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2019 HSV Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 – Car Review – Supercharged Madness

2019 HSV Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 – Car Review – Supercharged Madness

It’s not often you get the opportunity to review a coupe that has 477kW power and 881Nm of torque running through the rear wheels. In fact, it’s not often you see those sort of numbers in any car these days. However, in true American style, the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is the supercharged V8 performance coupe that the world probably didn’t need, but was built anyway, and that means it’s our job to see what this creation is like right here, on New Zealand roads.

The Range
There are two models available in New Zealand now in right-hand drive. The Camaro 2SS and the Camaro ZL1. These flavours are equivalent to mad and mental, as both run the 6.2-litre V8 engine and both come with the options of manual and automatic transmission. The difference is that the 2SS has the LT1 small-block V8 and the ZL1 has the LT4 small-block V8. The ZL1 also comes with a supercharger. The styling is similar too; the 2SS is typical of the next generation of Camaro styling, but the ZL1 has been dialled all the way up to 11. 

Both variants are powerful, the 2SS generates 339kW of power and 617Nm of torque, while the LZ1 generates 477kW and 881Nm of torque. The brakes and suspension follow the same pattern, with Brembo 4-piston front and rear disc brakes and 4-wheel independent sports suspension on the 2SS. The LZ1 has Brembo brakes with six-piston monobloc front callipers and 390mm two-piece front rotors, and MacPherson-type strut with dual lower ball joints, monotube struts and direct-acting stabilizer bar with Magnetic Ride Control.

The last major difference between the two variants is that the 2SS has a standard LSD while the LZ1 has an electronic LSD to handle all the extra power.

Both come with next-generation Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system, rear camera mirror, head-up display, and Forward Collision Alert. The LZ1 gets upgraded to Recaro performance seats, sueded microfiber-wrapped flat-bottom sports profile steering wheel and gear shifter and sport alloy pedals.

The Camaro 2SS will available from $105,990 for the manual and $107,990 for the automatic. The Camaro ZL1 will be available from $173,990 for the manual and $175,990 for the automatic. 

First Impressions
Our review car was blue, a very strong and almost hotrod colour, which really worked well with the black contrasts. The ZL1 stands out a mile; it’s a big, loud, muscle car. Every line is sculpted to scream performance, with big wheels, big brakes, big exhaust. Even though you can’t see it, there is sure to be a big engine under there too.

The sad part about my collection of the car, was that it was in the rain, which is normally not a big issue. However, I don’t often drive a rear-wheel-drive coupe with 477kW and 881Nm going through them. I had to play it a bit safe while I get used to the ZL1 in the wet. I was also hoping it would not be wet for the entire week I had the car, but it was. 

The Inside
Inside the 2019 Camaro ZL1 was a surprisingly nice space. I use the word surprisingly, as most American vehicles lack the quality and finish that is more commonly found in Euro or Asian vehicles. The dash was a mixture of soft-touch plastic, microfibre wrapped panels and large, bright and crisp LCD panels. The plastic and microfibre continued across the door and centre console.

The driver and front passenger seats are Recaro performance seats, nicely sculpted with high side bolsters to support you in high G manoeuvres. They are a nice, clean design with an elegant ‘ZL1’ stitched into the the back, just below the headrest. I found the seat really comfortable, as all of the adjustable settings allowed me to find that sweet spot quickly. 

Getting in and out of the back was a bit of a drama, due to where the seat belt was positioned. When the front seat tilted forward, the seatbelt was left right in the middle of the space you would climb in through, which felt like poor design as it was obvious to see. The back seats were ok, but anyone taller than 1.5m have trouble getting comfy or having enough leg room. 

An unexpected feature was the video display rearview mirror. It had two modes, the first was when it was off, the rearview mirror can be used just like a regular mirror. When switched on by the toggle button on the underside of the mirror, the entire mirror becomes an LCD display, of what is behind the car. Due to the sloping rear hatch and the tight angle of the rear screen, it was added to give the driver greater visibility when reversing. It’s a pretty cool feature, something I thought I would use all the time. However, when driving at speed, your eyes do not adjust to focus on the mirror as quickly as they would a regular mirror. Sounds odd, but it could be something the drivers gets used to over time.

The only real issue I had with the whole interior was the cup holders. They were on the wrong side, which left no real space for your elbow to rest – it just went into the cup holders. This was a bit of a disappointment as the car itself has been converted left to right-hand drive by HSV in Australia. They have done an amazing job, no one would even guess it’s not a direct from the factory. I can’t see why they would have left the armrest after swapping over so much of the dash. It wasn’t a deal-breaker for me, but when you look at the cost, it’s not a big ask when you’re knocking on the door of $180,000. 

The central touch screen display is the same as what’s in the new Holden Acadia. This is great news, as that system is pretty damn good, offering phone connectivity, streaming music, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto just to name a few. It’s super easy to use, and the clarity from that touch screen is beautiful. 

As you would expect from a coupe, the boot is not massive, but it was a decent size. You could easily get a couple of good-sized duffle bags in the back for weekends away. All up the boot is just over 200-litres. I say duffle bags, as I am not sure you would be able to get solid suitcases in the boot due to the shape of the opening of the boot. The backrest of the rear seat does fold down, which gives you the ability to carry longer items or even an external boot space if required.

The Drive
I guess the expectations are somewhat set when you take a rear wheel drive coupe, with a 6.2-litre V8 and put a supercharger on it. It’s not going to be boring, that’s for sure. The review was a bit of experience, as it rained for almost the entire time I had the car. Not ideal conditions for such a monster. However, the fact that I am still alive is a testament to how well the vehicle handles and controls all of the power even in poor conditions. 

I had driven many powerful cars, sports cars and supercars. Few have the neck breaking thrust that the ZL1 delivers when you put your foot down. After some research I found that the official time for the 0-100 kmph was 3.4 seconds, which is fast. However the ZL1 does not get you there fast, it gets you there under brutal acceleration. I imagine the torque curve to be a vertical line that never peaks. Every time I put my foot down, the power came in such a torrent that I had to lift off. Whatever speed you were doing, within the blink of an eye you were now going twice that.

It’s hard to really explain this car in perspective, the last Holden HSV GTSR produced put down 474kW of power and 815Nm of torque from its LS9. This could propel the GTSR to 100 kmph in 4.0 seconds. The ZL1 puts out 477kW of power, a bit less and 881Nm of torque, so a little bit more. The difference does not seem like much, only 0.6 seconds between them, however it works out to be 26.2% faster.  

We have covered off that the ZL1 is fast, really fast. Now we should cover how it handles, and I have to say, it’s pretty damn good. It does not have the slick confident feeling of a Euro sports car, it’s American after all. It’s a bit more like cruise control on a shark, and as long as you don’t jab it in the gills with your boot, there is a good chance you will remain alive. I was really impressed with how the ZL1 handled on quick twisty roads. Even though it is big and bulky, it always had a really light nimble feeling and pinpoint steering. The only area you had to concentrate on was the throttle, never too much, especially in the rain. 

Sound is something I really love about performance cars. It’s something I also battle with in regards the ever growing EV market and what will happen. However the ZL1 is not targeted at that market, but it also does not sound like I would have hoped. The majority of the sound you hear in the cabin comes from the supercharger, as it builds up that whine. Some people love this sounds, sadly I am not one of these people. I found it a bit droney and I longed for a big gurgly exhaust. The ZL1 may have had one, I just don’t know, as the supercharger drowned everything out all of the time. Even on the down shifts, the ZL1 seemed to be missing the drama or theatre many other cars like it have in spades.

Like so many other cars like this, there is far too much power to enjoy. I think I would have enjoyed the car more if it didn’t have the supercharger. It would have been fast, but not mind blowing fast. For example, if you join a motorway and want to open your car, you can punch it as it builds up to the legal speed limit. The ZL1 can do this too, however it’s less like a tap and more like a firehose, on and off and you’re at the limit. It’s impressive, but it’s not enjoyable.

I was surprised to see that the ZL1 did not have slotted or drilled rotors, just big brakes. I am not sure if this would be an issue as I only drove it in the wet. What would these brakes be like under heavy driving or track conditions?

One section we can’t miss is the Electronic LSD, which had its work cut out in the rain. Depending on the day or level of rain, I would go between the normal setting and the snow and ice setting. The snow and ice allowed a bit of slip and controlled it more than in normal mode, which helped to put the mind at ease in bad weather. If I had not known the LSD was there, I would never have known how much it kicked in. It never jumped on me about doing something outrageous, it just stepped in and out of action when required, with no drama whatsoever. 

The front splitter was an issue for New Zealand roads, it is really low. On many occasions, no matter how much angle I took a driveway at, it was just touching the ground. It looks really cool, and I wouldnt get rid of it, but I would stress about it a lot on local roads.

To be expected in a car like this, fuel usegage was high, advertised at 15.3L / 100km. Most cars like this are advertised with fuel useage that seems unreachable. However due to the weather conditions during the test, I manage to get below the advertised useage, which is uncommon. It was still high at 14.0L /100km, but it shows they were honest about this expected useage.

It was a shame that it rained so much during the test, as it made me question if this car is really suitable for our roads and conditions. No one would drive it this car in this weather, but this is New Zealand and this is an expensive car. Would you just buy one as a weekend or track toy?

What it’s up against
What do you compare a crazy coupe like this to? There is not much in the market like this, but there are many other options around the same price. So what else can you get for around $175,990? 

Brand / ModelEnginePower Kw/NmFuel L/100km Combined0-100km/h in secondsBoot Capacity LitresPrice Highest to Lowest
Porsche 911 Carrera3.0L Flat 6 Turbo283/4509.04.0132$217,500
Nissan GT-R Premium3.8L V6 Twin-Turbo419/63210.73.3315$205,000
Chevrolet Camaro ZL16.2L V8 Supercharged477/88115.33.4206$175,990
Mercedes-Benz C 63 S Coupe4.0L V8 Bi-Turbo375/70010.33.9490$175,200
BMW M4 Competition3.0L V6 Twin-Turbo317/5509.14.3368$172,500
ProsCons
Looks like a transformer
Performance styling
So much power
Supercharger whine
Modern interior
Hitech spec
A true muscle car
The front splitter is very low
Too much power to enjoy
Small boot opening
Supercharger whine
Fuel usage
Armrest on the wrong side
Seatbelt position to access rear seats

What do we think?
If I am being honest, I am torn between if I like it or not. I like it because of its crazy styling and powerful performance, but it’s hard to use the insane power anywhere, and there are many other exciting cars for this kind of coin. 

It’s a very well built car, even the additional work in Australia to make the left to right hand drive changes, all feels factory. The overall product reflects the price in the same way many of the European competitors do, which is great to see.

American cars are usually slandered with only being able to go down a straight road, which is not the case in the ZL1, the fact that I spent the week in the rain with it, and did not wrap it around a tree is a testament to its overall handling and safety systems. 

I love powerful sports/muscle or supercars; they are not necessary or practical, but they are there to add some excitement to our lives. But I can’t give this car full marks, as it’s such an aggressively powerful car, which is too hard to enjoy anywhere in New Zealand, unless you’re on the track.

Rating – Chevron rating 4 out of 5

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2019 HSV Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Vehicle TypeRWD 2-Door Performance Coupe
Starting Price$175,990
Tested Price$175,990
Engine6.2L LT4 Supercharged Direct Injection V8
Transmission10-speed automatic transmission
Kerb Weight1807 kg
Length x Width x Height4831 x 1905 x 1344 mm
Cargo Capacity206 litres
Fuel Tank 72 litres
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined – 15.3 L / 100kmReal World Test – Combined – 14.0L / 100km (Rain condition)
WarrantyNew vehicle warranty, 3 year/100,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety RatingsNA

It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

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