Which is the ultimate Camaro the 2014 Z/28 or the mighty ZL 1
With the new 2014 Camaro Z/28 introduced yesterday, the COPO Camaro, the track value package 1LE, enough convertibles to start its own cruise night, and the mighty ZL 1, one thing is for certain, this is the best time in history to be a Camaro fan. When the new Z/28 hit the podium yesterday in New York it threw down the challenge to the incredible ZL 1. Which is the ultimate Camaro for both road and track? We know the answer because we are writing the tale, but we will give you this surprise now. The deciding factor won’t be the engine.
Before we begin we should explain something in case there are any readers out there who think since all Camaros look alike they all act alike. At a track day this year we were able to sample the Camaro SS and the ZL 1 back to back. From 20 feet they look so similar we didn’t know which one we were approaching. However, just as the Batman Movie’s Catwoman Lee Meriwether looked pretty much like TV show Catwoman Julie Newmar, Camaros can look alike, but purr very differently.*
New 2014 Camaro Z/28
For me the new 2014 Z/28 brings back memories of Camaros everyone knew were the baddest pony cars in the land. The screaming chicken hood Trans Ams were for the gold chain guys in silk shirts with Bee Gees on the FM. The Mustang was off and on awesome or ridiculous during the ‘70s and ‘80s, but Chevy was always pretty smart with the Z/28 label. My recollection of the 1970s and 1980s is foggy, but the Z/28 was the ultimate Camaro. Yes, we did have the IROC-Z years, but those always seemed like caveman cars compared to the Z/28s that came before and after those years. Inelegant, and done more for style than with a performance purpose. The new Z/28 is back and Chevy this time tells us that its goal is to be the best track Z/28 ever. Setting aside the question of why anyone would start with a Camaro for their track day car, let’s give Chevy the benefit of the doubt, but take a close look at what makes the Z/28 special while comparing those elements to the standing champion of the Camaro world, the ZL 1.
Camaro Z/28 vs ZL 1 Drivetrains
The 2014 Z/28 has an incredible, normally aspirated engine. Displacing a full 7 liters, the LS7 engine produces a very respectable 500 horsepower. Jordan Lee, Small Block chief engineer and program manager explains why Chevy chose this engine, when it actually had a more powerful one it could have used saying “The LS7 is ideal for road racing because it delivers amazing performance in a compact, lightweight package. The broad torque curve and high redline of the LS7 mean fewer shifts are required for each lap, while the lightweight design improves the front-to-rear weight balance for better handling.” So Chevy didn’t pick the 580 horsepower engine in the ZL 1 (also found in Corvettes and Cadillac CTS-V cars) because it is a little heavier than the 80 horsepower less LS7 engine? The supercharged 6.2 liter LSA is a legend. The engine can produce wheel-spin during the 3-4 upshift on track when shifted at redline. The traction control has to be employed to keep the rear end from stepping out on the 1-2, 2-3 and 3-4 upshifts. Wait a minute, we just answered our own question! The 580 LSA engine is actually just a hair too much for this platform isn’t it? So why not use the less expensive, lighter, normally aspirated (less complex) LS7? We are going to call this one a tie. There is always a good reason to choose an added 80 horsepower, but there is a point where the car has all the power it can reasonably use on or off track. However, as a footnote to those who have not yet seen the full specifications on the new Z/28’s engine; It already has the cold air intake and K&N air filter. It already is CNC milled (blueprinted). Already has the high lift cam, the headers, and all that go-fast add-on stuff. So if you think that you’re going to buy this Z/28 and bolt on horsepower, you are likely mistaken. It’s done.
Both cars can have the same TREMEC 6-speed transmission, so it is hard to argue an advantage to either there. Both have limited slip differentials, one being clutch type and one helical gar type. Is one better than the other? Hard to say, maybe the edge goes to the Z/28 with the gear type. Drivetrain tie.