Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 debuts, aims 580-hp at Ford’s Shelby GT500

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible
(Nathan Olivarez-Giles/Los Angeles Times)

Chevrolet’s most powerful convertible, surprisingly, doesn’t wear a Corvette badge.

Rather, the 100-year-old carmaker has given that ground-pounding honor to the 2012 Camaro ZL1, which is making its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

With 580 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of torque churning out of a supercharged 6.2-liter LSA V8 engine, the Camaro ZL1 in drop-top variation is a muscle car that delivers super car specs at a price that will likely sit above the $54,995 the ZL1 coupe fetches.

In both coupe and convertible flavors, the ZL1 goes from zero to 60 mph in four seconds. The ZL1 comes with either a six-speed manual transmission or an automatic transmission. Tucked behind massive 20-inch aluminum rims are six-piston Brembo brakes up front and four-piston brakes in the rear.

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The front fascia features a special wide-mouth lower opening that sits above a splitter-style air dam. The hood on the ZL1 is unique too, with four squared-off reverse scoops sitting in the center, pushing out air pulled in from the Camaro’s nose.

Chevy likes to point out that its ZL1 produces more power than many luxury sports cars currently on the market at a higher price, including the 2012 Aston Martin DB9 Volante (470 horsepower/443 pound-feet), the 2012 Mercedes SL63 AMG (518 horsepower/465 pound-feet) and the 2011 Porsche 911 Turbo S (530 horsepower/516 pound-feet).

The Camaro ZL1 pumps out more might than one of its muscle-car archenemies, the 2011 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, which boasts 550 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque.

But while the ZL1 is upping the ante for fans of the brand with the bow-tie logo, Ford isn’t asleep at the wheel. The 2012 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 has in its engine bay a 5.8-liter V-8 that cranks out 650 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque, as detailed by my test driving colleague David Undercoffler.

These aren’t green cars. But for fans of fast fun in the $50,000 price range, a new golden era of the muscle car is upon us, leaving a big grin on the faces of many a motor head.


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