2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Bursting airborne and sideways, wheels stretching for the ground, the raw, stunningly rapid, and now very aloft Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 should be a barbaric, deadly thing. Yet, in the crucial milliseconds following its oblique touchdown, it defines itself differently. Aaron Link, the ZL1’s lead development engineer, adds a breath of countersteer, stays in the gas, and carries the slide, fully committed, to the track’s edge. Crimson leaves explode behind its rear diffuser, then waft to the ground in what remains of the ZL1’s throat-punch exhaust note. The most powerful Camaro ever made fires a round of upshifts into the autumn air and hurls itself at the next corner, unfazed.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro

“That’s the eLSD,” says Link, referring to the ZL1’s electronically controlled limited-slip differential, which it shares with the SS 1LE trim for 2017. “It’s scenarios like that that really sold us on the eLSD, despite its weight penalty.” The ZL1’s active diff weighs 44 pounds more than the clutch-type limited-slip differential in the Camaro SS, but it’s lighter than the massive 9.9-inch diff in the fifth-gen­eration ZL1. And neither of those offered as much authority over these sorts of automotive gymnastics.

GM calls this ability “yaw damping” and offers no shortage of data to prove it works—all of which are less convincing than 1 minute and 53 seconds on its Milford road course. That’s about the time the ZL1 is capable of posting around the famed development track. Chevy won’t reveal the exact time but says it’s about three seconds quicker than the last ZL1, which ran a 1:56.

Forged 10-inch-wide front and 11-inch-wide rear wheels wear 285/30R-20 and 305/30R-20 rubber, respectively. Goodyear, once again, is the ZL1’s tire supplier, and it worked with engineers through many variants of its Eagle F1 Supercar tire before arriving at the final compound and construction, which is called G:3.

Carbon-ceramic brake rotors, like those offered on the 2015 Z/28, aren’t available. This is both a cost-control measure and a practical one, as the iron brakes meet GM’s performance targets. The ZL1’s two-piece 15.4-inch iron front rotors are clamped by fixed, six-piston Brembo calipers. Even with hefty brakes, the Alpha platform nets the ZL1 a 220-pound weight savings over the last model; at about 3950 pounds when equipped with the 10-speed automatic, though, it’s certainly no feather­weight. Still, it’s quicker. Chevy says 10-speed–equipped coupes should hit 60 in 3.5 seconds and hammer through the quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds at 127 mph.

Customizable launch control that allows adjustable engine speed and wheelslip between 5 and 15 percent is standard and can be had with either transmission. And, keeping pace with Ford, the ZL1 now offers line-lock, a feature that clamps the front brakes but leaves the rear free for epic burnouts. It’s so buried in the instrument-cluster menus that even Captain Liability himself couldn’t accidentally activate it.

Chevy is prepared to sell you a ZL1 coupe for $62,135 when it goes on sale this month. The convertible will follow in the spring for seven grand more. Both will be subject to gas-guzzler taxes, and their ­gratuitously burned hydrocarbons will be worth every extra penny.

Tech Highlight: Cooling That Goes to 11

That the ZL1 packages 11 heat exchangers into its powertrain shouldn’t surprise you. Six hundred and fifty, after all, are a lot of ponies to chill. Of the 11, seven are air-to-liquid coolers and four are liquid-to-liquid. There’s an air-conditioning condenser packed in there as well because drivers need cooling, too. Chevy engineers came up with a novel solution for keeping the ZL1’s active differential from cooking its lube. Cooled transmission oil is routed to a heat exchanger inside the differential housing where it extracts heat from the differential oil. An auxiliary transmission cooler is packaged horizontally and sits under a wind-­tunnel-designed cover that protects it from road debris and increases flow through its core. Cool.

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