The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 knows when it's airborne.
"When you jump the car, ride height sensors on the suspension tell the Z/28 to dial back the throttle so it doesn't overpower the tires when it touches back down," explains GM's Mark Stielow, engineer and in-house hotshoe.
It's this focus on the ability to exploit these fleeting, tentative fingers of grip that characterizes the Z/28.
Riding shotgun in the car while it's driven at full kill on GM's Milford Road Course (MRC), what stands out in sharpest relief is not the car's ample power, nor its grip, though that, too, is abundant. It's the control.
So much so that its hand-built, 500-plus-horsepower, 7.0-liter V8 is incidental to its character.
A Camaro With Porsche in Its Sights
In creating the Z/28, a car that its creators regard as a rival to the 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 and 2014 Nissan GT-R, GM's engineers largely ignored street use and instead turned their attention to doing whatever was necessary to improve its road course lap times.
"This is a track car, not a daily driver," says chief engineer Al Oppenheiser, beaming like a proud father. Thus, mega horsepower in the vein of the ZL1 took a backseat to honing the Camaro's Zeta chassis to its sharpest edge yet.
How sharp? Consider that, in the hands of GM's fastest drivers, the 505-hp Z/28 is nearly 3 seconds faster around MRC than the supercharged 580-hp Camaro ZL1.
Tires That Push the Limits of Legality
The 2014 Chevy Camaro Z/28's potency is heavily rooted in its R-compound tires. These ultra-sticky Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires sized 305/30ZR19 all around are optimized for dry track conditions, and that's about it. They're street-legal in the same way that wearing banana-sling underwear in public is legal. You can do it, but it's probably not a good idea.
Track-biased tires alone do not a track car make. Such tires need a suspension that's capable of properly exploiting them, so the Z/28 wears front and rear springs that are 85 and 65 percent stiffer, respectively, than a standard Camaro SS. Higher-durometer suspension bushings are fitted to enhance precision and cope with the higher forces this car is capable of generating. The 19-inch forged wheels have shot-blasted inner beads that bite into the tires to prevent slippage of one relative to the other.
Then there are the brakes. Up front, six-piston monobloc calipers bite down on 15.5-inch carbon-ceramic rotors. In back, the calipers use four pistons to slow 15.4-inch discs that are also carbon-ceramic. Compared to steel discs, the carbon rotors save 28 pounds overall — and the whole setup is standard equipment.
But as impressive as the brakes may be, it's the dampers that transform the car.
Racing Technology in a Camaro
Patented, supplied and co-developed by motorsport gurus Multimatic, the Z/28's dampers eschew the traditional shim pack that typically comprises the heart of a damper. Instead, a spool valve regulates the fluid's path within each one. This unique approach to valving is also the dampers' namesake — Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV). The advantages of DSSV dampers are numerous, but the one you notice most is their ability to instantly recover from rapid transitions between compression and rebound.
As a result the Z/28 feels immensely poised and is unflustered by bumps, crests and jumps. When we point this out to our MRC driver, Bill Wise, during the cool-down lap of our brief track outing, he perfectly summarizes how this aspect of the Multimatic dampers actually makes the car faster. "I can return to the throttle much sooner because I don't have to wait for the chassis to take a set."
In terms of chassis composure, the Z/28 is indeed fairly astonishing, at least from the passenger seat. The comparison of this car to the 911 GT3 is not that far off the mark in this respect.
This Good, and It's Still Getting Better
GM says the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 will circle a skid pad at 1.08g, and that's the only one of the typical performance yardstick numbers the company is ready to share. As of today, the car is still in development. Rest assured we'll learn the Z/28's acceleration, braking and slalom numbers well before the car goes into production late next spring.
The Z/28's visuals won't change, however, differentiating itself from lesser Camaros by its huge front splitter, vented hood and conspicuous rear deck lid spoiler. Together these elements are responsible for a big reduction in aerodynamic lift compared to the Camaro SS. It's said that the Z/28 actually develops net downforce at speed, an unusual result among street cars.
Fender arch extensions provide cover for the impossibly wide front tires, giving the Z/28 a burly muscularity that makes it look as if it's poised to punch you in the mouth.
What About the 7.0-Liter V8?
Right, horsepower. The Z/28 plucks the normally aspirated LS7 V8 from GM's parts bin. Last seen in the Corvette Z06, the LS7 in the Z/28 generates the same 505 hp but torque rises by 11 pound-feet to 481 lb-ft due to revised exhaust manifolds.
Despite a weight reduction program that sheds between 80 and 100 pounds over the Camaro SS, the Z/28 is still a Camaro, which means that it is still an exceedingly dense car. In fact, the Z28's 3,837-pound curb weight is nearly 600 pounds higher than the last Z06 we tested.
So while the LS7 is enormously punchy in the Z06, its urge is blunted noticeably by the heavy Z/28. That the Z/28's downforce-enhancing body mods also increase its drag doesn't help its straight-line acceleration situation. It's still fast, make no mistake.
Ratios in the six-speed manual gearbox and the 3.91 rear end are carried over from the Camaro 1LE, although the Z/28's smaller tire diameter gives it slightly shorter gearing overall. This gearset has ratios that are closer for gears two through four, which are the ones most likely to be selected when driving on a track. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Still More Track Parts
To withstand prolonged track use, the 2014 Chevy Camaro Z/28 gets a dry-sump oiling system, an external engine oil cooling circuit and integrated cooling of the transmission and differential. Its front wheel bearings were also lifted from the ZL1. A Torsen helical differential replaces the clutch-type diff found in SS and 1LE models. Like the Camaro ZL1, the Z/28 is a car that GM fully warrantees for track use.
Performance Traction Management (PTM) finds a home in the Z/28, and drivers Wise and Stielow both say they're faster with the system on (in PTM5) than switched fully off. Inside the cabin, manually adjusted Recaro seats do an effective job of holding you in all but the most extreme banked corner, like the MRC's Toilet Bowl. If you're looking for creature comforts, though, this car isn't for you. Heck, air-conditioning is an option.
Pricing is yet to be announced. However, GM's brass says it will be more costly than the ZL1, or something north of $57,000. This may appear steep at a glance, but the Z/28 is a car that exhibits singular purpose like few cars on the road anywhere near this price. GM plans to produce only 3,000-4,000 units of the Z/28 over its two-year life, so the car that's easily the most capable, focused and track-worthy Z/28 ever devised will also be scarce.
|Year Make Model:||2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 2dr Coupe (7.0L 8cyl 6M)|
|Vehicle type:||RWD 2dr 4-passenger coupe|
|Configuration:||Longitudinal, front engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Engine type:||Naturally aspirated, port-injected V8, gasoline|
|Valvetrain:||Pushrod, 2 valves per cylinder|
|Compression ratio (x:1):||11.0|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):||505 @ 6,300|
|Torque (lb-ft @ rpm):||481 @ 4,800|
|Fuel type:||Premium unleaded (required)|
|Transmission type:||Six-speed manual|
|Transmission ratios (x:1):||I = 2.66; II = 1.78; III = 1.30; IV = 1.00; V = 0.74; VI = 0.50; VII = 0.839; VIII = 0.667; R = 2.90|
|Final-drive ratio (x:1):||3.91|
|Differential(s):||Electronic active rear differential|
|Suspension, front:||Independent MacPherson strut, inverted 40mm monotube, stabilizer bar|
|Suspension, rear:||Independent multilink with 45mm monotube, stabilizer bar|
|Steering type:||Electric speed-proportional power steering|
|Tire make and model:||Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R|
|Tire type:||Summer, high-performance|
|Wheel size:||19-by-11 inches front — 19-by-11.5 inches rear|
|Wheel material:||Painted alloy|
|Brakes, front:||15.5-inch one-piece carbon-ceramic discs with 6-piston fixed calipers|
|Brakes, rear:||15.4-inch one-piece carbon-ceramic discs with 4-piston fixed calipers|
|Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.):||19.0|
|Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.):||3,837|
|Track, front (in.):||66.1|
|Track, rear (in.):||64.7|
|Bumper-to-bumper:||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain:||5 years/100,000 miles|
|Corrosion:||6 years/100,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance:||5 years/100,000 miles|
|Free scheduled Maintenance:||2 years/24,000 miles|
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.