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The 2012 Camaro ZL1 could be the best muscle there ever will be

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 packs a supercharged V8 engine first offered in the Cadillac V-Series models along with a high tech suspension system that has made its rounds in General Motors’ Corvette ZR1 and Z06 supercars. These are two features of many that help make the 2012 Camaro ZL1 one of the most amazing performance cars of all time but is the new super Camaro one of the best muscle cars of all time - or is it the best muscle car there will ever be?

American muscle cars have historically gotten very little respect outside of the drag racing world but over the past few years there have been tremendous efforts to build better-handling muscle cars with the result of over 50 years of automotive technology being the 2012 Camaro ZL1. During the dawn of the American muscle car in the 1960s; being the best muscle car was simple…you just had to have the most horsepower. In some cases, there were muscle cars that offered impressive handling such as the 1970 Mustang Boss 302 or the 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A but those models focused less on power than they do on handling. The Camaro ZL1 focused on offering enough power to go head to head with just about any car on American roads but while it has less horsepower than the new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, the ZL1 has features that should allow it to beat the GT500 (or any other American muscle car) on a track with turns. Also, unlike some stripped out track packages that are devoid of luxury items like high quality stereo systems, comfortable seats, back seats and air conditioning – the Camaro ZL1 offers that all so the incredible performance of the ZL1 doesn’t require the owner to sacrifice comfort meaning this is a car that can easily be a daily driver.

The 2012 Camaro ZL1 is powered by a supercharged 6.2L V8 packing 580 horsepower and 556lb-ft of torque with so it is still a very formidable opponent in a straight line but the suspension and braking system of the ZL1 have been designed to also make this one of the best handling cars of all time…which is what makes the ZL1 so special. This setup allowed the 2012 Camaro ZL1 to lap the famed Nürburgring in Germany in a shockingly fast 7:41.27 – making it the fastest American muscle car ever to lap “the ‘Ring” and with a time of 7 minutes and 41 seconds, the ZL1 is rivaling high priced European exotics on one of the world’s most challenging road courses. The key is the Selective Magnetic Ride Control system that first debuted on the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 before being offered on the Corvette Z06 and the various Cadillac CTS-V models. GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system is among the most advanced suspension systems offered on any car in the world and while the Ford Shelby GT500 and the Dodge Challenger SRT8 come with their own adaptive handling systems – neither compare to the technology of the Selective Magnetic Ride Control system of the 2012 Camaro ZL1.

The question is…how does another American muscle car step up and beat the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1? The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 is powered by a 650 horsepower 5.8L supercharged V8 so the SVT-built Mustang could have an edge in straight-line performance over the ZL1 but when it comes to overall performance the numbers do not lie and with a Nürburgring time of 7:41 – the ZL1 is unrivaled as the ultimate muscle car. General Motors has fitted the ZL1 with a supercharged V8, a premium Brembo braking system and a suspension setup that is more familiar to supercar owners than those who drive muscle cars. The Mustang GT500 has the big(ger) power from a supercharged V8 and the advanced braking system but should Ford and the folks from their Special Vehicle Team (SVT) come up with a similar adjustable handling system, it will still only be playing catch-up with the ZL1.

Realistically, the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 could be presenting the American automotive enthusiast with the vehicle that could serve as “the end of the line” for the muscle car. No, this doesn’t mean that time is running thin for the mighty muscle car segment but it seems as though the Camaro ZL1 offers the best of everything and from here on out, the ZL1 could be the car with which all other muscle cars are compared. Future muscle cars could have more horsepower and torque but at some point, the title of muscle car could just melt into the realm of the supercar as output creeps higher and higher. New technology in braking systems and components will surely come out to offer improved braking capacities but realistically, the stopping abilities of a muscle car can only be improved so much from what the ZL1 can do in terms of stopping force. Finally, the advanced electronic suspension system found in the Camaro ZL1 could be improved upon but again, the gains from future versions of this (or similar) systems will be nominal. The only real areas where the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 could truly be improved upon in a manner that makes a big difference is in the chassis/exterior design, where new lightweight components could lower the curb weight and improve the overall performance. However, as you continue to implement new materials and drop the weight, you are once again moving away from the traditional American muscle car and closer to the supercar world. There is also the possible addition of all wheel drive, which would certainly enhance the performance capabilities on every level but American muscle car purists would surely insist that an AWD vehicle is simply not a muscle car. Also, features like all wheel drive and advanced lightweight materials would likely drive the price of the muscle car in question too near the six figure price tag of the modern supercar.

Based on this writer’s assessment, the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 could very well present us with a look at the car that will go into the automotive history books as being the greatest muscle car there will ever be. Going forward, competitors like the Ford Shelby GT500 could offer new features and bigger power to knock the ZL1 from the top of the muscle car food chain but it is possible that the 2012 Camaro ZL1 has set the standard by which all other American muscle cars will forever be compared.

General Motors has introduced the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that appears to be the greatest muscle car of all times and it is the job of the high performance engineers at Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Group to best the ZL1 – a job that won’t be easy and frankly, may not be possible.

Other Camaro ZL1 information:
Full information on the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is here
GM introduces the incredible 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible
The Camaro ZL1 stakes its claim as a supercar on the Ring
First Chevy Camaro ZL1 advertisements hit the web
GM expects most 2012 Camaro ZL1 buyers to pick auto trans
The Camaro ZL1 is the most powerful new muscle car with 580hp/556tq


jetrep (not verified)    December 10, 2011 - 1:30PM

All the mustang has is a promise and the camaro is a real car. So ford and their fans can say anything about a car that has yet to be built.......Until the mustang is lappting the ring all ford has is wet dreams.

A Mustang Fan (not verified)    December 15, 2011 - 11:41AM

Ford will beat it, based on times at other tracks more HP is all the current Boss Mustang needs to eclipse 7:41, in fact privateers with modded BOSS Mustangs claim times at Nurburgring in the low 7:30s. Why doesn't Chevy take their ZL-1 to Lagune Seca the name-sake of the BOSS Mustang and show what it can do?
Besides doesn't the argument that anything beyond the ZL-1 would become a super car apply to anything beyond the BOSS Mustang? I don't see a Camaro variant that can come close to the BOSS Mustang beyond a 0-30 race. After all to attain those times the ZL-1 uses an exotic super charger, Magnetic (what the?) ride control, these aren't the type of things a common muscle car has, nope. I'd have to call the ZL-1 more of a super car than a muscle car.

jetrep (not verified)    December 16, 2011 - 9:51PM

In reply to by A Mustang Fan (not verified)

until the car is built and can be driven Ford fans can armchair this car all day long and enjoy their wet dream

at the end of the day we both win as the manufactures will continually be forced to improve their cars.

The Camaro is an all around superior car. Ford needs to shy away from chinese transmissions and solid rear ends as their claimed horsepower will simply go up in smoke. If they focus on the rest of the car as well then they will have something

and supercar vrs. muscle car? I'll take the super car for the same money as your muscle car

A Mustang Fan (not verified)    December 19, 2011 - 12:56PM

In reply to by jetrep (not verified)

The Mustang is clearly superior, what racing series has the Camaro won since it's re-release? The answer is; none. In fact a Camaro has managed to finish ahead of all Mustangs just once in the last three years of competition the Grand-am GS series. On the other hand it has recorded a record # of DNF's to the engine detonating, fuel system fires, etc.
Did the ZL-1 one up the GT500, not from where I'm standing they simply got in the game.

Anonymous (not verified)    December 30, 2011 - 7:56PM

In reply to by A Mustang Fan (not verified)

mustang beats everything that has been put against it with a live axle and most irs cars it beat the camaro ss in the salom and the charger . chevy uses their cadavette to build their zl1 camaravettalac they put supercar suspension in it and say its the greatest musle car ever. so why did they put a live axle in their copo camaravettalac they spent 3 yrs building if the irs is the only way to build a great car. the boss 302 uses a live axle along with all other mustangs and has proven itsself on the street,strip and road courses i say all around greatest muslecar ever.....MUSTANG.

Anonymous (not verified)    February 1, 2012 - 7:24PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

mustang boss 302 with antique solid axle just won the BMW performance 200 at daytona out running two bmw's 2nd-3rd and a corvette 4th all with irs. the camaros should have stayed home and saved the tax payers some money and chevy some embarassment.

Anonymous (not verified)    January 1, 2012 - 1:13AM

In reply to by A Mustang Fan (not verified)

chevy uses the nurburgring because they can do tests and claim what ever time they want because potographers can only get video on small sections at a time and why not tax payers are paying for the trip anyway . lagune seca cant be closed off so videos are easly taken of full laps with different cameras like all the videos of the BOSS throwing down. but i think ford invited everyone to watch THATS WHY ITS CALLED THE BOSS 302 nothing to hide.

Anonymous (not verified)    February 4, 2012 - 1:08AM

In reply to by A Mustang Fan (not verified)

the zl1 was put against a boss 302 l/s 0 to 60 the zl1 was 2 tenths faster the 1/4 mile 3 tenths faster at leguna seca 2 tenths a lap faster 558 supercharged hp v/s 444 n/a hp 2013 gt500 with refined boss 302 l/s suspension 650hp WILL ANILATE THE camaravettalac. gm,s zl1 performance #s 0 to 60 in 3.7 sec the 1/4 mile in 12.00 sec one problem those are posted from a rolling start.......what 0 to 60 from a rolling start (LOL) the 1/4 mile from a rolling start (LOL) no one does performance #s from a rolling start unless you cant get traction.

Anonymous (not verified)    December 30, 2011 - 8:37PM

chinese transmissions shoot before long all gm vehicles will be built in china tax payer money is building plants now. then what i guess china built gms will be awsome