2014 Chevy Camaro Z/28 Review
Muscle Cars Have a New King
It has brakes that belong on a European supercar, an engine shared with the previous generation Z06 Corvette and the same suspension components as the Aston Martin One-77. Chevrolet says this is the fastest Camaro ever to leave its laboratory and lap the Milford proving ground.
|Engine: 7.0L LS7 Makes 505 hp and 481 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed manual only.
Fuel economy: Do you care? (13/19/15 city/highway/combined).
Price: $75,000 including delivery and gas guzzler tax.
But that was only the beginning. The Z/28 was developed over a grueling battery of tests that saw it tried and tuned over some of the biggest, most challenging tracks in the world including Germany’s Nurburgring.
I’m willing to bet that the Z/28 Camaro is one of, if not the coolest car to hit the market in 2014. Allow me to explain…
Move Over, Fonz
It’s street legal, but Chevrolet made it clear when it first unveiled the car in New York that very few owners would want to make it a daily driver. Several factors contribute to that, not the least of which is a suspension with springs that are 85 percent stiffer in the front and 65 percent more stubborn in the rear.
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Currently, the Camaro is built in Ontario, Canada. Conveniently, the dampers fitted in this car come from a company called MultiMatic also based in Ontario. The same dampers are used on the Aston Martin One-77, albeit with a different calibration. Maybe more remarkably, MultiMatic also supplies racing teams that run in F1 and Ferrari Challenge.
The engine uses cooling similar to the Corvette ZR1 while the transmission and differential manage their temperatures with technology borrowed from the Camaro ZL1. It doesn’t come cheap.
A Camaro That Costs HOW Much?
You see, pricing starts at $75,000 after destination and a $1,700 gas guzzler tax. For that, you get a highly-specialized track weapon: the naturally aspirated 7.0-liter V8 makes 505 hp and 481 lb-ft of torque and a Tremec TR60-60 six-speed manual is the only gearbox offered.
You also get massive carbon ceramic Brembo brakes with six-pistons in the front and four at the rear. In total, Chevrolet says there are over 190 parts unique to the Z/28 all implemented with one goal in mind: being fast as stink around a racetrack.
Bang (Or More Accurately Roar) For Your Buck
Right from the get-go, it’s obvious that the Z/28 isn’t an ordinary Camaro. Aerodynamic enhancements create up to 150 lbs of down-force while wheels specific to the Z/28 help reduce overall weight. In fact at 3,820 lbs, the Z/28 is 55 lbs lighter than the 1LE.
Oh and I should mention, they have a 305 width measurement and that includes the front set. Around those wheels, you get Pirelli Trofeo R tires that will help the thing pull more than a G while cornering.
But most of what makes the Z/28 so special is out of view
What’s Under the Angry-Looking Skin?
There are a few more things you need to know about the Z/28: Chevrolet went over the entire car and scrapped almost everything that isn’t either legally required or beneficial to performance.
The floor mats are gone, the rear window is thinner, the seats have all been replaced and there’s only one speaker. There isn’t any cloth material in the trunk, and a lot of the sound deadening is gone. Oh, and air conditioning is optional.
Everything about the Z/28 says “track machine” in much the same way that you would expect from a Porsche 911 GT3, albeit without the finesse of a car from Deutschland.
But none of that necessarily means very much until you actually get in the driver seat and start turning laps. There are five different stability control modes, the most extreme of which will all but let you hang yourself before swooping in for the catch. Of course you can turn the controls off altogether and really tempt fate with all 3,800 lbs of piss and vinegar that come with such a sizeable engine.
Or at least that’s what I was tempted to expect after giving in to the little red man on my shoulder before leaving pit lane at GingerMan Raceway outside Grand Haven, Mich.
In fact, the Z/28 is so forgiving, fun to drive and rambunctious all at once that it made me start laughing like I was flying over the proverbial cuckoo’s nest. Speaking of flying, Chevrolet thought of that.
If you somehow muster a brass pair big enough to make a car with this kind of weight airborne, you won’t be alone.
The development team behind the Camaro added something called flying car mode that allows it to automatically recognize when you’ve left the ground. Mark Stielow, the performance director behind the car, spent considerable time doing exactly that at the Nurburgring.
Normally, the traction control system would cut power after liftoff. But in flying car mode, the LS7 powertrain continues sending “pre-flight” torque to the wheels to maintain fast motion upon landing.
How it Feels
I can, however, comment on the braking ability, grip, throttle tip-in and acceleration, all of which are spectacular. It takes several corners to grow accustomed to how easily the car can turn. This is what it feels like:
Coming into a corner hot, the carbon ceramic Brembos clamp down with a degree of authority that makes the curb weight seem almost meaningless. Then the suspension, tire width and grip all work together to make turning a non-issue. Just point the nose where you want to be while the standard Recaro seats hug you in place.
Next, you slingshot out of said turn, squeezing the gas slightly while righting the wheel. At that point the power is addictive. It feels like the LS7 is begging for wide-open throttle in a way I can only call pornographic.
Needless to say you’ll give in to its demands and two things happen next: the tail pipes let out an unholy howl and you’re suddenly deep in the next braking zone about to go for round two.
Anything that feels this good tends to waste an awful lot of rubber and in this case, a set of four replacement tires will probably cost about $2,000. On the upside, Chevrolet hypothesizes that few if any owners will ever need to service the Z/28’s brakes. They’re also basically immune to fading through the end of a hard-fought track day.
Rationalizing the Craziest Camaro
Even if all that doesn’t convince you, consider this. Unless we find an infinite wellspring of crude oil, sonorous wonders like 427 cubic-inch V8s are living on borrowed time. Someday – and it might be soon – big engines like these are going to be horribly expensive if not extinct.
Chevrolet is also the only company currently mass-producing a hardcore track machine like this with a manual transmission. Finally, GM won’t void your warranty if something breaks at the track even if that “something” is as expensive as a half shaft.
Even with all that in mind, you might have a hard time stomaching the thought of a $75,000 Camaro that makes less power either the Shelby GT500 or its ZL1 sibling.
It’s suspension is stiff, air conditioning isn’t standard and there isn’t even a rear-view camera to make parking practical. The thing is also huge, chugs gas and is certain to put you on a first-name basis will a tire shop and none of that matters.
The Z/28 re-writes what a muscle car is capable of and more importantly, it’s still surprisingly manageable to drive. Bear in mind that production of the current Camaro takes place in Oshawa, Canada. Those shifts will end after the 2015 model year and the Camaro will be built in Lansing, Mich. after that. Lansing doesn’t built Zeta-based cars and hasn’t in quite some time, which means there’s a new Camaro coming soon. It also means this car won’t be available for long. If you can afford the price tag, buy this car now.