Just from looking at it, one can tell that the new Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) Camaro Z/28 is a different breed of car. The aero-oriented components, lower stance, and big wheels help set the Camaro apart from the rest of Chevy and General Motors lineup. As menacing as it looks, though, the Z/28 isn’t the top-spec Camaro on sale — the ZL1 is — but from what General Motors and others have said, the Z/28 plays in a league of its own.
Chevrolet already has contenders to compete against: its Mustang rivals from Ford (NYSE:F). The Camaro 1LE and Boss 302 are fairly evenly matched, and the Camaro ZL1 and the Shelby Mustang GT500 come within striking distance of each other. However, the Z/28 is in its own class, at least as far as American muscle is concerned. That’s because the new Z/28 is aimed at a different type of car, one that the Camaro nameplate has not been in the same league with — cars like the Porsche 911 GT3 and Nissan’s beastly GT-R.
Here are five factors that set the Camaro Z/28 apart.
While American cars in the same league as the Camaro Z/28 have typically been most effective in straight lines, the new automobile is hoping to dispel that reputation by proving that it’s as capable — or more so — on the track than one of the biggest names in track-based motorsports, the Porsche 911 GT3. “We want to actually be in conversations with the 911 GT3 Porsche, and the Nissan GT-R,” said Al Oppenheiser, the Camaro’s chief engineer.
Check out the video above, where Chevy pits its Z/28 against a Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca (444 horsepower, 5-liter V8, $42,200 at base) at the Milford Proving Grounds.
The Z/28 will boast 505 horsepower, courtesy of General Motors’s LS7 7-liter V8, making it the second most powerful model in the Camaro lineup behind the torpedo that is the Camaro ZL1 (that application runs 580 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of torque). The Z/28 still packs nearly 200 more horses than the base Camaro’s 323 horsepower, but it’s not all about raw, brutal strength anymore — and that’s probably the biggest difference of all.
Most of the Z/28′s performance is derived from the clever use of weight savings and driving dynamics. For track driving, how power is applied is arguably as important as how much power there is — in all likelihood, that’s how the Z/28 was able to snag a Nürburgring lap time of 7:37.47, nearly four seconds faster than the ZL1 managed last year, Autoblog points out.
The Camaro isn’t just a strong performer — it also looks the part. Though the new Camaro design has been applied range-wide, it looks particularly menacing in the Z/28′s case, with a lower clearance, sharp and angular expression, and sleeker profile.
Lightly flared wheel arches, the defined, muscular haunches over the rear wheels, a front splitter, and the low spoiler help set the Z/28 apart from the rest of its siblings. However, the changes made to the interior were less noticeable, with the exception of a couple of Recaro seats.
This category could likely have been nestled into the first, under track capability, but Chevy has put so much effort into overhauling the suspension on the Z/28 — typically a weaker link for cars of this caliber — that we felt it deserved its own spot.
The springs in the new Camaro are a substantial 85 percent stiffer on the front end and 65 percent stiffer in the rear, and are optimized for the new Multimatic DSSV (Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve) dampers, Autoblog noted in its test drive of the car. These aren’t just any off-the-rack dampers, either — they were first introduced for the Champ Car series in 2002 and are still used in Formula One racing by the Red Bull Racing outfit. Moreover, they are standard equipment on the Aston-Martin One-77, if that says anything about their pedigree.
This, combined with rear upper control arm bushings that are 400 percent stiffer than the standard equipment, allow the Z/28 to contend with maximum lateral cornering forces of 1.08 G’s.
5. Weight Savings
Instead of constantly adding horsepower to improve performance, Chevy has instead taken another path in reducing the number of non-crucial components to save weight, thereby making each horsepower more effective. While the company could have easily used the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 found in the ZL1, Oppenheiser and his team opted for the less powerful 7-liter unit, which weighs less.
“Even though this is a higher-end model, the base headlamps and tail lamps have been fitted to save weight and reduce cost,” Autoblog reports. Further, “Chevy has taken out everything that wasn’t a legal necessity or didn’t improve performance.” Ultimately, this means that the Z/28 weighs in at 3,837 pounds, about 300 pounds less than the ZL1.