A complete and detailed look at the track-ready, monstrous, Camaro Z/28
The expectations for the Camaro were not great at this year’s New York International Auto Show. Chevrolet was expected to unveil a small facelift to the vehicle for the 2014 year, and, that was about it. This was doubly disappointing since that same facelift had already been leaked to the public. It was then, with great fanfare and to the surprise of all those in attendance, that Chevrolet blew everyone away by rolling a rumbling Camaro Z/28 on to the stage. The crowd erupted in applause. The track-ready monster, the vehicle that made the Camaro something more and cemented its place in American lore, the badge that had become little more than a daydream for most Camaro fans, was back, and it was better than ever.
Born from SCCA Trans-Am class roots, the Z/28 was the first Camaro designed to be a true track-ready racing machine that could also be driven on the American roads. The car was designed to help its owner shave seconds off of their track laps, and was designed to achieve this through improved transmission, enhanced power, lighter weight, and race suspension upgrades. It was the ultimate Camaro. Today, it’s an extension of those same roots, and challenges the ZL1 as the ultimate American muscle car.
The Flat White Show Color for the Camaro Z/28 will not be one of the five colors officially available.
The Z/28 Chassis
The Camaro Z/28 has many chassis changes to help it better perform, and the most obvious of these is at the wheels. Gone are the 20-inchers which have donned all V8 iterations of the fifth-generation Camaro, and in their place are 19-inch lightweight alloys. Mark Stielow, the Z/28’s engineering manager, explains that “the 19s are lighter, have less rotational inertia, and let us lower the car.” These special wheels are wrapped with race ready tires. The front wheels are 11 inches wide–the widest tires Chevrolet mounts on the front of any of its production cars–and all four are dressed up in 305/30ZR-19 Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R. These Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires are consider a part of the Pirelli streetable track tire catalog and feature a tread-wear rating of 60. To cement their status as quality, Pirelli manufactures them in the same plant where they craft all of their Formula 1 rubber.
Geometrically, the Z/28 suspension is identical to that offered on the 1LE track package; however, the suspension spring rates are 20% stiffer than the already track tuned 1LE, and the corners are outfitted with Multimatic monotube shocks with F1-style spool valves. Stielow claims that Chevrolet decided upon this suspension technology as it allows the knowledgeable driver greater freedom to independently tailor their suspension’s rebound settings for both high and low speed cornering situations. To further improve vehicle handling Chevrolet also increased roll-bar thickness over the 1LE.
The switch from cast-iron brake rotors to carbon-ceramics seems unlikely, but the more expensive technology saves a lot of weight and is reported to improve fade-resistance. The Z/28’s rotors are actually larger and thicker, and weigh much less, than those on the ZL1. The vehicle has some electronic help for the driver, as the Z/28 is outfitted with Chevrolet’s five-level stability control system: Performance Traction Management. All of these aspects should come together to allow the Camaro Z/28 to corner at 1.05g.
The Camaro Z/28 features impressive aerodynamics
Shaving Pounds off the Z/28
One of the biggest things needed to make the Camaro a true track-ready car was lightening the vehicle. The Camaro is not dainty, but the Z/28 works to shave unnecessary pounds wherever it can. Switching from the supercharged LSA in the ZL1 to the naturally aspirated LS7 in the Z/28 saves close to 90 pounds in weight alone. The aforementioned 19-inch wheels and Pirelli tires save 42 pounds from the 1LE package. The carbon-ceramic brakes are 28 pounds lighter than the ZL1’s. 20 pounds are saved by cutting the air conditioning system (although, this can be optionally restored). The stereo system is made as minimal as possible, as a radio and a single door speaker were necessary by law to beep out seatbelt and other safety warnings.
The other weight saving features given to the Z/28 feel a little more abstract. The rear window utilizes thinner glass. The battery is smaller than in other V8 Camaros. Trunk carpeting and almost all vehicle sound insulation are gone. The tire-inflator kit–standard on all other V8 powered Camaros–is nowhere to be found. The rear seat frame and trunk pass through have been replaced with molded foam. All of this comes together to make the Z/28 more than 300 pounds lighter than the Camaro ZL1, which should place this 500HP track tuned Camaro at close to the 3750 lb curb weight of the most basic SS.
The Z/28 features a GMPP dual-mode exhaust
The Z/28 Aero Package
While the wheels and other exterior visual cues are obvious to Camaro lovers, the aerodynamic package outfitted on the Z/28 is the most obvious for all. Changes in technology from the days of yore in American muscle cars to today have given us major advancements in vehicle aerodynamics, and the Z/28 showcases these new technologies. A sizable front splitter, extended side skirt molding, a performance minded rear diffuser, front and rear fender lip extensions, and a large rear wing all work to increase the vehicle’s net downforce to numbers greater than the ZL1, 1LE, or SS. This improved downforce creates greater vehicle stability at high speeds and should improve driver confidence. There’s even an optional accessory Gurney flap which can be attached to the rear wing for those serious about downforce.
All of this downforce does have a downside, however. The Z/28 has a wide body print through the wind with a ton of air displacement and as result has a greater drag penalty than any other Camaro vehicle. The Camaro SS has a Cd of 0.35, and the ZL1–with wider body design–one of 0.39. The drag penalty displacement in the Z/28 will be greater than even that of the ZL1.
The Camaro Z/28 Interior
The Monster Beneath the Hood
Chevrolet and Corvette fans are well aware of the 7.0L LS7 engine from the outgoing C6 Z06 Corvette. The naturally aspirated LS7, featuring dry sump technology, produces more than 500hp and 470 lb/ft of torque. To fit inside of the Camaro engine bay, the Corvette engine required new exhaust manifolds and a relocated oil reservoir. The redesign had its benefits, however, as the new exhaust manifolds allowed for the design of new tri-Y stainless steel headers which will be finished off with a GM performance dual-mode exhaust similar to the one found on the ZL1. All of this will make for a Camaro with a good deal more power than its most direct competition: 444hp and 380 lb/ft Ford Mustang Boss 302.
This power will be transferred to the wheels via an exclusive Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual utilizing the same closely spaced gear ratios seen in the 1LE package. The 3.91:1 final drive ratio used in the Z/28 is also identical to that praised heavily in the 1LE package. One major change made from other Camaro vehicles however is the move from the spring-loaded clutch pack utilized in the SS and ZL1 to a a Torsen limited-slip differential which should act to provide a better blend of low-speed lockup and more open action at higher speeds. The same heat exchanger coolant system utilized in the ZL1 has been brought over to manage temperatures in the Camaro Z/28’s differential, transmission, and engine oil. All of this should make for a vehicle capable of burning full tanks of fuel under the extreme conditions of track racing without any concern over vital fluid overheating.
The Camaro Z/28 features the 500+ hp naturally aspirated LS7 engine
The Final Word on Performance
Chevrolet has yet to announce any official performance numbers except for one: The Camaro Z/28 lapped GM’s 2.9 mile Milford Proving Grounds track a full 3-seconds faster than the Camaro ZL1. All of this comes as result of the sticker tires, improved suspension, and better weight distribution. In a straight-line, however, expect the ZL1 to remain the king. The Z/28 features a slightly lower power:weight ratio, and should post a 0-60 time of around 4.2 seconds. Top speed should also be down from the ZL1’s regulated 180 to about 170mph for the Z/28. On a track, though, the Z/28 will almost certainly be the king. We’re excited to see what the Z/28 can do on the Nürburgring where the ZL1 lapped the world-famous track in a supercar time of 7:41.27–faster than a Porsche 911 GT3. If the Z/28 can shave 3 seconds at Milford, the sky is the limit for such a vehicle on a track like the ‘Ring.