The 2017 Camaro ZL1 Is Chevy’s Battle Horse in the Pony Car Horsepower War

The pony-car horsepower battles are getting tighter. With Chevrolet’s release of pricing and performance numbers for the 2017 Camaro ZL1, General Motors sure looks to have a beast in its lineup that will compete head-to-head with the best Chrysler and Ford have to offer.

The redesigned ZL1 represents a long stride from the previous ZL1. Maybe the year off from production was spent on an intense diet; the new chassis has shed more than 200 pounds from the 2015 ZL1. It’s not been all kale and carrots for the Camaro, though; the beefed-up, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 also picked up 70 horsepower and 94 lb.-ft. of torque to give 650 for both numbers. The end result is a half-second quicker times both from 0 to 60 (3.5 seconds) and through the quarter-mile (11.4 seconds), though Chevy has typically been conservative on their published quarter-mile times.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Since the previous ZL1 was the quickest-ever Camaro, that obviously means that the the newest iteration of the ZL1 coming during the Camaro’s 50th anniversary year now takes over the “Quickest Camaro” title. The ZL1’s pricing starts at $62,135 for the coupe and $69,135 for the convertible with the standard six-speed manual transmission with the optional 10-speed automatic will push up the price.

The ZL1’s dashing new figures put it amongst the best of Dodge and Ford in the modern horsepower wars. Although 2017 numbers haven’t been offered yet, Dodge’s 2016 Challenger SRT Hellcat starts at a near-identical $62,495 with 707 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft of torque ripping from its supercharged V8. On street tires, the Hellcat still has a slight advantage in the quarter mile with 11.2-second ET’s—Again, Chevy has been conservative with quarter-mile times—although the Camaro ZL1 is a tad quicker to 60 mph than the Hellcat’s 3.7 seconds.

Ford’s Shelby GT350R isn’t necessarily an outright competitor by the numbers for the ZL1 with its flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter V8 putting out 526 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque. That V8 propels the highly strung Mustang to 60 mph in a “glacial” 3.9 seconds and Mustang enthusiasts will point out that the Shelby has more to offer than straightline speed. With the Multimatic-built GT350R-C winning road races galore in IMSA competition, there might be something to that statement for the Mustang that starts at $63,095.

The modern ZL1 is a reincarnation of the original 1969 Camaro ZL1, a custom order-sheet exploitation by a few dealers that year that put the extremely potent version all-aluminum L88 427 cubic-inch V8 in 69 specially ordered ZL1s. Those few ZL1s—which are more or less worth a small country’s GDP—were essentially street-legal race cars that had no issue running 13-second ET’s off the dealer floor and could, with some fairly minor modifications, knock out 11-second timeslips. What’s old, then, is new again.

There are, of course, more than one way to run 11s in the quarter-mile. One need only look so far as HOT ROD Drag Week™ 2015 to see cars like Dan Smith’s all-motor 1979 Chrysler Cordoba 300 or Kevin Rolph’s original 1967 Shelby GT500—not to mention the myriad of worked-over LS engines in dozens of Drag Week™ cars—running 11-second ET’s. However, those cars don’t enjoy all of the creature comforts like air-conditioning, plush Recaro seats, and smart-phone-ready infotainment system like the new ZL1 does.

The announcement of the ZL1 also coincides with the release of information on the sixth-generation Camaro’s newest 1LE performance packages for V6 LT and V8 SS Camaros. The $6,500 V8 SS 1LE will get many of the ZL1 components, including suspension, brakes, tires, and 3.73 electronic limited-slip differential that push cornering loads to over 1.0 lateral G. The $4,500 V6 LT 1LE package gets Brembo four-piston front brake calipers, Goodyear Eagle F1 tires (245/40R20 front, 275/35R20 rear), a 3.27:1 ratio mechanical limited slip differential, Camaro SS suspension (FE3) components, and coolers for the oil, transmission, and differential.

Roadkill Fall 2016 Cover