What do you get when you take a legendary automotive nameplate, completely reimagine the design, and add next-generation performance technology? Introducing the 2021 Chevy Camaro ZL1. Forget everything you knew about sports coupes and get ready to experience all the thrill of a supercharged performance beast bearing the name of America’s favorite pony car.
The Camaro ZL1 is part of an extensive 2021 Camaro lineup that includes everything from a capably-equipped starter trim in the mid-$20,000 range to quirky special editions with names like Wild Cherry and Redline. There’s even a convertible entrant for open-air driving fans. But the spotlight deservedly falls on the high-end performance trims, specifically the ZL1.
This trim sits menacingly at the top of the range with an equally lofty price tag that hovers at around $70k when fully equipped. But even at that price, the depth of advanced race-inspired capability is nothing short of astounding, and in the universe of elite sports cars, the Camaro ZL1 is actually considered affordable. You don’t usually put value and performance in the same sentence, but here it’s actually relevant.
What’s inside, around, and under the hood of this elite track-attacking super beast? We reveal all the class-leading features and performance capabilities of the Camaro ZL1 to see why MotorTrend called it “one of the best-balanced sports cars available.” That’s high praise, and it is certainly well earned.
What this car does best is go fast. How fast? We’re talking 0-60 in a scant 3.5 seconds, barely enough time for the human eye to naturally blink twice. So quite literally, if you blink, you’ll miss it (well, most of it anyway). Are the platitudes well-deserved? Let’s look past the satin black hood and aggressive diamond-patterned grille and examine the brute force capabilities of the fastest Camaro in the lineup, the 2021 ZL1.
Performance, Performance, and More Performance
Let’s start with the obvious: 650 horses is ferocious, goose-bump-inducing power. Equipped with the add-on 1LE Track Package that stiffens the suspension, the Camaro ZL1’s beastly performance stats rival any competitor in its class, even those with higher horsepower ratings. It’ll set you back nearly $8,000, but if true racing capability is the goal, we say spend the extra Benjamins.
Any go-fast sports coupe worth its redline rating came with four-on-the-floor shifting capability, but since it’s 2021, we’ll admire the Camaro Z71’s 6-speed manual transmission (there’s an available 10-speed automatic, but why?). Add to that a 6.2-liter V8 engine equipped with a 1.7-liter Eaton supercharger, direct injection, and variable valve timing, and the Camaro is dangerous off-the-line and at high speeds.
What exactly is the job of a supercharger? Superchargers are essentially air compressors that force more oxygen into the engine, which in turn produces more power. Unlike turbochargers, which operate via a compressor that uses energy from exhaust gases, superchargers rely on the engine for power, making the power they generate more immediately available.
Unfortunately, what a supercharger gains in immediate power, it loses in efficiency. Turbochargers are generally more fuel-efficient and thus are used more broadly to enhance performance because they don’t challenge increasingly strict greenhouse gas and fuel economy regulations. Adding a turbocharger to a 4-cylinder engine yields the power of a larger, less fuel-efficient V6. Keep an eye on emerging electric supercharger technology, though. It’s a potential game-changing performance enhancer without the environmental compromise.
The 1LE Track Performance Package
Chevy must have realized that even the Supercharged ZL1 might not scratch the itch of extreme performance seekers. Enter the 1LE Track Package. It’s best understood if you have a Physics degree, but if you don’t, we’ll try to explain why the 1LE package is so transformative. We’ll give you a hint: it’s a combination of aerodynamics and elite racing components.
First, there’s the exposed weave rear wing, made of carbon fiber, that adds 300 pounds of downforce. Just as wings are responsible for making airplanes fly, upside-down wings press objects into the ground. In racing, speed can only get you so far. The role of aerodynamics is prominent in downforce so that carbon fiber rear wing works as 300 pounds of virtual weight pressing the vehicle down and reducing drag.
A series of adjustable components also contribute to track dynamics. These include front camber plates and a rear stabilizer bar. Camber is the measurement of the tire’s inward or outward angle (when viewed from the front). Negative – or inward – camber generally improves grip. Since the 1LE package includes special Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar performance tires, setting the camber just so will maximize their potential.
When you’re driving at track speeds, brakes take on a whole new level of importance. The 1LE package includes a Brembo 6-piston front and 4-piston rear braking system. Brembo is the gold standard of brakes for luxury and performance cars, recognizable by their signature bright red calipers. What makes them special? They’re constructed to offer better braking torque and a higher capacity for absorbing heat.
Race-Inspired Interior Finishes
The 2021 Camaro ZL1 with the 1LE Track Package reimagines the cabin with unmistakable race-inspired equipment, like a suede-wrapped d-shaped steering wheel that matches well with the accompanying suede-covered shift knob. The cabin is fitted with custom RECARO front seats featuring bolsters designed to mold to bodies that are busy steering and shifting.
Opt for the available Performance Data Recorder, and you can capture driving videos and data to show your friends who own less powerful cars. The system is comprised of three main components: a high-definition windshield-mounted camera, a microphone in the cabin, and a telemetry recorder that relies on super-fast GPS (5 hertz per second, for tech geeks) to record exact positioning. There’s also an SD-card slot for transferring video and data.
You can record in four different modes. Track Mode shows just about every data point, including speed, rpm, g-force, and lap time. Sport Mode shows less data but maintains speed and g-force displays. Touring Mode is a data-free video and audio display, and Performance Mode captures typical stats, like 0-60 time and 1/4-mile speed.
Other included interior features are an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, an available 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot, available Navigation, and a standard wireless charging pad. A customizable Head-Up display that projects a readout of speed, rpm level, and other vehicle data at eye level on the windshield is also standard.
Satisfy Your Need for Speed
In an age where car engines are getting smaller, and fuel efficiency rules the day, a machine like the 2021 Chevy Camaro ZL1 is something of a unicorn. It harkens back to the muscle car days when big-block V8s were revered, and aspirational Camaro posters were plastered on every suburban teenager’s bedroom wall. Just knowing it exists is a comfort to die-hard pony car lovers.
We’re glad Chevy is still making muscle cars, too. It’s a niche that serves old-school performance seekers, and it serves as a flagship model for the Chevrolet brand. It unabashedly dumps a big V8 under the hood, adorns it with race-quality brakes and accessories, and welcomes buyers to rediscover track driving. While the Camaro lineup is full of less meaty trims, the ZL1 is reserved for a special buyer and thus deserves an equally special place in our hearts.
Are you seeking a true performance sports coupe that’s more at home on a racetrack than your neighborhood thruway? We can’t imagine a shopping process that doesn’t include a test drive of the 2021 Chevy Camaro ZL1. Simply put, you won’t find this much capability in a more affordably-priced package anywhere else.