The all-new Chevrolet Camaro arrived four years ago, re-introducing the famous muscle car that Chevy had discontinued in 2002.Now, for 2014, Chevrolet has updated the Camaro – which comes in coupe and convertible models – and has brought back a Z/28 coupe version, intended for those who want a superb track-capable vehicle.Available early next spring, it will come with a 7.0-liter V-8 with about 500 horsepower, connected only to a six-speed manual transmission; no automatic will be offered. And, as racers usually leave their windows open, air conditioning will be optional.As for the rest of the line, the 2014 Camaro features a revised exterior that “integrates high-performance aerodynamics for more efficient cooling and stability at high speeds,” Chevrolet says.Last year, Chevy added the ultra-high-performance ZL1 coupe and convertible, with a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine rated at 580 horsepower and 556 foot-pounds of torque. For 2014, the base Camaro now gets 323 horsepower from its V-6 engine, up from 312. There also is a V-8 powered SS (SuperSport) model, with either 400 horsepower (with automatic transmission) or 426 horsepower (with manual), unchanged from 2013.Besides the ZL1 and Z/28, five trim levels are available – base LS, 1LT, 2LT, 1SS and 2SS, all in either coupe or convertible form.Prices for 2014 range from about $23,400-$59,600; the high-end price is the ZL1. Prices for the Z/28 have not been announced yet.I haven’t been given the opportunity to drive the Z/28 yet, but I have tested the ZL1 both on the road and the track.The coolest thing about the ZL1 is that it comes out of the box ready for use as a daily driver or a fun toy at the track – no modifications or options are required to get it ready for the track.Even the warranty remains in effect while the 580-horsepower ZL1 is on the track, as long as it’s not entered into a sanctioned race of some sort – then you would be on your own.This is the best-performing stock Camaro ever, with zero-60 mph times of 4.0 seconds with the standard six-speed Tremec manual gearbox, or just 3.9 seconds with the optional six-speed automatic.Top speed with the automatic is 184 mpg, and 180 mph with the manual. The car can cover a quarter-mile in 12 seconds with the automatic, or 12.1 with the manual, and achieve 119 mph in that time.The automatic transmission costs an additional $1,185. Other options are 20-inch bright-aluminum wheels ($470), a power sunroof ($900), an exterior striping package ($470), an exposed-weave carbon-fiber hood insert ($600); and a suede interior trim package ($500), which includes suede microfiber accents on the steering wheel, shift knob and shift boot.There also is a federal gas-guzzler tax of $1,300 on the car.At 580, the ZL1 has more horsepower than the $196,800 Audi R8 GT (560 horsepower), the $122,800 Maserati GranTurismo (405), and the $185,750 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (565), which GM suggests are competing vehicles.The all-aluminum, small-block engine is a variation of the 638-horsepower LS9 V-8 that powers the 2013 Corvette ZR1, which has 604 foot-pounds of torque. That car costs $112,578, goes from zero-60 mph in 3.4 seconds, and has a top speed of 205 mph. It doesn’t have a back seat, though, as the Camaro does.The Camaro ZL1’s interior has leather seats with suede microfiber inserts. The heated front bucket seats are power-adjustable. Other standard features include a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics audio system; USB and Bluetooth connectivity; and rear-park assist with a rearview camera display that shows up in the rearview mirror.The engine is essentially the same as the one GM uses in the three Cadillac CTS-V models (sedan, coupe and wagon), but changes have been made to give it more horsepower, including revised intakes and better cooling. The CTS-V is rated at 556 horsepower and 556 foot-pounds of torque.There are standard chassis and traction features designed to make the ZL1 suitable for the track or drag strip, but GM also is touting it as a good daily driver. That is, if you don’t mind the poor fuel economy. EPA ratings are 12 mpg city/18 highway with the six-speed automatic transmission, and 14/19 with the six-speed manual.It has an engine oil cooler identical to the one on the ZR1; a rear-differential cooler, which pumps transmission fluid to a heat exchanger; and a high-performance fuel system with multiple pickups in the tank to ensure a steady flow of gasoline to the engine even during high-speed cornering.Special ducts direct airflow to the brakes to help keep them cool during performance driving.Handling is greatly enhanced by GM’s third-generation Magnetic Ride Control, which can adjust suspension damping 1,000 times a second. Three settings are provided: Tour, Sport, and Track.There is a new electric power-steering system, which adds two or three horsepower; a dual-mode exhaust system with four outlets, borrowed from the Corvette; and heavy-duty disc brakes (developed with help from Brembo) that have 14.6-inch, two-piece front rotors with six-piston calipers, and 14.4-inch rear rotors with four-piston calipers.The 20-inch wheels are lighter than the ones on the Camaro SS model, and they come with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires developed just for the ZL1.Other interior features include a special steering wheel that is flat at the bottom; alloy pedals; a head-up display that projects the speed and other information onto the bottom of the windshield; and a “four-pack” of gauges.There is seating for up to four people, although legroom in the rear is limited.All of the regular Camaro exterior colors are available for the ZL1, but the only interior color is black.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2000. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.