Standing in the halls of the Javits Center trying to regain my sanity after a day in the bright wash of the New York International Auto Show, I looked up to see Mark Reuss, president of General Motors’ North American operations swagger by. And yes, he swaggered — the man looked so confident that I followed him into GM land, where he took the stage to introduce the new Camaro Z/28 to the soundtrack of Aerosmith’s Back in the Saddle.
“This is not simply a straight-line, 0-100 drag strip car, although you can do that if you want,” Reuss said to the assembled. “Yes, I do want,” I thought to myself.
The Z/28 is relatively spartan, but you can’t help but like what it offers: a six-speed Tremec manual transmission paired to a racing-derived, dry-sumped, 7.0-litre V8 engine that produces around 500bhp and 637Nm of torque, and boasting titanium intake valves and connecting rods as well as sodium-filled exhaust valves.
Power is sent to the 19in rear wheels shod with Pirelli PZero Trofeo R tyres (The Z/28 is the first production car to get them.) GM says the car is three seconds faster per lap than the mighty ZL1. This is due to its increased grip (pulling up to 1.05g in cornering acceleration) and increased stopping power: the Z/28 features six-piston Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes capable of 1.5g in deceleration, reminding me of something I learned during a hot lap with a driving instructor a few years ago: “the secret to a great lap is late braking.”
The Z/28 also bests the ZL1 in reduced chassis weight (it’s a whopping 136kg lighter than the current generation supercharged flagship) — the car is so pared-down that even air conditioning isn’t standard equipment (although I doubt they’ll be imported here without it). This thing is positively skeletal and ought to blow the trucker caps off the Nascar fans.
GM has torn the carpeting out of the boot, ripped up as much insulation as possible, got a lighter rear-window glass and whittled what would have been the audio system down to one solitary speaker — and that only remains in the car because US federal safety regulators require it for the seat-belt chime.
And lest we complain about the lack of massage seats and Bose sound, remember that when the first Z/28 rolled out in 1967, it wasn’t available as an automatic or with air conditioning at all. Cars have gorged on technology since then, and GM went to work on the Z/28 until it emerged weighing 136kg less. And while those more creature-comfort-laden, stock ‘Maros might be a tad eclipsed by the Z/28, it’s worth noting that they’ve had a sort of hoodlum’s makeover.
In all iterations the 2014 Camaro is redesigned and wears a new, villainous scowl across its front end that, in addition to the nefarious attitude, offers improved aerodynamics for more efficient cooling and stability. The car looks great, adding improved style to a solid performer. All this means one thing: the ball’s in your court now, Ford.