THE SOUND OF MUSIC
2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Coupe
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Wed, Dec 31, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Zoran J. Segina
"I cannot stand that noise!"
When this is the initial comment of the intended recipient of the Christmas surprise that has been planned for months, any elf, including the one taking his wife - the Tall Girl - on the inaugural test drive has a foreboding sense of impending trouble. Because "that noise" emanates from four exhaust pipes at the end of the system which starts a few yards ahead, under the carbon-fiber-accented hood, with an Eaton supercharger feeding air into eight cylinders of a 6.2 liter LSA engine that collectively pump out close to six hundred horsepower, all belonging to one 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL 1 Coupe. The Tall Girl's suggestion that the car needs a new muffler is a tad too complicated for a holiday project, so "that noise" will unfortunately be with us through West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, along the PCH all the way past Malibu to Zuma Beach, and back.
Our story begins several months before Christmas when the Tall Girl suddenly points to a car on the street exclaiming: "I want this one!" The car is a Chevy Camaro, and the artistic soul of my beloved is drawn to its bright yellow color sparkling in the early autumn sun. Since her automotive taste generally does not include American muscle machines, I come up with a great idea - why don't I surprise her with a test drive of a Camaro we can have for several days, so she’ll have plenty of time to determine if she really likes it. While arranging for a test drive I am warned that the only vehicle available is the ZL 1 Coupe with a six-speed manual transmission. Yes, it is a high performance model, and I will have to drive her around - the Tall Girl is a firm devotee to automatic - but at least she will get a good feel of what the Camaro is all about. In retrospect, I should have sensed that things may go awry, when pretty much every male I tell about my plan seems unreasonably excited about seeing the car and hoping for a short test ride. If a Christmas surprise intended for a girl excites all the boys, my job performance as an elf may be less than satisfactory.
It takes less than the first quarter mile in the Camaro to realize that my Christmas surprise for the Tall Girl, may be a lump of coal. There is nothing wrong with the ZL 1 Coupe. In fact everything is more than right with this roaring, fire-breathing brute I just picked up, if I wanted to give my sweetie a track-ready race car with insane acceleration, six-piston Brembo performance brakes on fourteen-inch discs, body hugging Recaro bucket seats, competition suspension which redefines "stiff," twenty-inch wheels with 35 profile uni-rotational Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, and a clutch tough enough to sprain my ankle. Yup, she'll be surprised, for sure.
"I am embarrassed to be riding with people who drive this car. Do you have earplugs?" She bumped her head on the low-slung roof and has difficulty closing the door and reaching for the seat belts. "What kind of jerk would like this car?" As an automotive reviewer, the Tall Girl is a Southern California version of Jeremy Clarkson, the legendary uncompromising host of the Top Gear television show. No brand is sacred, no comment sugarcoated - the Tall Girl will let you know how she feels and what she thinks. And promptly.
So, for the next three hours this ZL 1 Coupe turns into undoubtedly the most docile version of a mechanically healthy Camaro - any Camaro - ever. To paraphrase Churchill: "Never in the automotive history has so much power been driven so slowly for so long." I don't recall if in all my years testing cars I have ever handled a high-powered machine more gingerly than during our afternoon ride. This was like the days in the racing school - except in reverse. There, I was taught to keep the engine revs high to extract maximum performance. Here, the engine revs had to remain low to keep the noise level within the non-complaining range of my passenger.
I dare you to keep the four-thousand pound car - powered by a 6.2 liter supercharged V8 engine - moving around without exceeding 1500 RPM on the tachometer. I worked the clutch incessantly, skipped gears, cruised at thirty miles per hour in fifth, rolled over speed bumps as though we carried a basket of eggs, and avoided anything that resembled acceleration.
The verdict: the afternoon ride is a success. The Tall Girl does not complain about the noise and likes the seats but for the lack of adjustable head rest. Note to Recaro - consider this a great compliment, and provide a small pillow with your racing seats. In the next few days she is even asking for romantic scenic rides up and down the coast under the same rules of engagement.
At other times and with other passengers, the ZL 1 Coupe lives to the full potential of its competition-bred architecture. The accelerations are insane, which is to be expected in the muscle car, but what comes afterward is even more impressive. The twenty inch tires are nearly impossible to dislodge no matter the corner speed. Steering is precise and handling crisp. And the brakes - these glorious six-caliper Italian masterpieces. Step on the pedal hard and your internal organs continue to move forward long after the seat belts gripped your chest, as the ZL 1 has just dissipated fifty miles of speed in a handful of yards. The most awe-inspiring part about the ZL 1 Coupe is the complete absence of compromise in its creation and engineering. How many American manufactured cars start as a great idea only to be diluted to mediocrity once corporate bean counters begin to meddle in the process? This Camaro will have none of it. The suspension is too harsh? Get yourself a base model. Fuel consumption triggering gas guzzler tax? Have you thought about Chevy Volt? Front end scraping the driveway? Perhaps the Malibu sedan may be an answer.
To a true aficionado the ZL 1 Coupe promotional material requires but a simple entry: "Nordschleife,7:41.27, Oct. 2011, Prod. 2012, A. Link." Translation: In October 2011, the engineers took a 2012 production model of the ZL 1 Coupe to the Nürburgring racing facility in Germany, and with the GM test driver Aaron Link behind the wheel, the car covered the 12.8 mile Northern Loop - a 1927 track as legendary as it is deadly - in less than eight minutes. Average speed for a four-thousand pound car - hundred miles per hour.
Even though street legal, the ZL 1 Coupe should not be entrusted to a novice driver. There is simply too much power and torque to be fully tamed by the traction control. In full acceleration the rear of the car staggers, and overly fast entry into a corner ultimately sends the tail away. Without proper experience, and a healthy dose of common sense, a gift wrapped under a Christmas tree may end up in a sentence with "wrapped" and "tree" in much more perilous connotation.
How does the ZL 1 Coupe look? Sinister, to quote my friend Geoff. Aggressively angled aerodynamic nose is underlined by black front spoiler which slithers along the bottom of the car ending in a version of the rear bumper with four polished steel exhaust barrels - the side of the ZL 1 Coupe people will see the most. A carbon fiber accented hood scoop (to house the supercharger) extends the menacing concept through a steeply raked windshield and small side windows. The profile look is completely subsumed to angular wheel wells on steroids to accommodate twenty-inch low profile tires on five-spoke black wheels. The competition-inspired taut interior needs a laconic description: it has gauges for oil temperature and pressure, the supercharger boost, and the lateral g-force indicator on the heads-up display.
The ZL 1 Coupe is a creator of stories. In the past few days it has already created a dozen of vignettes: Mary’s roaring laughter at the van driver who cuts in front of us at the freeway exit with yards to spare, and then pulls aside, prompting Robert to quip: "The guy stopped to change his underwear." Or the one about my boss who declines the ride, and then silently comments on my driving skills by stepping behind a three-foot-thick concrete post as I pull from the underground parking. Or a Belgian lady, who, after a Christmas Eve dinner at our house, gets behind the wheel, fires the engine, moves the ZL 1 fifteen yards forward, and the next morning sends an e-mail thanking us profusely for the "test drive."
Episodes like these will ultimately weave the fabric of remembrances about the good times we had enjoying the car; they will be shared among friends long after the ZL 1 Coupe goes back to the press fleet. Great cars create great memories, and if my too short of a week is any indication, the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL 1 Coupe's diary promises to be an interesting read.
For more information about Chevrolet products, go to www.chevrolet.com
Name of vehicle:
2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL 1 Coupe
$61,240.00 (as tested)
EPA fuel economy estimates:
14 city/19 highway (miles per gallon)
LA Car observed: 12.1 mpg
6.2-liter, V8, supercharged LSA gasoline engine
580 @ 6000 rpm
556 @ 4200 rpm
Front-engine, rear-wheel drive with limited slip differential
Six speed TREMEC TR 660 manual transmission
Electric Power Steering (EPS) with variable ratio; variable effort, rack-and-pinion
Front: double ball joint, multi link strut; direct acting stabilizer bar; progressive rate coil springs; with magnetic ride control
Rear: 4.5 link independent; progressive rate coil springs over shocks; stabilizer bar; with magnetic ride control
Four wheel disc with ABS; ventilated two-piece front and one-piece rear rotors; six piston fixed Brembo aluminum calipers front; four piston fixed Brembo aluminum calipers rear
Wheels and tires
Front: 20x10 inch with 285/35 ZR 20 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 tires.
Rear: 20x11 inch 20x10 inch with 305/35 ZR 20 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 tires.
Weight: 4120 pounds