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2017 Chevrolet Camaro Overview
Whenever you see a new Camaro from now on, be sure to check out the hood—chances are it’ll tell you a lot. Specifically, look for a power bulge on the hood: this is for the heat extractor incorporated into the new, totally ripped Camaro ZL1, Chevrolet’s answer to all the other over-horsepowered sports cars out there. If there’s no power bulge, look for a contrasting black hood. Barring some kind of upgrade using aftermarket parts (hello, carbon fiber), the black hood signifies the new 1LE Package Chevy’s now offering on the 2017 version of its undyingly popular pony car. ZL1 and 1LE: letter-number combos sure to make almost any American muscle-car fan—short of the Mustang/Shelby die-hards—swoon with happiness.
The ZL1 was last available for 2015, a year before Chevy gave the Camaro a full redesign. The lineup that emerged for 2016 was limited to the LT and SS trims, with the crowning glory of monster V8 power conspicuously missing from the top of this performance-coupe heap. As noted, the absence has been effectively seen to for the upcoming model year: the new ZL1 flexes its muscles in the form of the same supercharged 6.2-liter V8 found in the flagship Corvette Z06. In the Camaro, this engine blasts out 640 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, a notch under what it produces in the Corvette. No official 0-60 mph figure has been released, but current estimates are in the low-to-mid-3-second range, quite an improvement from the former ZL1’s 4.1.
As for the 1LE: the package was available on the previous- (sixth-) generation V8 Camaro trims, but, as with the ZL1, things have been skipping around in terms of availability since the recent redesign. What matters now is that the 1LE package is available on both LT trims equipped with the optional V6 engine and SS trims with the V8. Chevy says customers specifically requested the track-oriented 1LE package be paired with the V6, and the Camaro’s chief engineer has even pointed out that V6 1LE cars have posted lap times comparable to previous-generation V8 models in development tests.
On the LT, the 1LE package adds FE3 suspension components from the SS for sportier handling, 20-inch lightweight wheels with Goodyear Eagle performance tires, Brembo 4-piston brake calipers, a mechanical limited-slip differential, and the SS’s fuel system. On the SS, the package gets you magnetic ride control, a special electronic limited-slip differential, unique forged aluminum wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, and 6-piston front Brembo brakes. Regardless of which trim you start with, the 1LE includes a cooling package for when you keep pushing the engine into the red around the track, a dual-mode exhaust system, a suede steering wheel and short-throw shifter, that satin black hood mentioned above, a front splitter, a rear diffuser, and even an available PDR video/data recording system so you can revisit your track days on a screen when you’re through replaying them in your head.
Going back to the 2016 redesign for a moment, recall how the Camaro lineup had split off into two basic tiers. These still hold true for anyone not currently in line for the new ZL1. The LT Camaros all start with a standard turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Then there’s the optional V6, a 3.6-liter unit that produces way more horsepower and a little less torque, at 335 hp and 284 lb-ft. The “SS” trims upgrade with a 6.2-liter V8 that churns out 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. It’s probably worth taking a moment to consider the sheer difference in displacement between the turbo four and the V8: 2.0 liters versus 6.2. Even trims with the V6 weigh in at 200 pounds less than those with the V8.
All Camaros are rear-wheel-drive vehicles, true to their sports-car nature, and all are available as convertibles as well as coupes. And perhaps even more true to their sports-car (as opposed to slick hypercar) nature is the fact that all come with a standard 6-speed manual transmission. An 8-speed automatic is available on the LT and SS trims, and the ZL1 has the additional honor of being the first GM vehicle to offer a 10-speed automatic (with paddle shifters). The ZL1 also uses advanced magnetorheological dampers for equally advanced handling. There are currently no EPA fuel-economy estimates for the Camaro ZL1; the other 2017 trims run anywhere from a very decent 22 mpg city/31 highway/25 combined with the 4-cylinder and the automatic transmission to a still-okay-all-things-considered 16/25/19 with the SS V8 and the manual.
On the inside, the Camaro ZL1 is appropriately performance-themed, with ZL1-baged Recaro seats, red seatbelts, and a flat-bottom steering wheel. At the lower end of the lineup, the base 1LT starts with standard features like a rear-view camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and SiriusXM satellite radio. The LT2 adds things like Bose premium speakers and leather-trimmed upholstery. The 1SS mostly improves on power and performance, but the 2SS brings a heated and ventilated driver’s seat, dual-zone air conditioning, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
The 2SS also features safety systems like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and rear parking sensors, all of which are also available on the LT2 and 1SS as part of the Convenience and Lighting package. These safety technologies are kind of must-haves on the Camaro, which even with the redesign still involves some very poor and unsafe sight lines, with its low-slung stance and blocky rear pillars. That said, the 2016 Camaro earned mostly Good scores on Insurance Institute of Highway Safety tests (with a second-best Acceptable on, of all things, roof strength). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not tested the Camaro since 2015.
Good thing is the Camaro brings a lot of power and solid performance for not too much money. Pricing has not yet been announced for the ZL1, but the 2016 2SS started at $41,905 for the coupe and $48,905 for the convertible—some estimates have the ZL1 pegged at upward of $60,000. Bad thing is the Camaro still looks like a boat. You can’t see much while you’re in it, and its styling is far more blatantly muscular than understated or fluid. It’ll get drivers decent bang for the buck, but each will have to consult his or her own brand loyalties, sense of style, safety expectations, and wallet to figure out whether a competing American muscle car like the Ford Shelby GT350 (perhaps even a Chevy Corvette) or a high-strung German model like the BMW M4, M5, or Porsche 911 might not be a better choice.
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