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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.
The 2020 Chevy Camaro ZL1 is an even more muscled-up version of the already muscular V-8 Camaro. The ZL1 has a 650-hp supercharged V-8 behind its aggressive-looking front end, and it offers drivers their choice of an engaging manual transmission or a lightning-quick automatic. The mightiest Camaro is also available as either a hardtop coupe or a soft-top convertible. While its claustrophobic cabin has a tiny back seat and poor rear visibility, every model features a fully stocked touchscreen infotainment system and desirable options. Still, the ZL1 specifically caters to folks who like cars that are loud and fast. Likewise, the track-ready 1LE package makes this Camaro even better at going, stopping, and cornering than it already is. Compared with the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, the Chevy has fewer horses under the hood but formidable performance in every other metric.
What's New for 2020?
Although the regular Chevy Camaro has recently undergone a couple controversial facelifts—with the latest update helping it look less ugly—the 2020 Camaro ZL1 is essentially unchanged. The lone update includes a new exterior color called Rally Green.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The 2020 Camaro ZL1 isn't for the faint of heart. It's one of the most powerful muscle cars you can buy for about $65,000. For comparison, the all-new 760-hp Shelby GT500 price begins at nearly $74,000, and the cheapest Hellcat Challenger starts at around $62,000. However, some buyers will only consider the one that wears a bow tie. While the coupe with the standard manual transmission is our ZL1 of choice, the optional $7500 1LE Track Performance package is transformative and tempting. Still, it makes the ZL1 hard to live with every day because the upgraded suspension is too stiff. Instead, we'd simply add the $1300 performance data and video recorder (PDR) for capturing the days we're brave enough to bring this 650-hp hellion to the racetrack.
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
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 supercharged 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 help 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, Comfort, and Cargo
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-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation, a heated steering wheel, and dual-zone automatic climate control. 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.
Infotainment and Connectivity
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.
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