In a case of automotive striptease, Chevrolet continues to reveal more about the 2012 Camaro ZL1 and . Of the pair, the Corvette is the more willing to bare all. Only unseasonal rain today at Chevy's Milford Proving Grounds prevent us from gushing about the super-`vette's glue-like stick thanks to new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup Zero Pressure tires. Lateral acceleration bumps up to 1.13 g says Chevy, and 60-to-0 stops take just 104 ft, but best of all the new tire is reportedly responsive, predictable and reasonably durable. Michelin engineers describe it as the raciest rubber compound and carcass construction yet made to live on the street; the absolute upper limit for a street performance tire. We'll just have to take their word for it until the sun comes out on another test day.
In the meantime, the rained out track session gave us plenty of time to eyeball the ZR1 Corvette Centennial Edition; Chevy's way of marking its 100th anniversary as a car maker. We sat in its improved, more laterally-supportive seats, rubbed its generous suede touch points and redesigned steering wheel, ogled the new instrument bezels. Less tactile but still stimulating is a thoroughly upgraded Bose sound system with new high-mounted tweeters and sharper woofers.
The Centennial Edition option is available on any 2012 Corvette and includes a one-year-only high-metallic black paint. It's coupled with painstakingly applied red highlights and ghosted matt black insignia. Extra customization is also allowed, such as mixing the Brembo brake caliper colors or selecting the interior's contrast stitching color.
More coy is the ZL1 Camaro. Not willing to go all the way yet, citing continuing development, Chevy would not talk performance numbers or pricing, but was willing to detail much of the super Camaro's technicalities.
Aimed squarely at the Shelby GT500 Mustang, the ZL1 Camaro's goals are easy to predict and include a mandate for absolute track readiness straight off the showroom floor.
Power is from a LSA version of the 6.2-liter supercharged LS engine, rated at a rousing 580 bhp at 6000 rpm and 556 lb ft. of torque at 4200 rpm. Built on a production line (in Mexico) the LSA might be described as an assembly line version of the hand-built 638 bhp LS9 powerhouse found in the ZR1 Corvette. Highlights include a 1.9-liter Eaton TVS supercharger, a more efficient water-to-air charge cooler, wet-sump oiling with a deep-sump pan, piston squirters and an improved inlet with 30 percent less restriction. New cast stainless steel exhaust manifolds, cast-in-place iron liners in an aluminum block and the same head castings as the LS9 engine are other attractions.
Missing is the hydraulic power steering pump; the ZL1 uses electrically assisted power steering to free up power and provide an expanded range of variable assist and steering ratios.
Added is a third fuel pump. It's part of an upgraded fuel system that accesses even the last cup of fuel during high-g track action.
Manual and automatic transmissions are both in store. The manual is a 6-speed TR6060 with a stronger output shaft and an extra mainshaft roller bearing for 30 percent more torque capacity than the version. The manual works with a dual-mass flywheel, twin-disc clutch and sports a GM-designed shifter, a first with this gearbox.
More work went into the mechanically stouter and electronically more intelligent 6-speed automatic, mainly to provide it with truly optimized shift strategies for Street, Track and Manual modes. Chevy says the auto is a sweetie on the street, launching in second gear and shifting smoothly, but is a tiger on the track with aggressive, high-speed shifts in either auto or the truly manual control. It even senses lateral g-loads to detect hard cornering, the better to know when not to upshift too readily between corners.
Durability is enhanced by standard oil coolers for both transmissions and the differential, along with the ZR1 `vette's engine oil cooling system carried over intact.
Suspension improvements abound and include revised bushings, a dramatically more efficient rear stabilizer bar and stronger, less deflecting driveline bits, but really center around new, third-generation "magnetic" shocks and the ZR1 `vette's sophisticated 5-mode traction control. The new dual-coil magneto-rheological dampers can adjust up to 1,000 per second (fast enough to require a new computer), are integral to the ZL1's chassis tune and are a pony car class exclusive. Chevy stresses these modes provide significantly different performance, ranging from a rain mode to a barely-there track aid. In all, Chevy says 30 percent of the Camaro has been upgraded in the ZL1.
And kicking off their stiletto heels directly at Ford's Boss 302, Chevy emphasizes no special key or dealer software upgrade will be required with the standard Performance Traction Management.
When will the ZL1 Camaro bare itself to full inspection? Most likely in the first quarter of 2012, so keep peeping.