Confirmed: NZ's finally getting a right-hook Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
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Oh yes, oh yes ... it's happening.
HSV have announced the look of their 2019 Chevrolet Camaro model line-up, and there's plenty of good news for the enthusiast market — namely the inclusion of a manual, and the introduction of another three-character acronym synonymous with V8 grunt; ZL1.
Let's wade into this ZL1. Much like any other Camaro that isn't the 2SS released last year, the only way any Kiwi would be able to get a ZL1 onto our shores in the past would've been independently and in left-hand drive. Now, the ZL1 is set to hit here with the same stringent right-hand drive conversion processes from HSV under the skin.
What is a ZL1? In short, it's the lofty entry point for Chevrolet's go-faster Camaro variants. This shapes up as the direct rival for Shelby's screaming GT350 Stateside (a model unavailable here), with the biggest difference to the standard Camaro coming under the bonnet.
The supercharged 6.2-litre LT4 engine is the second most powerful ever fitted to a road-going bowtie, and is the same one that Chevrolet use in the Corvette ZO6, and packs 480kW of punch and 860Nm of twist. Kiwis will get the option of pairing it with a rev-matching six-speed manual or a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Unlike the foundation of the Camaro range, the ZL1 has remained relatively face-lift free since 2017. But late last year, a mild re-jig debuted with different taillights mated to the same furious front-end styling. It's this model that we're getting — a model still 'current' in the US.
It's also worth noting that the ZL1 will come fitted with Line-Lock, which allows the driver to lock the front wheels to enable the rear tyres to spin more freely. Some loosely call the feature a 'burnout mode', but in their announcement HSV emphasise (in bold, italicised letters no less) that it's a feature "intended for use during closed-course track events only".
Other features as standard include Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) dampers, an electronic limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes (6-piston monobloc fronts paired with 390mm two-piece rotors), a bi-model exhaust package, and Recaro seats. All up, Kiwis keen on a ZL1 will have to fork out $173,990 for the privilege — plus two grand more if they want the automatic and another grand on top for metallic paint.
Sadly the ZL1 1LE performance package (you know, the one that set a blistering 7min 16.4sec time at the Nürburgring Nordschleife), isn't included in the announcement. But, as we said when HSV initially announced the single-car MY18 Camaro range, positive sales could mean a greater variety of models in the future.
The ZL1 isn't the only fixture in today's announcement, however. HSV have also confirmed their MY19 Camaro 2SS model, which represents a mild or major update over the current right-hook 2SS — depending on your view of the styling.
Yes, it's a divisive face that one. It's Chevrolet new corporate face; one that features on the front of the new Silverado, Trailblazer, and no doubt many models to come. It does serve the very real purpose of channelling more air into the engine-bay, but it remains one of the most controversial updates in recent Camaro history. Those who like it will consider it a bold, unmistakable nose that immediately identifies the Camaro as a lean muscle car. Those who don't rate it will liken it to a giant, black, plastic-fantastic cheese grater.
Beyond the styling, the 2SS now gains the option of a manual transmission (another six-speed with rev-matching technology), where the 2018 model was annoyingly automatic only. Power from the 6.2-litre LT1 V8 is unchanged (339kW/617Nm), although the 2SS will now offer Custom Launch Control and the aforementioned Line-Lock (remember ... track only) functionality.
The 2SS also highlights some of the less-sexy but still relevant MY19 technology updates. A head-up display, forward-collision alert, and a Rear Camera Mirror are among the Camaro's new 2019 toys. The latter provides drivers with a handy rearward view that eliminated things like the headrests and C-pillars — a feature doubly helpful given the Camaro's notorious rearward visibility.
“HSV has a history steeped in high-performance and the upgrades to the 2SS model, and the introduction of the ZL1 – the most powerful performance Camaro available in the world - really sing to HSV’s heritage," said HSV Managing Director Tim Jackson.
"We’re confident the GM faithful, and performance enthusiasts generally, will be delighted with our latest move.”
Pricing gets a slight change, with base-prices starting at $1000 more than the MY18 edition; $105,990. As we noted in our 2018 road test, that's a not insignificant amount of money — especially when the 2SS's main rival in the US (the Ford Mustang GT) is available here for a lick under $80k.
But let's remember, both cars still represent plenty of power for the money when you consider what else is on the table. And that goes for the ZL1, too — even if it too comes with an inflated price compared to our friends in Americaland.
To put the ZL1 into perspective, the current Aston Martin Vantage has 100kW less power and 160Nm less torque but costs twice as much. The new Bentley Continental GT makes 13kW less from its W12 engine, but costs $441,720. And those examples can be sighted all day long.
It's doubtful of course whether there's a single person on the planet that is cross-shopping a Camaro against an Aston or Bentley. The point is; this thing is a serious beast. We can't wait to see them land.