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- Highs Corvette Z06 engine, Corvette performance, solid value—really.
- Lows Limited outward visibility, quality of Camaro interior doesn't rise to this price point.
- Verdict The mightiest Camaro lords it over the muscle-car octagon.
Find the 455-hp 6.2-liter V-8 in the Camaro SS too boring or underpowered? Chevrolet won't tell you to get your head checked. Instead, it slaps a supercharger on that V-8, boosts the output to 650 horsepower, and installs it along with a host of suspension and styling upgrades to create the ZL1. Available as either a coupe or a convertible—with your choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic with paddle shifters—the ZL1 stands atop the Camaro pile to see eye to eye with the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. In fact, if you consider the ZL1's breathtaking performance at our 2017 Lightning Lap competition, it looks down on those competitors.
What's New for 2019?
The mighty Camaro ZL1 receives minor updates for 2019. Mercifully, it doesn't add the new ugly mug found on lesser V-8 models. However, its rear end does adopt fresh taillights and a revised bumper. The interior has improved wireless charging and updated ambient lighting with extra color options. The standard touchscreen now supports the company's Infotainment 3 software, with a more intuitive interface and increased personalization options. The other changes include a higher definition backup camera, an enhanced performance data recorder, and a newly standard forward-collision warning.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
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The 650-hp muscle machine comes in just one way, requiring buyers only to choose coupe or convertible, six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission, and basic options. There is also the coupe-only 1LE package, which adds wild aerodynamic enhancements, semi-slick tires, and special suspension components that give it a stiff ride and greatly reduce the ZL1's everyday drivability. Unless you plan on spending considerable time on a racetrack, we'd suggest sticking with the basic ZL1 with the standard six-speed manual transmission. Pick your color and revel in your excellent decision.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Likes: It's quicker, grippier, and more badass than regular Camaros, one of the best performance coupes available regardless of price.
Dislikes: The masochistic ZL1 1LE should be avoided for daily driving.
The Camaro's supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, borrowed from the pricier Chevrolet Corvette Z06, is a well-behaved and tractable beast that makes power all over the rev range and leaves black streaks all over the road. And as you'd expect, when stirred up, it leaves the sound of thunder echoing in its wake. Whether paired with the standard six-speed manual transmission or the available 10-speed automatic, the blown small-block V-8 lays down stupidly incredible performance figures. The fast-shifting automatic, as is common these days, results in quicker acceleration times than the stick, but either way the Camaro smokes its competition at the drag strip.
Already a satisfying handler with quick and communicative steering, a balanced rear-drive chassis, and a surprisingly supple ride, the Camaro is elevated to new heights by the ZL1 gear. Its adaptive dampers change their stiffness based on the selected drive mode, but even the hard-core modes don't ruin the car's decent, if firm, ride. Want more? Grab the 1LE package, which vaults the ZL1 into near-supercar territory. Its wider, semi-slick near-race tires, manually adjustable front suspension, and exclusive spool-valve dampers chew up racetracks and spit out happy drivers. The ZL1 stops from 70 mph in 143 feet, just four feet longer than it takes a Corvette Grand Sport to halt from the same speed. Better still, the ZL1's brake pedal operates with a firmness befitting a performance car.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The highest praise we can lavish on the ZL1's efficiency is that the coupe came somewhat close to matching its 20-mpg EPA-estimated highway fuel economy on our 200-mile test route. Granted, many cars exceed their EPA ratings in this test, so in that context the ZL1's 17 mpg might seem lacking. We haven't tested a convertible version, but its identical mechanicals promise equally weak fuel economy.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Quietest interior noise levels among racy rivals, loaded with standard infotainment features.
Dislikes: Same restricted outward visibility and tight back seat as lesser Camaros, 1LE package locks the rear seatbacks upright.
Turns out 650 horsepower and a ZL1 badge do nothing to erase the current-generation Camaro's woeful outward visibility. It suffers the same thick roof pillars and high windowsills as other Camaros. Still, every ZL1 is well-equipped out of the box and offers few options. Standard equipment includes power front seats with heating and ventilation, a heated steering wheel, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Chevrolet's touchscreen infotainment system is among the industry's easier-to-use units with clear menus, large on-screen buttons, and the latest must-have features such as a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot with 4G LTE plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The ZL1 offers as standard nearly everything available on normal Camaros, including a Bose audio system, wireless phone charging, and a driver head-up display.
When it comes to the ZL1, performance and style take precedence over less sexy matters such as cupholder counts and cargo space. There is very little interior stash space for small items, an almost tacit admission on Chevrolet's part that the Camaro only comfortably seats two human beings. Behind those useless rear seats is a nearly as useless shallow trunk with an oddly shaped opening.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Although the regular Camaro scored a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the ZL1 variant has not yet been tested either by that agency or by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It also lacks driver-assistance technology such as automated emergency braking and lane-departure warning. The few assists that are available include:
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Standard forward-collision warning
- Standard rear parking sensors
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The ZL1's coverage is fairly typical for the industry but Chevrolet offers buyers a complimentary scheduled maintenance visit within the first year of ownership.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit