A wiser man than I once told me "Know your weaknesses and act accordingly." While this can be applied to many things in life, it rang especially true as I sat behind the wheel of a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 while waiting for my turn to lay down a few laps at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan. For those of you wondering where my trepidation comes from, you should remember that the Z/28 was designed for the sole purpose of going very, very fast. Originally launched back in 1966 as a '67 model, Chevy had an instant hit on its hands before being forced to discontinue to Z/28 in 1974 thanks to strict emissions regulations. Chevy did manage to resurrect the Z/28 badge a few times over the last three or so decades, but none have ever been this refined (or fast) as the latest variation.
Most track-capable Camaro, ever
Chevrolet has made no secret that the 2014 Camaro Z/28 is the most track-capable model to ever from the pony-car line-up. Starting from the ground up, the Camaro Z/28 rides on the widest set of rubber currently available on any sports car: four P305/30ZR19 Pirelli PZero Trofeo R motorsport-compound tires. This special mixture allows for the Z/28's tires to be 29.5 pounds lighter than those on the Camaro SS. Paired with forged aluminum wheels, the Camaro Z/28 can take a corner with the best of them, and you'll feel it as a driver when you're being pressed into the side of your seat as you enter or exit a corner at speed. Chevy lowered the Z/28's center of gravity to help boost handling while the fly paper-like tires keep you firmly planted on the pavement.
Stopping power is just as robust, courtesy of Brembo carbon ceramic brakes. These same brakes will be making an appearance on the upcoming 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. This system is comprised of 15.5 x 1.4-inch two-piece front rotors paired with a fixed monobloc, six-piston front calipers and 15.3 x 1.3-inch two-piece rear rotors with four-piston calipers. If that all sounded like gibberish, let's put it like this, the Camaro Z/28 has very big brakes that can repeatedly handle the abuse of stopping from 100-plus mph runs. Chevy claims that with help from the Brembo brakes, the 2014 Camaro Z/28 can go from 60-0 mph in about 113 feet. That's an important number when considering the majority of this car's life is expected to be spent on race tracks that feature various kinks and turns. To ensure that the tires, wheels, and brakes all work together as designed, the Z/28's wheels are media-blasted to prevent them from spinning in the tires. The media-blasted finish helps to create more grip so that the tires can stay in place when taking corners at speed.
During our time on the track, the Brembo brakes felt as if they were impervious to any kind of fading even after we logged multiple hard laps. One portion of GingerMan allows you to reach speed in excess of 100 mph before bringing it down to about 30 mph to make a sharp right-handed turn. Whenever it came time to slow the Z/28 down, the Brembos did it in a responsive, confidence-inspiring manner.
Dropping the Hammer
The familiar all-aluminum, naturally aspirated 7.0-liter V8 LS7 engine under the hood of the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 is no stranger to fans of the Golden Bowtie. Rated at 505 horsepower and enough torque to make the earth start spinning in the opposite direction (481 lb-ft, to be exact), the LS7 V8 engine continues to prove why it's one of the best engines to ever come from General Motors. (However, if you ask some of the engineers at Chevrolet they'll say the Z/28 will clear those figures with ease.) The sound that escapes when you mash the throttle is a gruff baritone reserved for other rarified Chevrolet sports cars like the C6 Corvette Z06 and 2013 Corvette 427 convertible. Besides getting to where you need to be before the blood rushes out of your head, it's tough to contain the smile the spreads across your face upon first hearing the LS7 sing.
Then there's the Tremec TR600 6-speed manual transmission which features nice, short, tight throws. This is one of the best shifters we've experienced lately and is, without question, one of the reasons why the Z/28 is such an animal on the track. Power is diverted to the rear wheels through a zero-preload limited-slip differential that allows the driver to put more power down when tackling a corner. The differential works hand-in-hand with Chevy's Performance Traction Management system, which enables the driver to adjust how much throttle and braking they want. A unique-to-the-Z/28 differential cooler helps to remove excess heat from the differential fluid in an effort to help keep performance at a stable level.
Throughout our time on the track, the Nissan GT-R kept creeping into our mind as the closest competitor to the Z/28 in the sense of its corner-eating ability. Like the GT-R, the Z/28 sticks to the ground while taunting you to give it more power as you navigate through the turn. You can feel the back end of the Z/28 actively trying to guess where you want to go and the rear differential works to get you there without any unwanted slip ups. Then there's the Z/28's interior, which couldn't be further from that of the GT-R. The Z/28's Japanese competitor features things like climate-control, Bluetooth, and a touchscreen with navigation. Standard Camaro Z/28 models aren't equipped with an air conditioner (it's part of an $1,150 comfort package -- the only available option on the Z/28 -- that also brings a six-speaker sound system, but many are expected to skip it for the sake of saving weight) and have just one speaker, which is in the door. Federal law requires any vehicle sold in the U.S. to have at least one speaker so the door and seat belt chime has a place to be heard. If it wasn't obvious before, it should be apparent that the Z/28 has one thing in mind, and that's to shred any and all lap records and nothing else.
The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 is the best factory-ready race car currently available in North America today. From the 7.0-liter V8 engine to the sticky Pirelli PZero Trofeo R tires to the Brembo brakes, the Z/28 is a downright steal even at $75,000, and that includes the $995 destination fee. All you need now is a helmet and you're good to conquer that local track day. But, as always, know your weaknesses and act accordingly. Even though the Z/28 is a stud and gives out confidence like Oprah gives cars to her audience, there's a reason Chevy says this Camaro is the most track-capable ever. It's not for the faint of heart.
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