2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible First Test
The Most Powerful Camaro Convertible Ever
In a previous comparison test, the 2012 Camaro ZL1 coupe edged out the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 coupe before placing sixth in our 2012 Best Driver's Car completion. Now, we finally got our hands -- and test equipment -- on the drop-top version: the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible.
Present on our tester was an available six-speed automatic transmission not offered on the Shelby GT500. While the ZL1 coupe with six-speed manual impressed us on the track, we spent some time behind the wheel of a lightly refreshed 2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible automatic on the streets as well as at the dragstrip and handling course to learn more about the top-of-the-line drop-top Camaro. Shown in this First Test is the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible.
With 580 hp and 556 lb-ft of torque, the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is the most powerful convertible in GM's history, though it's not the fastest. That honor belongs to the limited-production, 505-hp 2013 C6 Corvette 427. Power comes from GM's supercharged 6.2-liter LSA V-8 also used in Cadillac CTS-V models (556 hp/551 lb-ft). (Images of the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible are shown.)
At the dragstrip, the 4405-pound Camaro ZL1 convertible automatic hit 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 12.5 seconds at 114.3 mph. In comparison, the 354-pound-lighter ZL1 coupe with a six-speed manual sprinted to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 12.1 seconds at 117.4 mph. With a 60-mph stopping distance of 106 feet, the ZL1 convertible stopped 2 feet shorter than the coupe. Thanks to GM's Magnetic Ride Control suspension, the ZL1 convertible posted 1.01 g around the skidpad and lapped the figure eight in 24.1 seconds at 0.85 g average, putting it right on top of the coupe's handling numbers (1.02 g and 23.9 seconds at 0.83 g).
So what's it like to live with the 580-hp drop-top on a day-to-day basis? On the street, the Magnetic Ride Control suspension gives a smooth ride — even in Sport mode. In fact, Sport could replace Touring as the Camaro ZL1's default ride setting. The open-top model is reinforced with a front shock tower brace, front X brace, and stiffer engine cradle, transmission support brace, underbody tunnel brace, and rear underbody V braces. Despite its impressive handling numbers, the ZL1 convertible's abundant torque, hefty curb weight, and chassis creaks force the driver to reevaluate corner entry speeds on the street.
The supercharged V-8 has more than enough torque to break the rear tires loose even when starting in second gear with the transmission in Drive. Sport mode allows first-gear starts and quicker -- yet still lazy – up- and downshifts. Paddle shifters add more control over gear changes, though the experience falls short of mimicking a dual-clutch or even a ZF eight-speed automatic.
Slow-speed throttle tip-in also seems delayed, though stomping on the loud pedal at 65 mph will spin the rear tires past legal limits if the transmission cooperates. Speaking of loud noises, the supercharger whine and exhaust sound as good as any musclecar, especially with the occasional overrun when lifting off the throttle. As good as the ZL1 sounds, it doesn't provide the aural pleasure of an active exhaust system like the ones on the 2014 Corvette Stingray or Jaguar F-Type. The ZL1 convertible never overheated and proved to be docile in stop-and-go Los Angeles traffic. Impressive for a nearly 600-hp car.
Staffers who drove the ZL1 convertible universally complained about the power-folding soft-top, which only worked when parked. "The top is unbearably slow and I dislike the fact that you must twist it shut," noted Zach Gale, Motor Trend's senior production editor. Associate online editor Alex Nishimoto agreed, adding, "The top is unbelievably slow. I'd honestly rather have a manual top. At first I thought it might be broken because I was hearing noises from the motors, but wasn't seeing movement. Eventually, the soft top came into view moving at a snail's pace. If you're always worried that you won't have time to put it up or down at a stoplight, then what's the point of having a power top?"
Besides being slow to operate, the closed soft top lets in lots of wind and road noise compared to the coupe. And with the top down and all four side windows up, wind still managed to hit front seat occupants directly in the face. One driver was disappointed to find the bag in the trunk contained a tonneau cover rather than a wind deflector for when the top is lowered. The manually installed tonneau cover adds to the question: "What's the point of having a power top?" Surprisingly, normal conversation is possible for front occupants with the top down up to legal highway speeds.
With a base price of $65,035 (including $995 destination, $2600 gas guzzler tax, $1185 automatic transmission) and an as-tested price of $66,630 ($900 20-inch alloy wheels, $795 navigation system) the Camaro ZL1 convertible with automatic could be hard to justify compared to similarly priced performance cars. For example, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette convertible 2LT with an automatic and the Z51 Performance Package starts at $65,355, or just $320 more than the ZL1 convertible.
While we haven't tested the 2014 Corvette Stingray convertible, the last Stingray coupe with manual we tested reached 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 12.0 seconds at 118.4 mph. The new C7 Stingray also has a much nicer interior than the refreshed 2014 Camaro ZL1. Another consideration is fuel economy: The Camaro ZL1 is EPA-rated 12/18 mpg city/highway, while the 2014 Corvette Stingray earns a 16/28 mpg rating, thanks in part to cylinder deactivation.
Other similarly priced and performing cars include the $60,595 662-hp Ford Shelby GT500 convertible (manual only) and $65,375 481-hp Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupe, both of which hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and the quarter mile in 12.1 seconds at 120.3 mph and 117.2 mph, respectively.
Few people are expected to cross-shop the Shelby GT500 and C63 AMG with the Camaro ZL1, though some Bow Tie fans will look across the showroom at the new Corvette Stingray. Compared to the Stingray, the Camaro ZL1 offers an occasional-use rear seat and easier ingress and egress. And for those who need another reason to opt for the ZL1 over the Stingray, how about bragging rights: The 580-hp ZL1 is the fastest and most powerful Camaro convertible ever offered, while the 455-hp Stingray is just the beginning of C7 Corvette performance. With the recent announcement of the Z28 coupe and redesigned Camaro a few years away, we don't expect Chevrolet to release a more powerful convertible before the new model arrives.
|2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$66,630|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 4-pass 2-door convertible|
|ENGINE||6.2L/580-hp/556-lb-ft supercharged OHV 16-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4405 lb (52/48%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||190.4 x 75.5 x 54.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||12.5 sec @ 114.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||106 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.01 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.1 sec @ 0.85 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||12/18 mpg (mfr est)|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||281/187 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.37 lb/mi|