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- Highs Ultimate Camaro performance, unbeatable value, non-1LE models have surprisingly good ride quality.
- Lows Outward visibility is compromised, unimpressive interior, 1LE package makes it overly stiff.
- Verdict The 650-hp Camaro ZL1 isn't for the faint of heart but for anyone whose heart is at the racetrack.
With a fire-breathing 650-hp supercharged V-8 and ferocious track capabilities, the 2021 Chevy Camaro ZL1 is the king of monster muscle cars. Sure, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 have horsepower ratings that start with seven, but the bow-tie beast delivers similar thrills for fewer green bills. In fact, if the mid-engine Corvette didn't exist, the ZL1 could perhaps be called the world's greatest performance value, which is why it's an Editors' Choice winner. Regardless, the Camaro perfects the front-engine, rear-drive formula inherent to muscle cars. While both the coupe and convertible have a remarkable chassis that's more clairvoyant than Miss Cleo, unleashing the ultimate Camaro requires the transformative 1LE track package, but beware that it makes the suspension very stiff. If you can overlook the Chevy's flawed interior, the 2021 Camaro ZL1 can be more exciting than a roller coaster, and it'll regularly reward thrill-seekers and track rats alike.
What's New for 2021?
There are only a couple changes to the Camaro ZL1 lineup for 2021. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are now on its roster of features, and Chevy offers a new extra-cost paint color: Wild Cherry.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
While the coupe with the standard manual transmission is our ZL1 of choice, the optional $7500 1LE Extreme Track Performance package is transformative and tempting. Still, it makes the ZL1 hard to live with every day because the upgraded suspension is very stiff. Instead, we'd simply add the performance data and video recorder for capturing the days we're brave enough to bring this 650-hp hellion to the racetrack.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Camaro's supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 is a well-behaved and tractable beast that makes power all over the rev range and leaves black streaks all over the road. 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 results in quicker acceleration times than the stick, but either way, this Chevy is a demon 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 hardcore modes don't ruin the car's decent, if firm, ride. Want more? Grab the 1LE track package, which vaults the ZL1 into near supercar territory. Its wider and stickier 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, and the ZL1's brake pedal operates with a firmness befitting a performance car.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The words "Camaro ZL1" and "fuel efficient" shouldn't be used together in a sentence unless the phrase "is not" separates them. The EPA estimates models with the automatic transmission will earn 13 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. With the manual, those numbers change to 14 and 20, respectively. Surprisingly, the Camaro beats the Shelby GT500 in fuel efficiency, as the latter manages 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. The manual-equipped ZL1 1LE we ran on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, returned a measly 17 mpg.
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 comfortably seats only two human beings. Behind the 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 popular features. It includes a Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless 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 head-up display.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Camaro ZL1 earned a four-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but this model hasn't been evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Chevy does offer a handful of driver-assistance technology. However, if you select either the convertible body style or the optional performance data recorder on the coupe, you'll have to make do without the forward-collision alert. Key safety features include:
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross-traffic alert
- Standard forward-collision warning (coupe only)
- 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 three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit
2019 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe
PRICE AS TESTED
$75,985 (base price: $72,195)
supercharged and intercooled pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
376 cu in, 6162 cc
650 hp @ 6400 rpm
650 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 15.4-in vented disc/14.4-in vented disc
Tires: Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar 3R, F: 305/30R-19 (98Y) TPC, R: 325/30R-19 (101Y) TPC
Wheelbase: 110.7 in
Length: 188.3 in
Width: 74.7 in
Height: 52.0 in
Passenger volume: 83 cu ft
Trunk volume: 9 cu ft
Curb weight: 3886 lb
Rollout, 1 ft: 0.3 sec
60 mph: 3.4 sec
100 mph: 7.4 sec
150 mph: 19.2 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 3.7 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 1.8 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 2.1 sec
¼-mile: 11.5 sec @ 124 mph
Top speed (mfr's claim): 190 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 137 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 268 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 1.17 g
Observed: 14 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 16/13/21 mpg