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 good to my eye, and I like the body mods that come with the ZL1 package -- bigger air openings, bulging hood, the front spoiler. Cool. The interior looks nice, as well. Structurally it doesn't feel quite as stiff as a coupe, but it wasn't bad.
Love the engine. The car sounds fantastic and is quick to get off the line. With tires this huge, there is plenty of grip. Fling it around some, and the weight -- there's a lot of it -- comes into play. Whereas some cars feel smaller the harder one pushes, this car feels more “boulevard cruiser” than “road-course rocket.” In fact, around town I was surprised at how comfortable the ride is; there's a tiny bit of tramlining over road grooves and such, but I expected some.
I put the top down for a cruise and it was pure joy. Top up, it's actually quite quiet inside -- surprisingly so.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Yup, I'm still a fan of the Camaro ZL1, even though I don't like to admit it. The car is fun, no one can deny that. And even without the convertible top, the ride is supremely comfortable -- for a 580-hp muscle car.
Last year, I drove this back-to-back with the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. Though the 'Stang was faster, this Camaro is way easier to live with on the street. Sure, I still dodged potholes whenever I could, but I didn't wince when I actually hit a few.
The ZL1-specific appearance items make this the best-looking Camaro on the market. Those monster heat extractors, fog lights, tailfin, and exhaust make this a mean mother on the streets. Add the big ol' wheels and we got a winner, even though I'd prefer to drive the hard top.
The seats are way more comfortable than they have a right to be. They don't feel expensive in any way, but they are supportive laterally and supple under the behind. Even the Mrs. commented on how comfortable they were.
The ZL1 is way more of a cruiser than a time attack machine, even though it probably would do rather well in that aspect, too. But with easy steering, confident brakes and a tossable back end, this car would be a lot of fun during the summer.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: This 2014 Chevy Camaro ZL1 convertible had a few things going against it from the start. For one, I generally don't like convertibles. Then there was the automatic transmission. And the faux-cowl-induction hood must have -- along with the rest of the body kit -- been designed by Michael Bay.
Most quibbles fade away as soon as you turn the key. The supercharged V8 is thunderous, incredible, as good as anything AMG makes. And it's not all bark, either, as the 580-hp rating makes abundantly clear.
As Wes notes, this car isn't a lightweight; you really do feel the mass moving around you through corners. The combined efforts of the traction/stability control system and those meaty rear tires struggled to keep the car pointed straight if you got a little punchy with the throttle; corners were even sketchier. But not in a bad way, necessarily -- it's a blast drive something this unhinged, you just have to remember that there ain't a V6 under that goofy hood.
My personal preferences aside, there are few shortcomings here that GM really need to address on a car that costs around $67K. Most have to do with the interior, which looks positively crappy compared to the new Corvette. And the Vette starts at $10,000 less. A piece of Alcantara stuck on the middle of the dashboard does not a luxury car make. I realize that you're buying the car for the motor, but still…
If I was doing some Camaro-hunting I'd opt for a manual-equipped coupe. But I will say that, despite the insane, premium-guzzling powerplant under the hood, it's a surprisingly easy car to live with. Of course, on the right road in the right climate, an automatic-equipped convertible could be just right.
2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible
Base Price: $63,750
As-Tested Price: $66,630
Drivetrain: 6.2-liter supercharged V8; RWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 580 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 556 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,374 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 12/18/14 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 12.8 mpg
Options: Six-speed automatic transmission ($1,185); 20-inch aluminum wheels ($900); navigation system ($795)
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