Taking a page from the Ford Mustang playbook, Chevrolet has resurrected a classic moniker (and order code) with the Camaro Z/28. Sure, fuel economy may be the buzz of the New York International Auto Show, but it is heartening to see that the muscle car battles continue.
The Camaro Z/28 seeks a spot in a line now crowded with the SS, 1LE ($3,500 track package), and supercharged 580-hp ZL1 by defining itself as the ultimate track variation. The formula is a good one: lessen weight, fortify the chassis, enhance aerodynamics specifically for track use, fit a dry-sump oil system, install transmission and differential coolers, and mount massive 15-plus-inch Brembo brakes. (Read our Camaro SS road test.)
To shed pounds, the Z/28 makes due with 19-inch wheels, shaving off 42 lbs. over the 20-inchers found on the SS and ZL1. (There is a notable lesson there...) Gone are the tire inflation kit, trunk carpeting, some sound deadening, fog lights, and most civility. Air conditioning is optional, the rear glass is slightly thinner, and the battery is a lightweight unit. The stereo has been scuttled, with just a single speaker retained for the obligatory seat-belt minder chime. Nine pounds have been cut from the backseat through material changes and doing away with the pass-through ability. In total, the Z/28 weighs 300 lbs. less than the mighty ZL1, or about 3,820 lbs. This puts it at 40 lbs. lighter than a Camaro SS with a manual transmission and 200 lbs. heavier than the recently (and sadly) discontinued Ford Mustang Boss 302.
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While there are potent engines in the Camaro lineup already, the Z/28 pulls from the Corvette, adapting the Z06's 7.0-liter LS7, said to be good for at least 500 horsepower. (On paper at least, this makes the Mustang Boss 302's 444-hp, 5.0-liter V8 sound small.) A six-speed manual is the only transmission offered, and it rows an aggressive, tire-challenging 3.91:1 final-drive ratio—same as with the 1LE package. Power can be harnessed via a limited-slip helical-gear differential. Using the Performance Traction Management system, the driver can adjust the throttle and brake intervention to suit traction and hooliganism needs.
The Z/28 exceeds expectations that the storied nameplate represents, having been attached to some rather meager models through the years, when viewed from the 21st century. Still, it is not a radical hot rod. That role remains carried by the ridiculously entertaining ZL1. (Muscle mavens can arm wrestle how the ZL1 measures up to the 662-hp Mustang Shelby GT500.)
There were several Camaros on display at the auto show, reminding that this Canadian-built muscle car is available in numerous configurations to suit different tastes and budget. One extreme example was a car (pictured right) that will be depicted in the upcoming animated film "Turbo," demonstrating the extreme. Clearly, the Z/28 doesn't go that far, but it does push boundaries for a modern production car—something muscle cars were always meant to do.
The Z/28 and other updated 2014 Camaros go on sale in the fall.
See our complete 2013 New York Auto Show coverage, plus highlights at CRCars.tumblr.com.