Car reviews - Chevrolet - Camaro - range
ZL1’s epic performance, 2SS’ intoxicating exhaust note, brilliantly calibrated new automatic, manual lives on, 2SS’ fun factor, excellent body control, smart rearview camera mirror
Room for improvement
2SS’ MY20 front fascia can’t come soon enough, awkward placement of central cupholders, ZL1’s overwhelming supercharger whine, ZL1’s constant traction issues, heavy steering
HSV makes dreams come true with remanufactured Camaro ZL1 – and facelifted 2SS
7 Jun 2019
IT’S a sight for sore eyes, but Chevrolet’s almighty Camaro ZL1 is finally here. Of course, you can direct thanks to Holden Special Vehicles (HSV), who locally remanufactures the American muscle car from left- to right-hand drive.
Just like it did with the MY18 Camaro 2SS, HSV aimed to retain the integrity of ZL1 in the remanufacturing process, which is no easy feat. And with the result being a 477kW/881Nm tyre-shredder, it certainly looks promising on paper.
So, does ZL1 live up to the hype – and its massive pricetag? And does 2SS MY19 facelift improve the entry-level breed? We had the envious task of putting the pair through their paces at Sandown Raceway in Victoria to find out.
You only need to take one look at the Camaro ZL1 to realise that someone or something has upset it. This is a muscle car that looks angry… really, really angry.
Look past its gaping mouth and into its engine bay and you will find a 6.2-litre supercharged LT4 V8 with petrol running through its proverbial veins.
While its outputs astound on paper, they do not prepare you for how 477kW of power at 6400rpm and 881Nm of torque at 3600rpm feel in reality.
Needless to say, straight-line performance is truly epic – if you can maintain traction, which was almost impossible in the wet conditions we drove ZL1 in, even with launch control on.
You’d think full throttle is possible in fourth gear without the rear wheels spinning out of sync, but ZL1 constantly makes a mockery of your hopefulness.
The almighty ZL1 makes 2SS and its naturally aspirated LT1 engine feel a little vanilla, right? Not quite. With outputs of 339kW at 6000rpm and 617Nm at 4400rpm, it’s no slouch.
Straight-line performance is great in its own right and traction isn’t broken with the same frequency as its big brother, so that’s a big plus.
In fact, we’d argue that 2SS sounds a hell of a lot better than ZL1, which sound impressive from the outside but is dominated by the high-pitched whine of its supercharger inside.
Either way, the V8 soundtrack that the former produces from its bi-model exhaust system is much more in keeping with the character of an American muscle car.
Also key to Camaro’s success is its transmissions, with our short stint in ZL1’s standard six-speed manual making us thankful that such a thing still exists.
There is no doubt that driver involvement is heightened when swapping gears by yourself. Thankfully, this clutch pedal is on the lighter side for a GM product, although its release point is perhaps a little too high.
Simply put, the three-pedal set-up is a joy, especially with its rev-matching functionality that caters for drivers who are not across heel-and-toe shifting.
That said, the manual isn’t the best transmission that Camaro has. That honour goes to the 10-speed torque-converter automatic transmission that was co-developed with Ford Motor Company of all manufacturers.
Unlike in Mustang, where it is far too fussy with its choice of gear, Chevrolet has nailed the calibration in Camaro, with it more than happy to go hell for leather at a moment’s notice.
With the Track driving mode engaged, upshifts are lightning quick as the engine’s redline is reach before the next cog is selected. Downshifts are just as brilliant when it comes to timing.
So, can Camaro go around corners? You bet. It exhibits great body control but requires a bit of finesse to become a point-and-shoot weapon when grip levels are low, especially when it comes to ZL1.
Comparatively, 2SS is much more playful in nature as you don’t need to operate on the knife’s edge that ZL1 forces you to, as one poorly timed throttle application will send you into a spin.
If you do feel like you’re about to get yourself into trouble, Brembo brakes will come to the rescue. In particular, ZL1’s front discs are massive, at 390mm, and are clamped by equally impressive six-piston callipers. Need to wash away speed quickly? Just stomp on that pedal.
Steering-wise, Camaro is both good and bad, with the extra weight added in the Track driving mode improving high-speed stability but hindering ease of use. At least feedback via the wheel is strong.
And we’re not going to make a call yet on ZL1’s ride comfort, as circuits are not indicative of public roads, even if Sandown Raceway’s patchwork surface is anything but smooth. The flagships magnetic dampers do hold promise, though.
Speaking of comfort, Camaro’s cabin is headlined by supportive seats and a great driving position. It’s just a shame that its glasshouse is on the smaller side, comprising all-round visibility.
But Chevrolet has sought to address this for MY19, adding a rearview camera that can switch between a traditional mirror and live video at the push of a button, making rearward visibility as good as ever.
The technology upgrades also extend to the touchscreen that is now an inch larger, at 8.0 inches, but is still on an acute angle!? At least it is powered by a new infotainment system that is a big step up in terms of graphics and functionality.
Otherwise, compared to the MY18 range, it’s business as usual for the MY19 line-up … but it would be remiss of us not to address the elephant in the room: 2SS’ new front fascia.
As always, styling is subjective, but we can’t help but feel that Chevrolet went ahead and ruined a good-looking muscle car when it facelifted 2SS.
The only way to avoid its front end is to opt for black paintwork that conceals it. Either that or wait for the MY20 2SS that is about six to 12 months away.
Yes, even Chevrolet knows it stuffed up, having already moved its Bowtie badge back to where it belongs and selecting body colour for the central bar to break up all that black.
As far as HSV’s role in remanufacturing Camaro goes, it has done another stellar job, but there are still some areas for improvement. Namely, the central cupholders and storage bin need to swap sides as the driver currently only has one armrest (on the door).
And extra props to the HSV engineer that managed to successfully repackage Camaro’s tricky windshield-projected head-up display for right-hand drive in time for the MY19 program.
Our conclusion? ZL1 is an intoxicating assault on the senses, but it’s not the Camaro we keep wanting to drive time and time again. That honour, of course, goes to 2SS.
And given ZL1 starts from $159,990 plus on-road costs – about $75,000 more than 2SS – we’d save the money and go for the entry-level Camaro if we had to choose.
However, the question remains: is the Camaro 2SS more than $20,000 better than Ford’s Mustang GT? We still don’t think so, but that doesn’t stop it from being a really good thing.
Model release date: 1 April 2019
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