Tame enough for the street?

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Review

2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Review
The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is all about numbers bestowed upon it by an engineering team concerned with your bragging rights. Namely, you get a 6.2L “LSA” V8 good for 580 horses and the better part of 560 lb-ft of torque. That’s thanks, in part, to a belt-driven Eaton supercharger the size of a toaster oven.

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Some serious output
Owning a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is sort of like owning a bazooka. Both use combustion to propel metal quickly through the air, and can be dangerous to operate. Neither are useful, but, man oh man, if you had a bazooka, you just know some cool stuff would happen.

So, the 2013 Camaro ZL1 has a whole lot of power. Enough to, say, put you sideways through an intersection if you (theoretically) dropped your right foot to clear a (theoretical) yellow traffic light on a mid-fall morning while the road’s surface was a bit on the cold side. Did I mention the ZL1’s traction control is a bit on the “relaxed” side?

Tame, as needed
On the one hand, the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 can be remarkably tame and uneventful. Clutch take-up is firm and easy, if a little heavy. You could take off in fourth in the Camaro ZL1, if you wanted. You can even get an automatic transmission (don’t). The engine makes scarcely more than a muted, crackling burble when driven gently through traffic. Gears shift easily and with minimal effort.

When driving the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 gently, the tremendous amount of unused power translates into a sheer sense of effortlessness and unused awesomeness. Driving the ZL1 modestly is like going to Barberian’s Steakhouse and having a salad.

It’s easygoing on board, too. Terrible outward visibility and cheap trim aside, there’s decent at-hand storage in the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, a very modern touchscreen radio, a great stereo, and fairly logical control layout.

The big, comfortable seats are superb, even for very large folks. You can relax in here, even if you’re north of 300 and afraid of celery. The ZL1 even rides nicely, thanks to a fantastically tuned Magnetic Ride Control suspension system borrowed from the Corvette.

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 front view
Owning a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is sort of like owning a bazooka. (Photo: Justin Pritchard)

Lurking performance
However, those 580 horses are always there; as is the handling tuned to benchmark the Corvette Grand Sport. And the fact that available performance figures will embarrass AMGs and Porsches costing numerous times as much.

And the 2013 Camaro ZL1 always tells you that (while you’re behaving yourself) you’re wasting its potential.

The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 fires up with a nearly distasteful belch. You can hear the gears engaging and the rear differential whining. Ditto for the pebbles and sand as it's flung from gummy-bear-sticky tires against the wheel wells. Should a bump in the road cause a sudden poke on the throttle, the Camaro ZL1 leaps forward as if it’s been rear-ended by a rhinoceros.

Translation? The 2013 Camarao ZL1 can play nice -- but it never really lets you forget that it’s ready to go. It’s always inviting you to open it up.

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 engine
The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 fires up with a nearly distasteful belch. (Photo: Justin Pritchard)

Careful….
Accept the invitation by hammering down in first on some bare, warm pavement, and it lurches ahead in a startlingly way as if it’s had a cattle prod shoved into its backside. Usually, there’s no squirming or sliding, just traction, grip, a massive increase in speed, and NASCAR sound effects pumped thickly into the cabin.

Get to banging some gears in the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and mere seconds separate you from “step out of the car please” territory should you wind up on the wrong end of a radar gun.

Mind you, massive Brembo brakes make decelerating just as instantaneous and abrupt in the Camaro ZL1 as getting up to speed. A good stab on the middle pedal will get you out of demerit-point territory in quick order when the radar detector goes off. Steering, handling, grip and even high-speed brake-system durability are all right there, too.

Too Much
Unmistakably, this is a car with performance far exceeding what any driver needs on a public road. Realistically, on said public roads, you can drive the bejesus out of the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in brief, carefully dosed chunks when nobody’s looking. The rest of the time, you enjoy the looks and noises, and the flocks of nearby youngsters loudly demanding to see a burnout or hear the supercharger.

The 2013 Camaro ZL1, like the even more powerful and license-threatening new Mustang Shelby GT500, demands massive respect. And forget that the Chevrolet doesn’t smash the 600-horsepower mark, because anything beyond about 500 ponies on the road is way too much, anyhow. For both Chevrolet and Ford, the power alone is going to sell a lot of units.

Is the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 an insane thing to drive? Is it unmanageable? Scary? Menacing? Will it get your driver’s license shredded by an angry radar-cop with a thick moustache and set of Ray-Bans? That’s largely up to the communication between your right foot and the warm, grey mass between your ears.

By Justin Pritchard,

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