2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible: First drive

FIRST DRIVE

Grinning from ear to ear, I stepped into an Orange, Chevy Camaro ZL1 convertible at the Marriott in Grand Rapids. 580 horsepower? Magnetic Ride Control? Brembos? Sign me up!

Outside is love it or hate it. The ZL1 takes the normal Camaro’s styling and beefs it up with a more aggressive stance, quad exhaust pipes, revised fog lights, a larger lower grill opening, and a revised hood that vents hot air out of the engine bay, cooling the Supercharged 6.2L V8. The silver wheels provide some class to the ZL1, but the black wheels make the car look just a bit more menacing.

The interior is a major improvement. The new steering wheel is smaller and is easier to use, while the shifter fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. Gray suede is added on the dash, adding some flair to the interior, while suede on the wheel and shifter gives the driver a better grip on the car. The “stuck-in-a-tub” feeling goes away with the top down, and with the top up visibility is similar to the coupe.

 

 

MyLink works just as well as the Malibu, and for the poor radio placement in the Camaro, is nicely integrated into the dash. The same foibles remain, my Galaxy S3 wouldn’t sync my music, and you still can’t get Navigation and the MyLink system. Magnetic ride control, now in it’s third generation, can be changed whether in “Tour” or “Sport” mode to alter the ride of the vehicle. In Tour mode all the bumps are soaked up, while still maintaining composure. Sport mode sharpens the car, but the car is still very comfortable. This third generation MRC now has twin coils and a faster processor, allowing the car to read and adjust on an inch by inch basis.

Driving it is exactly what you think: A blast. The brembos are powerful, the throttle begs to be pushed, and the car stays planted no matter how you toss it. The best part though is how easy it is to control the beast. Driving around downtown Grand Rapids was easy with light steering, linear brakes, and a relaxed throttle. Magnetic Ride Control keeps the car stuck to the road, while not transmitting harshness. I only tried the automatic, with quick shifts from the revised 6-speed. Manumatic operation isn’t as quick as a dual-clutch system, but is still quick enough to make the automatic a worthwhile option. And FINALLY, GM has figured out paddle shifters; no stupid buttons, no push-pulls, just proper sized paddles behind the wheel, left to downshift, right to upshift, as God intended.

 

 

On the highway, getting up to higher speeds was a piece of cake. It’s supercar fast, but you could drive it like any other car. It’s easy to use only 20% of this car’s potential for day to day use, so long as you pay attention to the heads up display. But if do so happen to have your commute on the Autobahn, it is more than happy to hit it’s full potential, not losing any compliancy along the way.

This car is a proper supercar; it’s definitely not some compromised muscle car with a massive engine. GM put real thought into this car, and it shows.


Photo Credit: Chevrolet

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