Chevy Camaro Z/28 is so Analog it's Almost Perfect: First Drive
When a man hands you the keys to a street legal race car, the first thing you shouldn't do is make them nervous. I might have made them a bit nervous by asking, "Really?" and then practically running to the car before they figured out the mistake they just made. Last week myself and other fellow journalists met for a fall rally at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois: a kind of meet-and-greet with cars. Much to my surprise, the new Camaro Z/28 was one of the vehicles. I had been fascinated with the car ever since it launched. Maybe it was the fact that it has P305/30/ZR19 tires all the way around, or maybe because it has carbon ceramic brakes. Things like that are normally reserved for supercars of the Italian variety, and now they're on a Camaro. RELATED: See Photos of the All-New Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
When you step inside the Z/28, a few things immediately hit you. First, this is not a Camaro anymore. There's Alcantara everywhere, sport seats, and a dash that is completely devoid of any type of modern convenience. The standard Camaro is a big, heavy, wonderful cruiser with an engine seemingly designed by god himself. The Z/28 is no cruiser. This is different.
The sport seats hug every inch of you. The steering wheel practically sticks to your fingers implying you should really not let go of it in this car. And the stripped out interior is all business.
You turn the key and are greeted with a noise that is pure race car. I felt like I was back at the Tudor United Race behind the wheel of one of those Z/28 race cars. Chevy engineers somehow took that noise and transferred it perfectly to the road car. It sounds angry. It sounds pissed off. You blip the throttle and you feel like the car is mad at you for not having it out on the track already.
The shifter is stiff. It feels like a race clutch. You really need to play with it for a bit to find where the clutch bites. (Thankfully, I didn't kill it in front of everyone.) It idles rough, and all you hear are the cams loping and doing what they are meant to do.
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Now here is where I need to preface what actually happened during my time with the Z/28. I haven't had that much experience on an open track. Nor have I been writing for 20 plus years like some dudes. But let me tell you — the Z/28 is arguably one of the best cars ever built. Seriously, it's that good.
When MotorTrend named it the best driver's car of the year, they absolutely hit it on the nose. This car is just epically good. You turn into a corner and your brain doesn't have enough time to react to the sticky Super Trofeo tires gripping like they're magnets. Your eyes see Camaro, and you think lumbery, but when you turn the wheel and the squeal from the lateral g force hits you it pins you into your seat.
I hit the straight and give it the beans. The naturally aspirated engine roars into life, and it pulls like a freight train on acid. Then I hit the next turn and tap the brakes. At that point, my eyes were transported from the back of my head from acceleration onto the dash from the immense stopping power of those carbon ceramic brakes.
In that first turn I didn't come near the right line because I stopped too far away from the apex. I actually had to give it some gas to get back to the turn, that's how good these brakes are. When they're cold, they squeak like 80,000 mile brake pads completely worn out. When their hot, they stop you like you're hitting a wall.
My time in the Z/28 was entirely too short, but in it I learned so much about the engineers at Chevy. They are, quite frankly, a brilliant bunch that somehow made a massively impressive sports car out of a normal drag-happy Camaro.
This car makes you feel like Richard Hammond proclaiming, "I am a motoring god!" When you get it wrong, it bites you. But when you get it right, it's nirvana. Whereas the Nissan GT-R irons out your stupidity with its electronic nannies, the Z/28 is a true race car, a true driver's car. It's so analog it's almost perfect.
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Engine: 7.0L LS7 V8
Horsepower: 505 hp
MPG: 13 city/ 19 highway
Best driver's car made today
Engine is a symphony of engineering
Even at low speeds it's epic
Maybe the brakes are a bit squeaky? But that's being pretty pedantic.
Price? But you are seriously getting way more car for your dollar.
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