It can best be described as a “poor man’s ZR1 Corvette” as it produces similar goose bump driving excitement, but at almost half the price.
Chevy’s 2013 Camaro ZL1 Convertible comes with a 6.2L, supercharged V8 (12 city, 18-highway EPA mpg), which is a derivative of the engine in the ZR1. But as the ZR1 puts out 638-hp and 604 lb/ft of torque, the ZL1 generates a detuned but head snapping 580-hp and push-you-into-the-seat 556 lb/ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. And while the ZR1Vette can do 0-60 mph in a mere 3.4 seconds, the ZL1 Camaro Coupe does it in 4.0 seconds.
That said, this engine is what makes the ZL1. And the rumble that comes from the quad tailpipes is music to a car lover’s ears. Goose the accelerator when starting it and the backpressure creates some pulse increasing pops that tickle the innards.
Perhaps the only downside to my test car was that it came with the optional ($1,185) 6-speed automatic transmission instead of the standard 6-speed manual. The auto trans has three modes of Drive, Sport and Manual. But even with that handicap and the extra weight of the convertible, the ZL1 remains quick and fast (184 mph top speed).
And to allow this beast to breathe easier, the ZL1’s hood has a vented carbon-fiber insert that draws air up through the engine bay and, says Chevy, helps keep the front tires connected to the pavement.
All this power and torque gets transmitted to huge 20-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 tires that were designed specifically for the ZL1. They are reportedly sticky in hot weather, but unforgiving in cold weather when I had it. They also scrub when making a slow turn into or out of a driveway.
As such, full throttle acceleration runs are only somewhat controllable, even with integrated limited slip and the traction control on. The back-end wanted to come around but could be controlled by letting off the accelerator somewhat, then hammering it once speed builds and the torque evens itself out. I can only imagine how much more fun the manual trans would be.
Car buffs know that Camaro’s are fantastic for straight-line acceleration but Chevy built the ZL1 for the track as well. Yeah, there are those well-heeled folks who race their pricey investment; and the ZL1 is included.
Being track ready, Chevy added an engine-oil cooler identical to that in the ZR1. They also included a high-performance fuel system that maintains fuel delivery during high-g cornering under low fuel conditions as frequently happens on racetracks. All underpinnings too are heavy duty including the rear axle and a rear-differential cooler that reduces temps back there by more than 100-F.
The ZL1 uses famed and large Brembo brakes with two-piece front rotors with six calipers and rear rotors with four piston calipers for quicker, surer stopping.
My test car came standard with Magnetic Ride Control that enabled Tour and Sport modes. I drove mostly in Tour, as the ride is relatively smooth on smooth surfaces, but punishing on rough ones.
The ZL1 was easy to park with electric power steering that provided a good amount of road feel as opposed to a traditional hydraulic system.
As with most convertibles, the cargo area is tiny and rated for 10.2 cubic feet with the top up. Lower it and there’s enough space for a laptop or small duffel. The top, incidentally, takes 16 seconds to lower where is resides in a sling in the trunk.
Otherwise, the ZL1 is a regular Camaro with the exception of Recaro type bucket seats that sport optional suede inserts ($500). They hug the torso and support it firmly for those who take turns at illegally high speeds – or on a racetrack.
All this fun, though, doesn’t come cheap. My test car started out with a base price of $59,545 but bottomed-out at $65,800 with a $2,600 gas guzzler tax, the auto trans, exposed carbon fiber hood insert ($600), sueded interior and 20-inch bright forged aluminum wheels ($470). The standard item list is too long to mention but includes a host of goodies including satellite radio, Chevy MyLink, rear vision camera, head-up display and much more.
To check out a ZL1 stop by Outten Chevrolet on Tilghman Street in Allentown, but there’s a good chance they may not have one at this location. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.