2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Long-Term Update 2
The Analog Supercar
Among auto enthusiasts there exists a small but vocal minority that hates computers. Not all computers — just the ones designed to make a sports car safer and/or faster around a corner. Such computers are referred to condescendingly as “nannies” by most enthusiasts, but these guys really, really hate them. Almost as much as they hate any kind of automatic or automated transmission
To them, the sports car peaked sometime around the Ferrari F40, when big power was paired with a manual transmission, low weight, and a finely tuned, purely mechanical suspension. They rail against automatic and dual-clutch transmissions, no matter how much faster said gearboxes make a car on the dragstrip and around a track. They decry mean-spirited and ruthless computers that intervene when the tires slip, even the computers designed to make the car corner faster by better utilizing the available grip than the human driver is.
To them, driver involvement and control are everything. The cardinal sin any automaker can commit is to take any amount of either away from the driver. To them, every aspect of performance should hinge on the driver’s ability, come whatever may. They should all be buying Z/28s.
The Z/28 is perhaps the last of the old-school supercars. Think back to that era of Countachs and Testarossas. The Z/28 comes from a proud tradition of mechanical performance. Up front is a big-displacement, naturally aspirated V-8 connected to a manual transmission and the rear wheels. The non-adjustable suspension utilizes hundreds of hours of track testing in its design and alignment and features shock absorbers typically found only on race cars. Giant tires put the power down, and giant brakes stop the beast. It even has hydraulically assisted power steering. Reducing weight wasn’t done with carbon fiber. It was done by making the window glass thinner and tossing unnecessary bits such as the trunk carpeting. In a world where supercars are all moving toward space-age materials, forced induction, dual-clutch transmissions, computer-controlled damping, electrically assisted power steering, and high-performance traction and stability control, the Z/28 is as old-school as it gets. Hell, it’s even got the low-rent interior of those ’80s wonders (save the seats).
Of course, some of you will rightly argue the Z/28 is equipped with GM’s impressive Performance Traction Management computer. With five modes, you can dial in exactly the amount of leeway and assistance you’d like from the traction and stability control. In Track mode, you get no stability control, only traction control, and even that’s designed to limit engine torque to nearly the exact amount the rear tires are capable of putting to the ground at any given instant. In practice, you can simply stomp on the loud pedal mid-corner and the computer will sort out the throttle for you. It’s quite a piece of equipment.
So why am I completely discounting it? Because you don’t need it. Chevrolet spent so much time fine-tuning the Z/28’s suspension mechanically that you don’t need any crutch to drive it flat out. Turn the computer completely off, and it drives just as brilliantly as it does in Track mode or any other mode. The computer isn’t making a top-notch driver faster, nor is it hiding fundamental handling. It’s a learning tool, and one you can happily graduate from with no change in how the car ultimately behaves.
More important, the Z/28 is flat-out fun. It is the modern embodiment of driver involvement. From the sublime steering to the perfect handling, unbeatable brakes, and slick manual transmission, the Z/28 rewards the driver in every way. It’s the sports car purists used to own, or dreamed of owning when they were kids, and it’s got a three-year/36,000-mile warranty.
More than anything, though, I suspect some of you will take umbrage with my use of the term “supercar” in describing the Z/28. Perhaps by modern standards it doesn’t qualify, but for the anti-computer purists, it sure ought to. Remember those other analog supercars I mentioned? The Countach and Testarossa? Even the mighty F40? The Z/28 will dust every one of them to 60 mph, and only the F40 could barely clip the Z/28 in a quarter mile. The Z/28 will blow all three of them off a skidpad and out-brake them all without breaking a sweat. Put them all on a racetrack, and you’d be a fool to bet on anything but the Camaro. Yes, the Z/28 has 20 to 30 years of technological advancement on its side, and no, it doesn’t meet the modern definition of supercar, but that won’t stop it from putting the screws to what is widely considered one of the best supercars of all time (for less than half the original purchase price, I might add). And yeah, it’s just a Camaro.
More on our long-term Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 here: