb-ft of torque and is paired with a six-speed manual transmission. A Torsen limited-slip differential distributes power between the rear wheels and works with an upgraded version of the performance traction-management system featuring “flying car logic.” Basically, power doesn't get cut when the car goes airborne on circuits such as the Nürburgring; Chevy test drivers say the system saved them about five seconds a lap on the Nordschleife.
A revised suspension gets 85 percent stiffer front springs, 65 percent stiffer rear springs, stiffer bushings and Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve dampers from Multimatic. The result, according to Chevy, is a 1.29-inch lower center of gravity than the SS and up to 1.08 g of cornering acceleration.
Also deserving of a great deal of the credit for the Z/28's tenacious grip are 305/30 ZR19 Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires at all corners that have a 50 treadwear rating. The super-sticky tires are mounted on forged aluminum wheels -- as are all the aero improvements with an exclusive front splitter, hood vents, Gurney-lip fender flares, rockers and rear spoiler that help produce 150 pounds of downforce at 150 mph. A wickerbill is available as a dealer option.
Slowing things down are Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes with six-piston calipers in front and four-piston units out back.
Cutting weight is vital as well to the Z/28's mission, with good weight savings coming from the engine, brakes and wheels, but engineers sweated the details and strived to cut out even more wherever they could. Because of this, air conditioning is an option; there's no sound-deadening material; and floor mats, trunk trim and even redundant wiring in the harness are gone. There's a lighter rear-seat assembly, smaller battery and thinner rear glass. All that brings base curb weight down to 3,820 pounds, which is 55 pounds lighter than a Camaro 1LE. If you do decide you don't want to bake in the summer heat on your way to and from the track, get your Z/28 equipped with the optional air conditioning that will up the weight to 3,851 pounds. The interior gets Recaro front-bucket sport seats and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
In all, over 190 parts on the new Camaro Z/28 are different from the SS. Production of the Z/28 will be limited to 3,000 cars wearing a base price of $75,000. The only factory option offered is air conditioning and the upgraded six-speaker audio system -- that will cost you an additional $1,150. The standard audio is a one-speaker system.
How does it drive?
With a day at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., almost all to ourselves ,we experienced the Z/28 in its natural environment first hand. The most striking thing about the Z/28 is how hard it sticks in corners. Turns two and 15 are high-g right turns that made us appreciate the well-bolstered Recaro seats as our guts felt like they were being shoved up against our body's left side.
Getting to stretch the legs of the LS7 is wonderful down the straights as it roars toward the 7,000-rpm redline. The six-speed short shifter is slick, and going down a couple of gears is easy with the engine's lively throttle response. Turn in is sharp; steering is weighty and provides good feedback.
We were really impressed overall with the Z/28 from our limited time behind the wheel, though. With such high grip limits and stellar brake performance, it gave us confidence to push the car hard throughout our session, and all the chassis changes did a good job making this 3,800-pound car feel much lighter than it really is.
Why was our time on track limited? That's because we brought sports-car ace Andy Pilgrim along as our hired gun to drive the car on the limit. Pilgrim's day job has him piloting a CTS-V coupe for Cadillac Racing in the Pirelli World Challenge series, which, along with his five professional sports-car championships, makes him quite qualified to give us top-notch feedback.
After a few sessions, Pilgrim seemed as impressed as we were with the Z/28. “It's extremely stable and predictable at the limit,” he says. “The balance, mechanical grip and chassis setup let you carry good mid-corner speeds. It's sticking; recovery is good and it doesn't feel like a 3,800-pound car with those Trofeos trying hard to keep you on rails. Brakes are excellent with no hint of fade. Mode 5 [race mode] on the performance traction system is fantastic; I didn't feel it come in at all.”
Just for fun, Camaro engineers on hand rigged up our red Z/28 with GPS timing equipment to see what kind of lap times Pilgrim could produce. Pilgrim previously had never driven around Barber before but was still able to lay down a respectable lap time of 1:36.29. For some perspective: The fastest lap a GS-class Camaro GS.R race car did around Barber in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race last year was 1:36.02. So a Z/28 off the showroom floor can run with race-prepped cars in the Continental Tire series' quickest class …
Do I want it?
Do you frequent road courses often? Do you not mind chewing through a set of tires in 2,000 miles? Do you not mind giving up creature comforts and dealing with a stiffer and louder ride around town in the name of lapping a race track quicker? If you said “yes” to the questions above, then you certainly will want to take a good hard look at the Camaro Z/28.
While $75K may seem expensive for a Chevy Camaro, you have to step back and look at what equipment the Z/28 has to offer. There are carbon-ceramic brakes, a factory-engineered sport suspension, a liquid-to-liquid engine oil cooling system borrowed from the Corvette, forged wheels and a magnificent 7.0-liter V8 engine. Those obsessed with horsepower numbers may bicker that the less expensive Camaro ZL1 packs 580 hp, while the Z/28 “only” has 505. But they're missing the point. The Z/28 is a car for road course junkies and a darn good one at that, a sentiment with which Pilgrim agrees. “I've driven tons of street cars modified for the track. You couldn't come close to one this capable for the price. If you have $75K … this is your boy right here.”
2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
On Sale: Spring
Base Price: $75,695
Drivetrain: 7.0-liter, 505-hp, 481-lb-ft V8; RWD, six-speed manual
Curb Weight: 3,820 lb
0-60 MPH: 3.9 sec (mfr)
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Hwy/Combined): 13/19/15 (mfr est)
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