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Chevy's blown Camaro ZL1 blasts Nurburgring

Hot Nurburgring lap puts 432kW Camaro ZL1 flagship in Porsche 911 territory

7 Oct 2011

CHEVROLET’S supercharged Camaro flagship, the ZL1 due on sale in North America in the first quarter of next year, has posted an impressive lap time of 7:41:27 at the notorious Nurburgring’s Nordschleife circuit in Germany.

The time achieved by the pre-production but otherwise showroom-specification ZL1 will make Holden engineers proud, as it proves the potential of the fifth-generation Camaro’s Australian designed and engineered Zeta platform that also underpins the home-grown VE Commodore.

A sub-eight second lap time is impressive for any car capable of seating four and the ZL1’s performance puts it among some illustrious company, including the new Porsche 911 Carrera S (7:40) and Lamborghini Murcielago LP670-4 SuperVeloce (7:42).

It also trounced the Camaro SS on which it is based by almost 40 seconds, not surprising considering General Motors claims more than 30 per cent of the SS was re-engineered to create the ZL1.

With 154 bends across 20.8 kilometres, the Nordschleife is a punishing test for any car, used by most car manufacturers as a proving ground for their products.

Chief Camaro engineer Al Oppenheiser said for a car to succeed on the famed circuit, it must “do everything well – including acceleration, braking, and lateral grip”, adding the ZL1’s lap time “validates that the Camaro ZL1 will truly be track-ready from the showroom”.

137 center imageBased around a 6.2-litre LSA V8 sending a higher than expected 432kW of peak power and 754Nm of torque to the rear wheels through a beefed-up transmission, the ZL1 is named in homage to an iconic 1960s Camaro racing engine.

It also gets uprated suspension including Magnetic Ride Control, a feature already used by HSV on its Commodore-based E-Series range.

In addition, the suspension system of the ZL1 – which was unveiled at the Chicago show in February – gets repositioned rear stabiliser bars with drop links outboard of the control arms for less body roll.

To handle all the extra power and torque meted out by the force-fed engine, a stronger driveshaft, larger and stronger cast iron differential housing, stronger axles and heavy-duty limited-slip differential are used, with the V8 exhaling through a bi-modal exhaust system similar to that used on HSVs.

Although a six-speed automatic transmission option will be offered, enthusiasts will opt for the uprated, high-torque six-speed Tremec short-throw manual gearbox, which combined with a dual-mass flywheel and twin-disc clutch that eases operation and shift smoothness.

Extra stopping power is provided by six-piston, Brembo front brake callipers that clamp onto two-piece 370mm rotors, with four-piston callipers and 365mm discs out back.

The man behind the wheel when the lap time was set was Camaro Performance engineer Aaron Link, who said the Nordschleife exploits the ZL1’s full capability.

“One of the best moments is coming through ‘Fuchsröhre’, or Foxhole,” he enthused. “The ZL1 accelerates at an unbelievable rate down through the tunnel of trees, and into a sweeping left-hand corner flat out in fifth gear.”“You have to have an extremely well-mannered, confidence-inspiring car to take any corner at 160 mph (257km/h) without lifting off the throttle – and the ZL1 was just brilliant.”

As GoAuto has reported, while Holden hot shop HSV has made no commitment to – nor ruled out – using the supercharged LSA engine, itself a version of the 6.2-litre LS2 used in HSV products, much of the engineering work required to transplant the drivetrain into a Zeta chassis will already have been done on the ZL1.

Electric power steering – usually employed as a nod towards reducing emissions – reduces mechanical drag on the engine, which copes with the extra strain of supercharging with the use of premium heat-resistant aluminum-alloy cylinder heads, a lightweight reciprocating assembly, high-strength pistons and piston oil squirters.

The engine, transmission and rear differential all have their own oil coolers and the ZL1’s design include brake cooling ducts plus a high-performance fuel system designed to maintain flow under “any performance-driving condition”.

Externally the ZL1 will be available in all the standard Camaro colours but identified by a new front fascia and bonnet featuring matt-black carbon-fibre air extractors designed to generate downforce.

New 20-inch wheels show in ZL1-specific Goodyear rubber are complemented by redesigned exhaust tips ZL1 badging.

The black-only interior gets microfibre inserts for the front seats, a redesigned steering wheel, alloy pedals, head-up display with unique performance readouts and a four-dial auxiliary gauge system that includes supercharger boost readout.

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