2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Review

Part high-horsepower muscle car, part modern sports car: The ZL1 sets a performance benchmark.
4.0 / 5
Edmunds overall rating
author
by James Riswick
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Sure, the 650-horsepower 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will endlessly roast its rear tires if that's all you want. But it's also a surprisingly well-rounded high-performance car, with the precision handling, stout brakes and compliant ride that even a BMW M4 owner will be jealous of. Forget the old Camaro stereotypes.

Indeed, with its supercharged V8, upgraded suspension and brakes, giant, sticky tires and an available 10-speed transmission, the 2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 is the ultimate Camaro (at least until the ZL1 1LE track package comes out next year) and represents the best of both worlds when it comes to this newest brand of high-horsepower American muscle.

Even though the 2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1 is in a relatively small class of high-horsepower, performance-oriented American muscle cars, it is almost in a class of its own. There's the 707-hp Dodge Challenger Hellcat, but it's more of a straight-line kind of car. Alternately, the Ford Shelby (Mustang) GT350 offers racetrack-dominating handling but just can't compete with the Chevy for power. And neither of those competitors is available as a drop-top.

The ZL1's flaws relate to the car it's based on. Like all Camaros, it's got a comically small backseat, terrible visibility and a trunk barely big enough for a pair of backpacks. But all of that is greatly overshadowed by the ZL1's lustful combination of bravado, capability and refinement.



What's new for 2017

The 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is an all-new ultra high-performance version of the Camaro. It features a supercharged V8, upgraded suspension and brakes, stickier tires and other modifications meant to maximize the car's performance.

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The Camaro ZL1 is a specific trim level, and you really can't go wrong. But there are a few options we'd go with. First: coupe or convertible? That's a personal choice certainly, but with a bigger trunk, electronically controlled limited-slip differential (rather than the mechanical one) and Chevy's Performance Traction Management (PTM) system, the coupe lets you make the most of the ZL1's performance. We'd also go with the 10-speed automatic transmission. We understand the urge to operate your 650-horsepower beast with three pedals, but the 10-speed is too good to pass up.




Trim levels & features

Note that this review does not cover 2017 Camaro models other than the ZL1. Please see our 2017 Camaro Review for a broad overview of this year's Camaro lineup.

The 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is a high-performance version of the standard Camaro. It's available in a single trim level as either a four-seat coupe or a convertible. On the performance front, the ZL1 gets a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine (650 hp, 650 lb-ft), a six-speed manual transmission (a 10-speed automatic is optional), Brembo brakes, the FE4 suspension with adaptive dampers, an electronic limited-slip differential (the convertible gets a mechanical limited-slip), 20-inch forged alloy wheels, upgraded performance tires and Recaro sport seats.

Additional standard equipment includes dual-mode performance exhaust, LED running lights, xenon headlights, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, warning systems for blind spots, rear cross-traffic and lane departure, keyless ignition and entry, heated and auto-dimming mirrors, power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, adjustable drive modes, a simulated suede-wrapped heated steering wheel, driver-seat memory functions and a head-up display. Technology equipment includes Bluetooth, OnStar emergency communications, wireless smartphone charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, smartphone app integration (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), an 8-inch touchscreen with Chevy's MyLink interface, and a nine-speaker Bose audio system.

Stand-alone optional extras include a sunroof (coupe), an integrated navigation system, premium floor mats and various carbon-fiber trim.

A track-focused 1LE package has been announced, but it won't arrive until the 2018 model year.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our First Drive of the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible (supercharged 6.2L V8 | 10-speed automatic | RWD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall4.0 / 5

Driving

5.0 / 5

Acceleration5.0 / 5
Braking5.0 / 5
Steering4.5 / 5
Handling5.0 / 5
Drivability5.0 / 5

Comfort

4.0 / 5

Seat comfort4.0 / 5
Ride comfort4.5 / 5
Noise & vibration3.0 / 5
Climate control4.0 / 5

Interior

2.5 / 5

Ease of use2.0 / 5
Getting in/getting out2.5 / 5
Driving position3.0 / 5
Roominess2.5 / 5
Visibility2.0 / 5
Quality3.0 / 5

Utility

2.0 / 5

Small-item storage2.0 / 5
Cargo space2.0 / 5

Technology

4.0 / 5

Audio & navigation3.0 / 5
Smartphone integration3.0 / 5
Voice control5.0 / 5

Driving5.0

It's no surprise that a Camaro with a supercharged V8 is an excellent straight-line car, but this Camaro does just about everything else well, too. With so much performance available, it becomes a tough choice between the Camaro and performance benchmarks such as the Corvette.

Acceleration5.0

Under full-throttle acceleration, the LT4 V8 launches you forward in a dizzyingly fast but satisfyingly nonviolent manner. Massive torque that's available at any point in the rev range means you can gently roll into the throttle and move forward quickly without head-jerking thrust.

Braking5.0

Big six-piston brakes up front and four-piston calipers in the rear stop the ZL1 hard. They're easy to modulate on the road, with a firm and responsive pedal that has a very short travel. These are high-performance brakes that also do really well on the road.

Steering4.5

Three steering modes (that can be changed independent of suspension settings) allow for some small changes in steering calibration. Regardless of setting, the steering is relatively heavy, but you'll feel like you're in control and know what's happening with the front wheels.

Handling5.0

Grippy tires and the excellent FE4 adjustable suspension mean the ZL1 handles extremely well. It corners flat, with almost no body roll. It may have 650 horsepower, but the ZL1 shines in the corners as well.

Drivability5.0

Whether you're out on the highway, on a back road or stuck in city traffic, the Camaro ZL1 shines. The new 10-speed automatic transmission is excellent: It has smooth shifts around town, doesn't leap straight to the highest gear on the highway, and expertly picks ratios on the racetrack.

Comfort4.0

The standard adaptive suspension is undeniably stiff, but relatively speaking, the ZL1 is comfortable performance car. The Recaro seats are likable, too. They keep you in your place during hard driving but are comfortable over the long haul.

Seat comfort4.0

The standard Recaros are cushy and well-bolstered (important with the lateral g-force you'll pull in this car). They strike a good balance between long-distance comfort and performance. The only category the seats aren't excellent in is lumbar support.

Ride comfort4.5

The ride is stiff, but not so bad that it's a deal-breaker. (It is a ZL1, after all.) Big bumps, potholes and road imperfections are handled with ease. The adaptive suspension has three modes, which offer only slightly different levels of comfort.

Noise & vibration3.0

Road noise is definitely one of the most noticeable parts of driving a ZL1. It's very loud on the highway, especially if you opt for the convertible. Cabin construction in our test car seemed good, though, and there weren't any noticeable vibrations from interior pieces.

Climate control4.0

Climate control cools the cabin well, and the heated and cooled seats do good work, but the clunky way of controlling the air-conditioning by rotating the big vent knobs is hard to get used to.

Interior2.5

Though the interior of the ZL1 is a nice place to be, with high-quality materials and a sleek look, usability suffers. The tiny backseat, poor visibility and low-slung driving position make the Camaro less practical than we'd hope for.

Ease of use2.0

There are a lot of buttons in the cabin but many outside of arm's reach. The touchscreen is responsive and easy to master, but it's angled downward so it's still legible when the convertible top is down. Unfortunately, it's set up that way in the coupe and convertible, and it feels strange in both.

Getting in/getting out2.5

The Camaro is somewhat low-slung, but it doesn't take a big drop to get in. Similarly, if you can swing your legs over the side bolsters, getting out shouldn't take too much effort. The low roof does require that you duck a bit to get in and out.

Driving position3.0

The driving position is decent, with an acceptable amount of adjustment from the power seats and the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The dashboard is high, though. Even with the seats at their highest setting, shorter drivers still might feel they aren't in an ideal position.

Roominess2.5

There's plenty of room up front for adults, but the backseat doesn't offer much more than some cargo space. Legroom in the backseat is severely impacted by the large front seats, and headroom is minimal thanks to the sloping coupe design. For most intents and purposes, the Camaro is a two-seater.

Visibility2.0

This is the Camaro's Achilles' heel. The front roof pillars are huge, and with the convertible top up, rear blind spots are massive. Also, the short windows are stylish but hurt outward side visibility. So does a small rear window. A rear camera and blind-spot monitoring are standard, which helps.

Quality3.0

There are nice touches in the cabin such as the faux-suede-wrapped shifter and steering wheel, but the rest is standard Camaro, which already seemed a bit low-buck in places. With this vehicle, where the price point is nearly $50,000 higher, it's much harder to justify.

Utility2.0

Even for a two-door sport coupe or convertible, the Camaro lacks space. Small-item storage is nearly nonexistent, luggage space in the trunk is tiny, and the backseat feels more like a cramped penalty box than a place you'd want to sit for any length of time.

Small-item storage2.0

Small cupholders, a center console that can barely fit a cellphone, and laughably small door pockets are all problematic. Don't bother taking small stuff in your ZL1 because you won't have anywhere to put it.

Cargo space2.0

If you treat the backseat like a secondary trunk, there's a decent amount of space. Otherwise, you'll have a hard time fitting large luggage because of the trunk's limited size and small opening. With the top up, the convertible has 7.1 cubic feet of cargo space. The coupe is better (9.1 cubes).

Child safety seat accommodation2.0

The rear seats have two sets of lower LATCH anchors in the creases of the backseat. They're easy enough to locate, but there aren't any upper tethers on the convertible we tested. The backseat is small as well, so big rear-facing child seats will be a tight squeeze.

Technology4.0

The ZL1 comes standard with a considerable amount of infotainment tech and several standard visibility-aiding devices. The touchscreen is easy to use (despite being angled down for convertible-visibility purposes) but Chevy's MyLink system had a few glitches during our test.

Audio & navigation3.0

The sound system has decent sound quality, and the optional navigation works pretty well despite a few quirks from the touchscreen system. Chevy's MyLink system worked relatively well during our test of the Camaro, but it experienced a few glitches and slow loading times for large audio collections.

Smartphone integration3.0

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but there is a bit of back and forth between the smartphones and Chevy's proprietary system that's difficult. Apple CarPlay navigation works very well with the 8-inch MyLink screen though, piping directions through the sound system.

Voice control5.0

Voice controls worked extremely well during our test. Choosing a radio station, calling friends and searching for destinations all responded well. A clear, strong voice helps but there's nothing wrong here.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.