…go crazy or go home, that must have been the ethos of Oppenheiser and his team when they developed the aforementioned car, surely only a mad man could conceive such a machine for public consumption. See, the Camaro has always played 2nd fiddle to the Corvette (often described as the car for the guy who has a Corvette and just had some kids, but this time wants to stay with the kids, basically a Corvette with back seats) and its performance has never been allowed to trump the Corvette’s but it appears times have changed.
The Mustang Factor
The natural and market competitor to the Camaro is the Mustang and in the Ford lineup, the Mustang is the king of the hill, there is no internal big brother to stifle its development so Ford engineers are free to push the Mustang’s performance as far as they can, to the point that current Shelby Mustangs GT350R’s actually outperform the base Corvettes with the Z51 performance package, so if the Camaro is to compete, the Corvette team better raise their game or get out of the Camaro’s way, appears they have chosen the latter, how else to explain a Camaro that is better at the track than every Corvette ever made (sure the king of the Hill, limited production Corvette ZR1 with the ZTK package is quicker in the hands of a professional racing driver, but its not better, revisit the blog post on the 5 greatest cars ever made to see why quicker does not = better).
What. The. Hell.
Lets think about this for a second and put everything in perspective, as of this writing, the Camaro ZL1 1LE, is more powerful and quicker around a track than anything ever created from BMW, Acura, Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Subaru, Mazda, Nissan, Infiniti, Lotus, Audi, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Tesla and Aston Martin and yeah its also quicker than every Mustang ever made. Even in the lineup of the manufacturers not mentioned (Ferrari, McLaren, Porsche, Lamborghini) only their top of the top of the top of the line model is quicker. Lamborgini!!!, the purveyor of 50+ years of irrational, crazy, impractical cars only has 1 model in its entire history and line up that’s quicker, just 1!!! …that’s nuts. And of the cars that are quicker (which you can count on one hand), you will never see one on the road, that’s how limited the production runs were. Now that i think about it, i have only seen 1 other ZL1 1LE out on the road before (the driver rolled up next to me on the freeway, looked over and made eye contact, he had a serious look on his face and nodded at me once in acknowledgement, i had a stupid grin and gave him a thumbs up, and he promptly hit the accelerator resulting in a startling sonic boom from the exhaust and disappeared down the road) and with only 35 currently available for sale in the country, chances are i probably will not see one again.
How did we get here?
- Take GM’s Alpha platform, composed mostly of high strength steel and aluminium, it was designed to be lighter and stronger than their European competitors, BMW, Mercedes, etc and use it to underpin the new Camaros, the platform weighs some 200lbs lighter than the out going model.
- Now for Zl1 1LE use, widen it about 2 inches in the front and back.
- Cherry pick the crazy 650 HP engine and the cutting edge electronic differential from the most powerful Corvette and drop it in.
- Have Goodyear specially develop soft and sticky track focused tires (never-mind that they last only 7,000 miles and turn to coal in freezing temperatures) with a width of 305mm front (making them the widest tires ever fitted to the front of a production car) and the rears even wider at 325mm.
- To save more weight use glass that is a few mm thinner than the regular Camaros, remove the mechanism that makes the rears seats fold, used forged lightweight wheels and replace the aluminium hood with even lighter and stronger (and more exotic) carbon fiber.
- Now pass the car on to Pratt and Miller engineering (the company that develops the championship winning Corvette race cars) so they can put it in a Formula 1 wind tunnel (Formula 1 is the pinnacle of Motorsports and technology used on those cars trickle down to road cars 10-15 years from now) and add fully functional aerodynamic elements (front splitters, canards and a rear spoiler) that taken together generate 300lbs of downforce at 150mph. To put that in perspective, planes take off at 150mph using air pressure from the wings to lift them off the ground, so this is doing the opposite…yeah, serious race car stuff.
- Finally take the cutting edge Magnetorheological (yeah, i cant pronounce it either) suspension used on the king of the hill Corvette ZR1 that adjusts thousands of times per second to road conditions and softens and hardens at the push of a button (also used under license from GM by Ferrari and other manufacturers) and also used on the Camaro ZL1 and …throw it away for ZL1 1LE purposes. Wait, what?? why would they throw it out!… read on.
“Like a race car for the road”, would be an understatement
The suspension of road cars are all about compromise, stiff enough to promote good handling while soft enough for a comfortable ride and the greatest modern invention in suspensions are the Magnetorheological ones that can harden and soften at the push of a button, but, they are still too compromised for Zl1 1LE purposes (the very same suspension used on the fastest and most powerful Corvette ever made is too soft for the ZL1 1LE, think about that for a second), hence the Multimatic DSSV suspension used. These are honest to goodness, the exact same suspension used on championship winning Formula 1 Race cars , not “like” or “similar to” exact. same. suspension, period. Only about 4 or 5 other road cars have used such a suspension setup, the Aston Martin one-77 (only 77 were built), Mercedes AMG Project one (only about 150 will be built, and its not even out yet) and the Pagani Huayra (< 150 were built) just to name a few. These are no compromise suspensions that are designed specifically for the car its being used on and for absolute maximum track performance, comfort be damned. While road cars have suspension bushings usually made of rubber, to isolate the cabin from the road, most track cars have the bushings made from a harder, plastic like polyurethane material for less give and more precise handling (with a harsher ride being the trade off) the DSSV suspension on the ZL1 1LE has none…no bushings, the suspensions are directly bolted to the chassis, no give, no slack, no compromises, no BS, you can run over a bug and tell how many legs it had. What you get in return is incredibly precise and sharp steering and braking, no body roll when going round corners at 1.2gs, basically the tire sidewall becomes your suspension, exactly like in F1 race cars, also your neck turns to linguine when going round corners at full tilt.
what are other people saying about this car
Road and track declared it “The greatest track car GM has ever built” and also went on to state “this is not a car for stupid people. This is a precision tool for drivers with the experience to handle substantial amounts of power and grip wisely.”
Caranddriver – “Chevy cut no corners with the ZL1 1LE, but it surely climbed plenty of curbs”. On a race track the quickest lap times are usually obtained by pushing the limits of the track, which means placing half of the car on the curbs around some of the corners (half because if all 4 wheels go on the curb your time is disqualified and yes the curbs on race tracks are a lot smaller than on public roads), hence the last part of their sentence “climbed plenty of curbs”.
Motortrend – after having their pro racing driving set a hot lap at the laguna Seca racetrack, they declared “the 1LE’s time of 1:34.30 is not just quick for a Camaro, its quick for a supercar” (supercar is a term used to generalize Ferraris, Lamboghinis and Mclarens) “that time is better than any Mclaren we have ever tested at Laguna Seca save for the Million dollar P1”. And the racing driver added “its not a light car, but it handles like one”
Top Gear – Even the Europeans were enamored, in a comparison against other extreme machines like the Corvette ZR1, and the 797HP Hellcat Redeye, they declared it the winner stating “the only one i can imagine using in Europe and working for me is this one, the ZedL1 1LE, it is amazing on track and to be mentioned in the same breath as the 911GT3RS” (a top of the top of the line Porsche) “and that is not an overstatement”
And Savage Geese, an online publication that does incredibly detailed and in-depth review of cars stated – “this competes with supercars and that is not even a question, nobody is going to argue that” before going on to say “the biggest con overall is that this car is so overkill even for those that are planning to track it, its just so over capable and so overkill for anybody on normal roads that i almost dont get it”
The most common side effects of the Zl1 1LE may include neck pain, back pain, blurry vision, headaches, nausea, toothache and divorce, so ask your doctor if a ZL1 1LE is right for you. Even if you are a healthy young man (or woman), i would still recommend waiting at least 30 minutes after eating before driving.
A common theme in every single review of the ZL1 1LE is that the ride is too stiff and too harsh for everyday driving, after spending some time in it i say, nonsense!, the ride is perfect, the suspension is perfect. I was driving a friend to Costco the other day and halfway through our trip, he looked at me and declared “this car is bumpy!” to which i looked at him perplexed and replied “yeah?!, of-course, oh you thought “exactly like a race car” was an exaggeration?”. Perhaps i am a performance extremist and as such, i am grateful that a car exists for people like me ( i am clearly in the minority). Everybody is different and despite all you read and watch you might not know if this is the right car for you until you try it, at which point you either hate it or just had a revelation and the world has forever changed. Actually, given the limited availability and extreme nature of the car, dealers don’t allow test drives, so yeah, getting one will be a leap of faith unless you are fortunate to know someone with one.
That’s it everyone, you can go home now, the performance of the ZL1 1LE will not be bettered. If you think a Corvette, most Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris are too soft and want devil may care, no compromises, absolute maximum performance, this is the car for you.
Q and A (of most popular questions)
300LBS of downforce at 150mph? when are you ever going to go that fast? – First of all the car accelerates from a dead stop to 150mph in 18.4 seconds, to put that in perspective the fastest most powerful Tesla does the same in 19.6 seconds, so yeah 150mph will happen, preferably on a race track
-Second – 300lbs is the maximum down force achieved, at 60mph on the freeway it is still generating something, probably about 100lbs, which gives it incredible stability, makes normal cars feel downright dangerous once you experience that stability.
What is the gas mileage?
🤨…if you have to ask, this is not the car for you. But if you must know the best i have seen is 22mpg on the freeway and 19mpg around town so not a big spread like normal cars
will girls like me if i drive this car?
Probably not, the young male demographic will give you the occasional thumbs up, but i have seen mothers cover the eyes of their young sons to prevent them from looking while driving by, they still turn their heads and peek though. If you want attention (and there is nothing wrong with that, to each their own) get the Corvette.
i heard the same engine in the corvette has overheating issues, what about this?
Ironically, no issues here as the Camaro has much bigger front openings to stuff more radiators and allow more airflow, the Corvette’s front is pinched to a narrower opening, looks cooler but hence the cooling issues
what about the wheels? will they crack on me like the high end Corvettes?
These also use lightweight forged aluminium wheels like the high-end corvettes, but unlike them the tires here have thicker sidewalls (race cars actually have thick side-walled tires as they generate a lot more grip) so the wheels are better protected, and while the Corvette uses run flat tires that have really hard sidewalls to support the weight of the car in case of a flat, these do not, they have much softer and pliable sidewalls, again generates more grip and provides better protection for the wheel, they might not look as cool but this car is all about function over fashion.