To give us some drag racing...
To give us some drag racing tips, and point out how awful we really are at drag racing when compared to the pros, Chevrolet Performance invited legendary driver, and two-time world champion, Frank Hawley, to the party. Hawley also has a drag racing school where some of the top names in drag racing have learned to dance down the 1320. In the morning, before it got too hot, Hawley took one of the automatic-equipped ZL1s and knocked down a solid 12.1 at 116-mph run.
We learned that the Camaro is very civilized for a blown, 580hp car designed to hang with exotic fare around world-class road courses. Well, at least until the throttle was mashed. The adaptive mufflers gave just the right amount of engine growl at just the right moment with zero drone when cruising down the highway, and the twin-disc clutch was effortless to shift. The frustrating understeer we had experienced in a stock ’10 SS seemed to be only a frustrating memory as the ZL1 felt very balanced and far more neutral. The newfound agility, along with the extra power from the LSA engine, helped make the ZL1 seem much lighter than a 4,000-pound car should be expected to feel. As Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer, told us, “We set out to make the Camaro ZL1 a performance car that is great at everything, including road racing, drag racing, and daily commuting. I cannot think of many cars that are capable of running 11-second quarter-mile runs, can set a 7-minute lap at the Nürburgring, and still be comfortable enough to drive to work every day.”
In regards to styling, the ZL1 is a slam dunk. The stance, the wheels, and the aero package give the ZL1 a very aggressive look that almost makes the SS seem pedestrian. Unlike many competitors’ offerings, the vents, splitters, and ducts on the ZL1 are actually functional and not just stuck on so the driver can pretend he’s piloting a track-ready ride.
As Al Oppenheiser, Camaro...
As Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer, told us, “We did extensive testing with Goodyear to optimize the tires for the road track, but through the use of sidewall stiffness changes, groove development, compound selection, and footprint shape, these tires perform nearly as good as drag radials. How do we know? Our development engineers ran drag radials over and over again to tune in the Chassis Controls for Performance Launch Control, and ran sub 12-second times during internal testing on the Goodyears. There may have even been a run that lifted the front tire off the ground, but you didn’t hear that from me ... OK, you did.” Recently, Chevrolet Performance engineers clocked off an official 11.93 at 116 mph in a bone-stock automatic ZL1.
On the dragstrip we were presented with a mix of manual- and automatic-equipped cars. Now, launching a manual-equipped car can be a bit of a challenge, but thanks to the Launch Control, it was a snap. The only Launch Control for the automatic was the gray matter between our ears, but once launched, the shifts were quick, firm, and well timed. Of course, with 30 guys jockeying to drive only four ZL1s, the big problem was hot-lap induced heat soak. This was made even worse by the 94-degree temps and high humidity. Still, it was a great way to get a feel for how the ZL1 performed. Besides, complaining about the weather when given the chance to beat on The General’s newest super Camaro would be like complaining about a slightly overcooked steak on your dinner date with your favorite supermodel.
In the automatic-equipped...
In the automatic-equipped ZL1, even with VHT, it was pretty easy to over throttle during the launch and blow the tires into wafting clouds of e.t. killing smoke. But, after a bit of practice, we got the hang of it, well mostly. With a best 60-foot of 2.322 seconds we only managed a 13.082 at 112.66 mph. Blame the heat, the back-to-back-to-back runs, or an over-zealous right foot. Personally, we can’t wait to head back to the track on a nice cool day and once again try out the baddest Camaro ever fielded by The General.
Launching the automatic ZL1...
Launching the automatic ZL1 is done the old-fashioned way through throttle manipulation. As Doran relayed, “The PTM mode doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t have launch control. But, the trans should be in ‘M’, which engages the Sport shift pattern; including First gear starts (with traction control turned all the way off). If you just leave it in ‘D’, the drive mode includes a Second gear start for fuel economy, good for public roadways, bad for e.t.’s.” Even though the trans is in “M” the car will automatically shift its way down the quarter-mile, unless you accidentally hit one of the paddles on the steering wheel, which would put the trans into a “true manual” mode.