Super Camaro: ZL1 rated 580 horsepower

Super Camaro

The Camaro has straight-line speed and cornering finesse with some technologies borrowed from the Corvette ZR1 and the third generation of Magnetic Ride Control.

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be the most-powerful production Camaro ever, when it goes on sale in early 2012.

Promoted as a “track-ready” car, the ZL1 is rated for 580 horsepower and 556 foot-pounds of torque from its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. And unlike some of the pony-car competition, this super Camaro will be available with an optional six-speed automatic transmission or standard six-speed manual.

And, yes, this repeat of the ZL1 nameplate beats the special-order, 1969 Camaro ZL1 427 cubic-inch big block by more than 150 horsepower. And, fortunately, the modern Camaro has a five-year / 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Pricing has not been released, but if some versions of the Camaro SS can run to $45,000, expect the ZL1 to start at or above $50,000.

Among the standard equipment are a five-mode Performance Traction Management system, a high-performance fuel system and fortified clutches and transmissions. The Super Camaro also borrows some technologies from the Corvette ZR1 and debuts the third generation of Magnetic Ride Control.

“The Camaro ZL1 delivers supercar performance and technology in the sports-car segment,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer, said in a release. “For sheer power, the ZL1 delivers more horsepower than a Ferrari 458, more torque than an Aston Martin DB9 V12, and a better power-to-weight ratio than a Porsche 911 Carrera GTS.”

In comparison, the Ford Mustang Shelby GTR500 has power ratings of 550-hp and 510 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm from its supercharged 5.4-liter V-8, which requires premium fuel. Its only transmission is a six-speed manual. The Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 has 470-hp and 470 lb.-ft. torque at 4,200 rpm from its naturally aspirated (non-“charged”) 6.4-liter pushrod V-8. Premium fuel is recommended, not required. Challenger has six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

Reinforcements were applied to the ZL1 in key areas. Its aluminum LSA V-8 uses six-bolt main bearing caps that clamp and lock in the forged steel crankshaft. The 1.9-liter Roots-style blower has a four-lobe rotor set and intercooler to funnel boosted air into high-flow cylinder heads.

More air into the engine means more power out and the LSA engine has a lower-restriction air filter, dual inlet paths and improved airflow through the supercharger housing. Other changes include a higher-efficiency supercharger intercooler and electric power steering system, which takes away less engine power than hydraulic-steering systems.

The Tremec TR-6060 “MG9” manual transmission has been fortified by 30 percent to handle the torque, which is 136  lb.-ft. to 146 lb.-ft. more than the Camaro SS. The uprated transmission has a strengthened output shaft, high-strength rear housing, and additional roller bearing. There also are a dual-mass flywheel, twin-disc clutch and triple synchros for smooth engagement and precise shifts.

The Hydra-Matic 6L90 automatic also has been beefed up and has performance modes of Drive (with second-gear starts), Sport and Manual.

About Mark Maynard

Mark Maynard has been the automotive editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune since 1992.

He drives nearly 200 vehicles a year for review, has attended several high-performance driving schools and a few off-road driving courses.

He attends many new-vehicle press introductions and schmoozes with auto-industry execs.

Mark Maynard