Revenge of the bowtie: 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1 takes direct aim at the Ford Mustang

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Ford has definitely gotten under Chevrolet’s skin. The Chevy folks are sick and tired of magazine aficionados lambasting the Camaro just because of the stellar reviews for the new Mustangs. Yup, for every Camaro out there (and to a lesser extent – Dodge Challengers) Ford has a superior pony.

Fortunately for Chevy – the Camaro’s looks have never been part of the debate.

Still, having some jerk quoting ETs, performance numbers and output numbers becomes irritating. So, rather than go a mess with the other Camaro models, General Motors opted to build the most powerful, best handing Chevrolet Camaro – ever. They did this by tapping the past.

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The legendary ’69 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had a run of just 69 units. General Motors understated the actual output by saying the 1969 ZL1s produced 430 hp – it was more like 500 hp. The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is one of the most coveted (and valuable) pony cars ever. Reviving this name was highly anticipated, nearly every competitor has revived an old, beloved name. Using the ZL1 name means Chevrolet is not messing around.

You want numbers? How does 6.2 liter, supercharged V8 strike you? Yes, it’s a similar unit used in the Corvette ZR1 and Cadillac CTS-V. Output should be around 550 horsepower and 550 lbs-feet of torque. That would definitely put it atop the pony supercar food-chain for straight-line performance.

Nowadays, people want a pony car that can corner like a proper sports car.

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Chevy borrowed Cadillac’s slick Magnetic Ride Control for the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Essentially the suspension can instantly harden when an electric charge passes through its liquid/magnetic goo. This means nearly instant adjustability without the need of a heavy suspension system. You will be able to select between the tour setting for regular driving and sport setting for serious track duty.

There is a nifty, dual mode exhaust system. Under normal power, the growl is somewhat subdued. When you push down the happy foot, the exhaust system opens up and lets the engine scream. We heard it at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show and it curled my toes.

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A new electric power steering system is calibrated for better handling and the beefy six-speed manual (yes – MANUAL!) transmission will have a dual disc clutch. Brakes are provided by Brembo. Huge, 14.6-inch discs up front with six-piston calipers clamp up front. Rear brakes are 14.4-inch with four-piston calipers.

The new Camaro has never been subtle. A massive satin black aluminum and carbon fiber hood increases down-force while extracting heat. Add to that, stacked driving/fog lights above a unique chin splitter – you CAN’T miss this Camaro.

A big spoiler and lightweight wheels covered in specially developed Goodyear Supercar F2 tires complete the exterior picture. The interior is similar to the current one with more purposeful additions and exclusive seats.

General Motors says the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be in dealerships in about a year. Prices will hover around $47,000. I can’t wait!

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