TheBlock's full interview and conversation with Al Oppenheiser about all things Camaro related
Any time Al Oppenheiser--the main man behind the fifth generation Camaro--speaks us Camaro fanatics listen. Recently, automotive publication TheBlock was able to have a full conversation with him. Al divulged lots of information about the Camaro's production past and future, some of it new and some of it old, and gave a genuinely charismatic recounting of his involvement in the vehicle itself. Oppenheiser is clearly a brilliant and interesting individual, and his conversations are always worth a read, as they're both enjoyable and informative.
The full text of the article, as well as a link to the original posting, are below. Pay special attention to Oppenheiser's answer about why the ZL1 is the greatest car on the planet, as I found a great deal of entertainment in that posting. Also of note is Al's love for all Camaros, including his mention and directed praise for the first generation. Enjoy!
If you're a diehard Camaro fanatic, there's more than a good chance you're familiar with the name Al Oppenheiser. For those perhaps not yet acquainted with Mr. Oppenheiser by name – it's a good bet you've seen his work. Whenever you roll up to a stoplight and see the new, 5th generation Camaro next to you, yep, that's Al's pride and joy. As chief vehicle engineer for the 5th gen Chevy Camaro, Al and his team were at the forefront of bringing this iconic American sports car back to its loving public after having gone out of production for nearly a decade.
However, being the chief vehicle engineer for the 5th gen was hardly his first rodeo.
Al has been a part of the GM engineering family for over 25 years, and in the process has worked on some of the coolest production and performance car projects imaginable.
In 2008, his team worked on the legendary 1957 Chevy Bel Air named "Project-X." And together with David Ross, GM Design Manager Styling at GM, and many others, brought this bright-yellow star of innumerable magazine appearances back to the future with the first-ever Chevrolet Performance 50th Anniversary 427 Big Block crate engine. This build featured prominently in the pages of Popular Hot Rodding, which seems fitting for what's arguably the most popular '57 Chevy on the planet.
While serving as Director for what was then the GM Performance Division, Al also oversaw several other high-profile build projects for some pretty well known folks from the sports and entertainment worlds.
A driving force behind turning Tom Peter's vision of the next generation Camaro into a functional car, Al has remained the captain of the Camaro engineering team since the car's unveiling at Detroit NAIAS back in 2006.
With those things in mind, it should come as no surprise that we were pretty ecstatic to be able to catch up with Al recently and ask him a variety of Camaro-related questions.
We touched on everything from the accolades the award-winning 5th gen Camaro has garnered, to his thoughts on the drag strip-dominating COPO, and on down the line to track titans, the ZL1 & 1LE – as well as the news of the first Camaro-specific parts Chevrolet has produced in over forty years!
So, join us as we cordially invite you to ride along as we talk with a guy who is as genuinely passionate about the legacy of Camaro as he is about its promising future.
The Camaro won SEMA's "Best in Show" two consecutive years, did you ever expect that the 5th gen would have the success it's had to this point?
I don't think any of us expected it. We knew it was going to be a hot car. It had been out of production for 8 years, so there was a lot of pent up demand and passion for it. But the fact that we had the stroke of genius to work with Michael Bay and the Transformers Movie transformed the car "literally" and connected it with a younger generation. It really took off on a much greater trajectory than we ever imagined.
Talk to us a bit about COPO. How do you feel about reigniting that flame and transforming the 5th gen into the modern-day incarnation of its legendary drag racing namesake?
We were asked by a lot of drag racing fans when we would have a 5th gen Camaro for them. Because basically, they've done everything they can to the 1st gens but couldn't get them any faster. So in order to compete with Mustang and Challenger, who have their drag racing kits and versions, it was a thrill to be able to bring the COPO back. We just had to wait for the right time and the right formula. And it's taken off as well, just like the other Camaro versions. It's been a hit, and so much so, that we're proud to bring it back for another run of 69 in 2013.
From a personal standpoint, what drew you to Camaros early on?
I was a kid, and grew up in the era of late 60s muscle cars, and I fell in love with the First Gen. My first car was a Camaro, I bought a 70 ½ RS/SS, and planned on keeping it forever. I've always been a Camaro guy, always been around it. In my career I've worked in the Camaro and Corvette performance divisions. But the thrill of being able to be part of the concept when we first decided to bring the Camaro back in 2006 for the Auto Show, literally gave me goose bumps. Then they asked me to be the Chief for it. It's a dream come true, I don't call it "work." I refer to it as a "Thank God it's Monday Job."
Generally speaking, what's the first Chevrolet Performance part and/or modification you'd recommend to a new Camaro owner?
Usually, it's our ground effects kits, splitters, and spoilers, things that help the aerodynamics of the car. I'm really happy that we're getting to work with the Chevrolet Performance Parts guys now to release parts such as the 1LE, so that anyone with a prior year's car can build theirs up similar to the production 1LE for 2013.
Anything we can do to help out owners of prior year cars is a great step. These are cars that will last, and you'll see people auctioning off 5th gens at car shows 40-50 years from now.
What do you think of the whole new suite of Camaro-specific parts?
Every Camaro show I go to, and I go to several of them per year, everyone wants to bring me over and show me how they've individualized their car. They took our car and did something to personalize it. Usually it's exterior, and then it's under-hood mods. Everyone wants an air box or a smaller pulley. It's great that now consumers are going to have such a broad complement of parts to choose from to truly personalize their vehicles.
Why is the ZL1 the best car on the planet?
Because we had a passionate group of engineers and designers put everything we knew about performance technology in the car. From the aerodynamics – the car makes down force – which is rare for a production car, down to the supercharger. To all the features and functions in the performance traction management, such as the magnetic ride control. One of the great things about the magnetic ride control is that it's a peripheral benefit for us, because the car is so set up for the track. It's over a 1G-capable car.
Most people don't get to take the car out to Road America, but even still, just driving the car around town on rough roads -- take Michigan roads for instance --that MR really comes into play in "tour mode." It's outstanding. So what's generally designed to enhance performance on the track is also a great feature just driving around on regular roads. The ZL1 literally has every technology trinket you could put on a car – and it's all standard.
Do you own a Camaro?
Sure do. A '68. I'm the second owner. It's a black convertible, and I did a complete ground-up restoration on it. I kept the parts original, so I sandblasted everything. And then I put new bushings and things on it. I played around a bit under the hood; it's a Small Block that makes about 360 hp. I have a 10-bolt in the back still. It's plenty of capability in a convertible – I can chirp the tires in every gear. It's actually got a one-foot paint job, but the remarkable thing is I drive it all the time. People are amazed, they think it's a trailer queen, but I built it to drive. I love spending time in it.
Sounds like you've got serious passion for the Camaro.
You know, there was a time I was working on the 2010 Camaro, during the day, and I'd come home and work on the '68 at night. So I was working on Camaros 'round the clock. Occasionally I'd fall asleep on the garage floor about 2 o'clock in the morning. My wife had a series of shoes at the back door she'd throw to wake me up. She'd say "You gotta get up and go to work on the new one!" I live and breathe it. And that's why I've got a dream job.
There was certainly an assortment of killer Camaros at SEMA 2012. Out of all them, which one would you most like to take home?
This one (points to the '67 Hot Wheels Camaro). I was a Hot Wheel collector. In my youth I had over 300 Hot Wheels cars, and every track. When we got to work with the Mattel guys it was so cool. I got to see their development lab; they have their little mini Proving Grounds like we have for the big cars. So it was really cool. The idea to do a tribute car like this is phenomenal. As much as I love the Fifth Gen., I've always been a 1st gen guy, and I'd take this home in a heartbeat!
TheBLOCK.com would very much like to thank Al for taking time out of a very busy schedule to chat Camaro with us. While we're on the subject, we want to know: What's been your favorite 5th gen Camaro build? Drop by the Camaro forum and start sharing pics and stories!
Camaro 1LE and ZL1 Dominate their Competition at the 7th Annual Car and Driver Lightning Lap
For the full story, I'll recommend right now that you go out and pick up this month's edition of Car and Driver. Their annual Lightning Lap is one of the most fun and exciting things in the world of automotive journalism. Each year Car and Driver make their way to the renowned Virginia International Raceway (VIR) where they run the 4.1 mile Grand Course VIR configuration. It's a great course and it results in some fantastic and telling results.
Speaking of those results, the ones posted by the Camaro ZL1 and 1LE at VIR are absolutely amazing. In fact, each one of these two vehicle handily beat its direct competitor, with the 1LE besting the Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca by more than a second, and the ZL1 absolutely decimating the Ford Mustang GT500 by 3.1 seconds. In fact, the 1LE was only a second behind the GT500 itself. So, while the Mustangs may have the Camaros beat in HP, it's clear that the Camaro is the vastly superior track car.
Here are some of this year's other track times, with the best in each category posted at the top.
- Cop Cars
Dodge Charger Pursuit - 3.17.8
Chevy Caprice PPV - 3.23.0
Hyundai Genesis 3.8 R - 3.13.9
Subaru BRZ - 3.18.6
Ford Focus St - 3.21.4
Fiat 500 Abarth - 3.27.3
Chevy Camaro ZL1 - 2.57.5
Chevy Camaro SS 1LE - 3.01.5
BMW 335i sedan - 3.13.2
Merc C63 BlackSeries - 2.58.0
Porsche 911 S - 2.58.9
Ford Shelby GT500 - 3.00.6
Porsche Boxster S - 3.04.2
Audi RS5 - 3.04.3
BMW M6 - 3.04.7
BMW M5 - 3.05.2
Audi S6 - 3.09.8
Ferrari 458 - 2.49.9
Jaguar XKR-S - 3.02.1
Lexus LFA - 2.55.1
The Chevrolet Camaro is the officially used chase and launch vehicle for the U-2 Spy Plane
For a few decades now, the Camaro, and other similar Chevrolet vehicles, have been used as the chase car for the U-2 spy plane on take off and landing. The use of a chase vehicle is necessary for a plane like the U-2, as its extremely specialized nature requires visual confirmation for all take-off and landing aspects. The Camaro is utilized because of the vehicle's capability in getting up to speed quickly, and following behind the plane.
The videos are incredible, really, as we get to witness the speed and go of the Camaro at Wide Open Throttle, as well as see a multi-million dollar piece of military machinery touchdown and take-off. The last two videos also show the history of the Camaro's place chasing U-2 spy planes, and they show Third and Fourth generation Camaros chasing down airplanes--as well a few other GM vehicles doing chase duty.
Borla Releases a New Line of Exhaust Systems for the Camaro ZL1
Disclaimer: These systems are brand new, and I haven't had a chance to hear any of them on the ZL1 yet. I won't pretend that I have. What I have heard, however, is each of the three muffler types on a Camaro SS, a Corvette Z06, a C6 Base Corvette, a 5.0 Mustang GT, and on a Cadillac CTS-V (with the very same LSA engine, albeit, tuned a little differently than the Camaro ZL1 has). So while I can't tell you exactly how these exhaust systems will sound on the Camaro ZL1, I can give you a very good idea, and a very good reason to be excited about them just like I am.
One search of any populated Camaro group or forum will give you a quick answer to the following question: which exhaust is the most popular and most well-reviewed for the fifth generation Camaro?
The answer: Borla.
The Borla, and specifically their ATAK and Sport model systems, have sold like hot cakes since being introduced for the Camaro SS line. Part of the reason the pairing is so perfect is the fact that Borla designed the ATAK originally just for the Camaro SS. That doesn't mean they did a unique design of the ATAK for the Camaro SS, because every ATAK system they make is specifically built and tuned to the specific vehicle for which its built, it means that they developed an entirely new exhaust tone technology--known as their Acoustically Tuned Applied Kinetics, or ATAK for short--just to match up with the LS3's unique Camaro tuning. The result was something legendary, and since the first sound clip of the ATAK hit the internet, that Borla exhaust system has been hands down the car's most sought after exhaust modification.
On the Camaro SS, the ATAK exhaust system provided a note unlike anything heard before. It still had the depth and power of the American Small Block V8 engine that every driver had come to expect, but there was also something else there. Where Mustangs have for years paraded out their engine's raspy tone as being indicative of a Pony car, the ATAK showed that this wasn't necessarily the case. The ATAK exhaust system on the Camaro SS was a powerful, deep, and resonant tone, but it was also clean. The crescendo of the exhaust upwards through the RPM range resulted in an almost exotic peak, the sort of clean yet awe inspiring power that one expects to see on a Formula series road track, or screaming through the twists and turns of the Nurburgring.
That sort of tone is exactly what a Camaro ZL1 owner can expect also. Taking the LSA engine and making it sound good is easy--the car does that naturally. In fact, I'd claim it to be impossible for a 6.2L Supercharged Small Block V8 to sound bad. However, taking the LSA engine and making it sound other worldly, well, that's a feat that only the best exhaust systems can achieve.
The stock exhaust on the Camaro ZL1 is nice. It's bi-modal, which is a ton of fun--especially if you're afraid of volume--but that also means that there's a tinny ring in the upper registers of the RPM band. Listen for it next time you're on the road. Open up the car, go wide-open throttle, and enjoy the chorus. It's a rebel yell of an exhaust, but, at about 4000RPM there's a note that's not in line with the rest of the system. It's a sort of high pitched rattle. A faint echo of pennies in a Coke can, or someone talking in to a telephone made from two empty green bean cans and a length of string. This isn't to say that the exhaust sounds bad. Quite the contrary, actually. The exhaust is incredible and will bring a tear to even the most hardened car enthusiast, but, it isn't perfect, and there's room for improvement.
By switching away from the bi-modal system to a true straight-pipe exhaust like the Borla exhaust systems for the Camaro ZL1, you'll be forgoing some of that modern vacuum-valve technology, but this isn't a bad thing. Vacuum valves have been born out of necessity for keeping cars quieter so an older consumer can also enjoy them. Vacuum valves are the domain of the elderly and the "proper". Nobody buys a Camaro ZL1 for that sound. No, the people who buy Camaro ZL1s want their car to scream. They want it to sound like a black bear, standing over a kill on its hind legs, bellowing a ferocious roar that says to anything in hearing distance "I am the king of the forest!", they want their Camaro ZL1 to scream that it, just like that bear, is King; because, well, the Camaro ZL1 is the king. A Borla exhaust will help give your car that ferocious roar, that's for certain.
The beauty of this too is that, like the black bear, when it needs to be a Borla exhaust is majestic. It can roar like no other when it must, but, under normal driving conditions it's down right pleasant to listen to, especially the ATAK. It's a true exhaust note. It's clean. It's deep. It rumbles, but not too much. It's loud, but, it won't wake up the neighbors at start up or frighten small children when cruising. It has a certain sense of class to it that belies the monster that lives inside.
Now, if this sounds too tame, maybe the Sport is more your style. I know that Borla advertises the ATAK as the more aggressive system, but I can confidently say that this isn't necessarily the case. Maybe the Borla ATAK registers more volume on a decibel reading, but the Sport system really harkens back to those muscle car days of yore with a deeper, throatier, and raspier exhaust tone. If you're reading my description of the ATAK's Nurburgring sound and saying that you want a car that sounds more like it belongs on a drag strip with a parachute ready for deployment and some fat racing slicks on the back, well then, the Sport's the ideal exhaust for you.
Of course, if all of this sound a little too intense, but you still want to switch to a straight-through exhaust for the performance gains it gives--and there's a lot of those, too, and I'll get to them in a moment--well Borla has you covered also. The Touring system for Borla is a little too quiet for my tastes, personally, but it still features a deep and powerful tone. The volume is comparable to the stock bi-modal system with the exhaust tips open, cabin drone is absolutely nonexistent, and the exhaust tone is a deeper, more aggressive one. That tinny note I mentioned earlier? It's gone with the Borla touring, which brilliantly utilizes multi-layer resonation cones inside of the muffler to keep exhaust sound backwards and powerful, which ensuring the vehicle isn't too loud inside--even for the aforementioned Sunday driver.
Now, the beauty of an exhaust mod, is that it's not just about sound. Sure, sounding better makes driving the car more fun and helps widen the permagrin smile every Camaro ZL1 owner has just a bit, but an aftermarket exhaust also helps a vehicle perform. The name of the game in terms of performance for any and every engine is airflow capability, and this is even more important on an engine with a forced induction system akin to the LSA's Supercharger. The blower equipped to the Camaro ZL1's engine pushes a ton of air backwards through the engine, and every bit of air that hits the valves then has to exit through the exhaust. The stock pipes are of the same diameter of the Borla exhaust system, but they're less efficiently designed. There's more distance to travel, and then the mufflers choke them out even further. Piping inside the Camaro ZL1 bi-model muffler drops down to 2.5" instead of the stock 2.75" diameter. This results in the vehicle not being able to breathe as well as it would like, and, as result some of its performance potential being sapped.
Straight through exhaust pipes and Borla mufflers will result in increased air flow. Greater air flow out means the engine has the freedom to push more air in. More air in means more power. On the Camaro SS I've seen dynos report between 10 and 18 horsepower day in and day out with the addition of a Borla exhaust. On a car like the ZL1, I can only expect those numbers to be higher. Gains of around 18-28 HP on the supercharged LSA seem like a reasonable expectation, and a proper tune will only help realize even more.
The final touch on the Borla systems goes beyond the mufflers. Whether it's the Touring, Sport, or ATAK each and every Borla system for the Camaro ZL1 is a Cat-Back system. This means that in addition to over-axle piping, mufflers, and tips, every Borla system also features new mid-piping. The stock H-Pipe mid-pipe is a restrictive design that results in a lot of back pressure. The back pressure is actually physically audible as you're coming to a stop. Next time you're slowing down from 60mph+ to a stop, listen for a"popping" noise from this exhaust. This pop, known as decel-pop, is result of the choked out piping causing back pressure from the air volume changes. A Borla X-Pipe uses a much more open cross-sectional meeting points, as opposed to the straight across H pipe, and allows for greater amounts of air to flow both in and out of the system. This eliminates deceleration back pressure and the decel-pop that accompanies it. All in all, this means, again, more HP and Torque across the entire RPM band, as well as a cleaner and more modern sounding racecar exhaust tone.
Also, rest assured purchasing a Borla exhaust system. Since the exhaust piping is all post-cats on the vehicle, it doesn't change your engine warranty in any way shape or form. Your Camaro ZL1's factory warranty will remain exactly the same with this performance upgrade--something that headers, pulleys, cams, and other performance gaining mods can't promise--and that expensive new exhaust will feature a warranty as well. All Borla exhaust systems come with Borla's own Million Mile Warranty, which protects against any and all damage resultant from material or production defect. It won't be covered in case of an accident, but that's about it.
So, yeah, with Borla introducing their full line of exhaust systems to the Camaro ZL1 it's time to get excited, and start saving up a little $$$. This is one mod that you're certainly going to want to splurge on, and one that will feel and sound worth it for the entire life of your vehicle.
Chevrolet Is Giving Away a 2013 Camaro ZL1
Chevrolet and Sprint are currently running a sweepstakes to give away a Jimmie Johnson customized Camaro ZL1 and a personal Daytona weekend package for two
Want a ZL1 but can't afford one right now? Here's a chance to get a hold of one! I'm sure the odds will be slim, but, they're better no odds, right? Head over to www.wincamarozl1.com and sign up for your chance at winning a Jimmie Johnson personalized 2013 Camaro ZL1. In addition to becoming the owner of the baddest Camaro ever made, the winner will also receive a full weekend trip for two to the 2013 Daytona 500--complete with transportation, hotel accommodations, race tickets, and travel allowance. All you have to do is answer a full simple questions about the ZL1 and put in your contact information. So, what do you say? It's worth giving it a shot, right?
Hennesey Performance Builds a 707HP Camaro ZL1
The Audacious and Talented Tuners at Hennesey Performance Have Built a 707HP Camaro ZL1 HPE700
When it comes to taking American muscle cars and injecting them with metaphorical horse steroids to create a new sort of powerful pavement-hungry monsterbeast, few shops out there are as adept and excited about their work as Hennesey Performance. The makers of 1000+HP Cadillacs, Corvettes, Mustangs, and Camaros are always amongst the first shops to embrace new vehicles and push them to their very limits, which is what makes the release of this new HPE700 Camaro ZL1 so excitin, it's the beginning for them. With a track record of making 1200HP Camaros, seeing them roll out this first Hennesey iteration for testing at 700HP is exciting because it means bigger, better, and powerful things are on the way.
That's not to say that this Camaro ZL1 is a slouch by any means, though. In fact, this car would almost certainly beat (or, at the very least, run respectably with) every production supercar out there, thanks in part to its massive power output and the brilliant GM Magnetic Ride Control suspension.
So, how does Hennesey get this Camaro ZL1 to +700HP? Well, by having a lot of fun, of course. HPE began their upgrade by porting the heads on the Camaro ZL1 and upgrading the camshaft. They then upped the boost on the stock supercharger with upgraded pulleys, and started bolting on some goodies. The full list of mods, taken directly from the Hennesey Performance website, includes:
- LS9 6.2L Supercharged Engine
- HPE Air Induction System
- Supercharger Pulley Upgrade
- High Flow Supercharger Snout Upgrade
- High Flow Cylinder Heads
- HPE700 Camshaft Upgrade
- High-Flow Fuel Injectors
- Fuel System Upgrade
- Intercooler System Upgrade
- Stainless Steel Long Tube Headers
- Stainless Steel Mid-Pipes
- High Flow Catalytic Converters
- HPE Extreme Duty Clutch & Flywheel Upgrade
- HPE Race Shift Knob and Short Throw Shifter Upgrade
- HPE Light Weight Alloy Wheels:
20 x 9.5 inch (front); 20 x 10.5 inch (rear)
Pirelli P-Zero Tires: 275/35-YR20 (front); 305/35-YR20 (rear)
- Brembo Front Brake Upgrade: 6-Piston Calipers with Light Weight 15 inch Cross-Drilled Rotors
- Brembo Rear Brake Upgrade: 4-Piston Calipers with 15 inch Light Weight Rotors
- Adjustable Coil-Over Suspension System
- HPE Front & Rear Sway Bar Upgrades
- Tubular Frame Brace (Convertible Only)
- CarbonAero Bodywork: Front Splitter, Rear Bumper Diffuser & Side Rocker Panels
The end result actually looks like, based on the numbers, that the 707HP quote is a rather conservative one, also. The stock ZL1 dynos at 490HP to the wheels, which is a 16% power loss during transfer. The HPE700 dynoed at 671HP to the wheels. Of course, with some of these upgrades, less power loss is to be expected, however, even at an insane rate of just 10% power loss that would make this a 738HP vehicle. Looks to me like Hennesey's being modest about this monster.
The car looks like a lot of fun, sounds like a monster, and is certainly going to make one Hennesey customer very very happy. Check it out:
Comments and Thoughts Concerning the new CAFE Standards
New CAFE Standards Standards and Regulations Placed Upon Automotive Industries Will Make American Muscle Cars Like the Dodge Challenger "As Rare as White Flies"
This past week, following an uncertain and unprecedented delay, the Obama White House administration signed in to place an updated Corporate Average Fuel Economy, known as CAFE for short, standard agreed upon by the American Congress. These new standards will move the requirements for an automotive company to a fleet-wide average of 54.5 MPG. This 54.5 MPG benchmark number--which will not affect work related vehicles--will result in the average MPG of all passenger and light truck vehicles being more than double the current-day rating by 2025. This is the largest overall jump in those CAFE numbers since the CAFE guidelines were first put in to effect in 1978.
In his speech concerning these changes, President Obama stated that “These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil". Environmental scientists have also pointed out the fact that these changes will result in an almost 50% reduction in release of greenhouse gases resulting from American automotive use. Other aspects of this change pointed out by Government officials and Economists highlight an average of almost $8,000 in savings for the average American family on fuel costs over the life of their vehicle, and others have pointed to possible creation of close to 570,000 jobs within the Green Energy sector and Automotive R&D areas as result of these changes.
Of course, not everybody has as rosy an outlook on the new guidelines, and the actual impact the new CAFE standards will have on the automotive industry are uncertain. Some automakers, including Ford and GM, seem ready to embrace the new standards. In anticipation of these changes--which were at one point expected to be 56.2MPG standard, and had even had a 62MPG number floated by White House officials--these two automakers have diversified their corporate portfolios. Ford has added investment stake in the all-electric automakers Tesla, and begun expanding their line-up of Natural Gas burning vehicles in to their F-Series truck market as well. Chevrolet recently invested heavily in the Electric-vehicle group Proterra, as well as the creation of their own electric vehicle plant in Maryland to support the sales of their Volt automobile, and their expansion back in to clean diesel engines, similar to those used by automakers like Volkswagen in Europe where 50-60+MPG ratings are regularly attainable at fuel conscious driving conditions.
However, others aren't reacting as happily to this news. Many naysayers in the automotive industry have pointed to the fact that these standards will result in future automobiles being much smaller, resulting in both decreased passenger space as well as decreased vehicle safety. These same individuals are also claiming that the largely battery-based automobile will actually be more harmful for the environment as result of the chemical processes used both to create these enhanced cell batteries, as well as the waste they leave behind once they've stopped functioning. Finally, too, they point to increased vehicle costs to the consumer as another potential downfall of the problem.
Of the program itself, Obama's Presidential challenger in the upcoming Election, Republican politician and former Bain CEO and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney branded the CAFE standards as "extreme" and claimed that they "hurt domestic automakers and provide a benefit to some of the foreign automakers". Of the diversification by automakers in to the Electric market and the development of the electric vehicle as a viable alternative, Romney says that the electric vehicle is "“a technology that people aren’t interested in” and that if elected he would work to repeal the CAFE standards. His side also argues that repealing of CAFE, when coupled with the removal of oil drilling regulations, would result in the creation of "millions of jobs", but have not provided any evidence to support the claim of millions or to provide a hard number, outside of the some 14,000 lost in that industry since 2008 being rehired.
Chiming in on the change, also, was the Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne who seems to be falling directly in between both the Obama and Romney camps. Marchionne himself seems entirely confident that Chrysler will be able to meet the 54.5MPG standard without issue come 2025, and even mentioned at one point being excited about embracing the change and the movement towards developing new technology that it will allow, but also warned of some side effects.
The most pointed to negative side effect of the CAFE changes that Marchionne pointed to was that they will " “will change the way this industry operates" and effectively make the development and building of large, V8 powered performance vehicles like the HEMI powered 392 Challenger SRT-8 that he himself drives daily, as "rare as white flies". Ultimately, Marchionne and other analysts who agree with him, feel that the CAFE changes will bring about the death of the incredibly popular American muscle car segment--one of the market share areas that foreign automakers have never been able to compete with American corporations at.
Some analysts point to the industry's same worries over CAFE regulations in the late 70's and early 80's as proof of exactly why this won't come to fruition. During that time period, following the first CAFe implementation, automakers were opining the event as the death of the V8 engine, yet today more, and far more powerful, V8 performance cars are available than ever before, thanks in part to large technological advances. Today, vehicle's like the 600-plus horsepower Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and Chrysler/Dodge's own 640hp SRT Viper are readily available, and were the sort of thing nobody could have even imagined in the late 70's, much less predicted would ever be available directly off of a dealer lot or showroom.
In all, the CAFE regulations will certainly change the industry functions, but how much and in what ways are currently uncertain. Experienced automotive industry analyst predicts that by 2025 the industry itself, and the vehicles which they put on the road, “will change less than anybody imagines – but more than anyone wants," a sentiment which puts him directly in line with Marchionne. So, whether the future is in electric, hybrid, diesel, natural gas, or another newly developed alternative energy technology, only one thing is for certain: that it is the future, and we're headed quickly in that direction. In fact, with the rise of the four cylinder in America, an engine configuration which now powers 43% of all new vehicles sold, we're closer than we thought. Here's to hoping, no matter what this future has in hold, that doesn't kill off those vehicles we all love like the Challenger, Corvette, Viper, Mustang, and Camaro.
GT500 and Camaro ZL1 Video Comparison
Chris Harris of Drive is one of the finest and most well-respected automobile journalists on the internet today, and this latest review of his indicates exactly why that is. In this video Harris takes a very un-biased eye and turns it towards the two American muscle cars du jour: the Ford Mustang GT500 and the Camaro ZL1. He's clearly not super versed on these cars--his numbers are off, even accounting for the transition from American HP ratings to European metric HP ratings--and doesn't have a favorite going in, but he's enthusiastic and excited about both of them the entire time.
In fact, it's Harris' enthusiasm that makes this review so great. He's upbeat about both vehicles, enjoys driving each of them, and has a ton of fun throughout--fun evidenced by his sense of humor, his perma-grin behind the wheel of each vehicle, and the multiple times he gets pulled over by police officers while on the streets of NYC. This enthusiasm makes this my favorite review or comparison I've seen thus far also, because Harris spends his time lauding both vehicles for what they do greatl, and let's be honest, even if we prefer one of them over the other (and we all know which one that is, right?) we are car lovers first and foremost and can recognize that each of these vehicles is absolutely outstanding and are leagues ahead of anything we dreamed possible in the automobile world just a few short decades ago.
In the end, Harris seems to prefer the GT500, but, he does also state that the Camaro ZL1 is 2 seconds faster around the track for him. He likes the Camaro's interior more, calling it comparable to a BMW or Audi, and appreciates its every day driver feel, but also recognizes that the Mustang GT500 is a rawer and purer take on the American muscle car tradition--like few cars before it have ever been.
Regardless of how you feel about Harris' decision, however, enjoy the video for what it is: one guy with a job we'd all love to have having a great deal of fun!
Edmunds InsideLine Takes the ZL1 and GT500 Out For Some Comparison Fun
Well, the Camaro ZL1 has been out for a while now and the reviews have been absolutely stunning, but, the book was far from closed on the car. It had to wait for its one true direct competitor to release, and that time is upon us. This year we'll see both the Camaro ZL1 and the new Shelby Mustang GT500 on the streets, and the comparisons will be inevitable and very very interesting.
Seeing what the bowtie was up to, the boys at the blue oval took to directly engineering a vehicle to compete with it, but be incredibly different and unique in its own way also. What this results in are two very different, very capable, and very impressive cars.
When looking at just the basic numbers--and these are the things most casual car fans will look at, of course--it's clear that the Shelby GT500 has a leg up, and InsideLine confirmed this. The Mustang dynos out to have 98 more horsepower to the wheels, over 100 more ft/pounds of torque, and it weighs 227 pounds less. These sorts of numbers will typically spell doom for a car in a comparison, and, in a straight line they certainly do. The Mustang GT500 goes from 0-60 in 4.0 seconds per their tests, a whole .4 seconds quicker than the Camaro ZL1 which reaches that mark in 4.4. And while it takes the Camaro ZL1 12.4 seconds to run the quarter mile at 116.1 mph, the Mustang GT500 accomplishes that same feat in 11.9 seconds at 123.5 mph.
So, at a drag strip, there's a very clear winner between these two vehicles, and at the price point what the GT500 is doing is absolutely incredible. The car definitely deserves praise; however, InsideLine wanted to test the full capabilities of the vehicles, and once the two automobiles found some pavement with some twists, the car in the lead--so to say--definitely changed.
Thanks in large part to its incredibly complex MRC Magnetic Suspension system, the Camaro ZL1 was able to put down its power and keep its wheels in place and nose pointing forward with much greater ease around a turn. The brilliant, multi-stage suspension at work on the Camaro ZL1 also gives the Camaro a much greater road driving feel, especially when driven in comparison to the almost archaic solid rear transaxle of the GT500.
What this meant then was that when driving on any pavement not pointed dead ahead, the Camaro ZL1 was able to pull ahead with ease, and the driver's feel of doing it was one of almost complete effortlessness. On the back road that InsideLine took the two vehicles to, they claimed that shortly after getting going, the ZL1 was already out of sight of the GT500. As they so eloquently put it, "The angriest Mustang in history, the car that had face-punched the ZL1 for months at auto shows and in Web forums was being systematically annihilated by that exact car. Every corner was another opportunity for the Camaro to drop trou and wave its giant bowtie-emblazoned butt in the GT500's face."
So, while the GT500 is clearly the car with the victorious power plant, it looks like as an all around vehicle the ZL1 wins this one--at least, according to InsideLine. Ultimately, it's hard to say one of these cars is better than the other because, well, they're both so damn brilliant. If I were building a car for the drag strip I'd much rather start with the GT500 as my base, and if I wanted a car I could haul-ass in through some windy mountain roads, I'd take the ZL1 every single day of the week (and again on Sunday!). I don't want to bash either car, just want to report on how the comparisons look, and let you decide which one you like more. For me and for my money, I'd take the high-tech ZL1, but I'd never look down on a GT500 driver for the choice they made.