2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Long-Term Update 1
The Everyday Supercar
If there's been one persistent dig against the Z/28, it's that the car is nothing but a track toy and can't be used on the street. This refrain tends to come from people who haven't driven the car and/or who are upset it beat their favorite car for the title of Best Driver's Car last year. To make this short, they're wrong.
We're a quarter of the way into our yearlong loan now, which happened to start just as winter fell. After years of drought, it's been an unusually but thankfully wet winter here in Southern California. And in SoCal, for those who don't know, when it does rain, it pours. Hard. Many people, even within this office, have suggested to me that the Z/28 and its Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires would be at best useless and at worst dangerous in the cold and wet. These people were also wrong. I drove the Z/28 through five of the six rainstorms we've had to date, on damp roads and through standing water, and it was barely different than driving in the dry.
Of course, I'm not saying I raced it in the wet. There's a reason race cars use rain tires. No, I drove it daily in the wet just as I've done in the dry. I commute on city streets, not mountain roads or racetracks. Yes, if you're too aggressive with the throttle, it's easier to get wheelspin in the wet than the dry, but the Z/28 has a long clutch engagement and slightly long throttle pedal, so dialing in the exact amount of power and clutch slip you want is easy. I only got wheelspin when I tried to (because come on). The wide tires made the car a little more susceptible to pulling left or right when hitting a large puddle at speed, but nothing worse than the way it already chases grooves and depressions in the pavement. Not once did I experience anything close to what I'd call a "pucker moment." And I forgot the Performance Traction Management system had a Wet mode until the last storm.
In normal, dry-weather driving, it only gets better. Really, there are just two things that make driving this car around town any different than every other Camaro. The first is the big front splitter, which forces you to take every driveway (they're all needlessly steep in these parts, for some reason) at an angle so you don't damage it. It's a minor annoyance but something that quickly becomes routine. You can't use a drive-through carwash, either, between the splitter and the wide wheels, but who would do such a thing in this car?
The other is the ride. Yes, it's stiff. People who are not sports-car fans will find it too stiff. People who buy this car, however, know exactly what they're getting into and do it anyway. Only a certain type buys this car in the first place. The thing to remember is there's a difference between stiffness and harshness. In the Z/28, you get bounced around a lot. Your head is always bobbing a bit. But although you may feel every bump in the road, none of them beats you up. It's not like driving an old truck; it doesn't feel like the suspension is made of wood. It's kind of like that sports-car project you had in high school or college, the one you put coilover shocks on, but better. Yeah, the ride was stiff, but you didn't care because you loved that car, you loved driving it, and making it handle better and look cooler were much higher priorities than making it ride like a Bentley. In short, this is the car you wish you could've built when you were 18, and you'll feel 18 and awesome again driving it.
As for the actual getting around, that long clutch and easily modulated throttle make driving in commute traffic easy. The clutch return spring isn't especially heavy, nor is the steering. Neither my left leg nor my arms are abnormally large from driving the car, nor will they ever be. The shifter isn't particularly heavy, either. Skip Shift remains the most infuriating feature ever fitted to an automobile, and before you tell me to just accelerate harder, remember what I said about commuting on city streets. Chevy has programmed this stupid thing to engage at right about the level of acceleration you typically get in rush hour traffic. My only solace is knowing it's intended to help fuel economy and keep cars like this on the road in the face of ever-tightening regulations. I'm still considering disabling it, though.
In other news, the Z/28 is still hard to see out the back like every other Camaro, and this one has no backup camera or parking sensors, but you eventually get used to it. So like I said, it's not much different from driving any other Camaro, except it looks cooler, sounds cooler, and is much more fun on a freeway on-ramp. It's really fun knowing that any time the road curves, you can take it as fast as you'd like. It's also subversively fun driving a 505-hp, 15-mpg, track-ready car in the carpool lane when you've got a passenger onboard.
And then, you know, you can go to the track and have the time of your life. Around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, it'll take down supercars like the Ferrari F12, Aston Martin Vanquish, and Audi R8 V-10 Plus for half the price or less. Even at $2,300 a set from our friends at Tire Rack, you can buy a lot of Trofeo Rs for the price of an F12. Just to drive the point home, remember those posters you had of the Lamborghini Countach and the Ferrari Testarossa? The cars that defined the word "supercar?" This Camaro will dust both of them in a straight line (when they were new) and around any corner or track (and that's using the specs from the last and best models, not the early ones). People don't want to give it credit, always quick to point out "it's just a Camaro," but this is one serious piece of performance hardware. That you can drive every day.