Pick one: Chevrolet Camaro or Ford Mustang? It's a battle as old as the earth itself. Throw in 580 horsepower with the Camaro ZL1, compared to the Mustang GT500's 662 unbridled ponies, and the decision only gets harder. Before we go any further though, we have to ask, why would anyone want a car with this much power? Abstaining from the obvious answer--"because"--we spent a week with the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to see how life with it would be. As to be expected, there was a lot of hard accelerating, answering questions from curious neighbors and strangers, envious stares...and stops at the pump. However, there were a few things that caught us off guard with Chevy's top-tier Camaro, and they weren't necessarily bad. Check out what we uncovered below.
Model and PriceFor a base price of $56,550, you too could own a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, but if you want the one that spent the week with us, you'll have to shell out $58,170. Our tester came to play with only $1,620 in optional equipment. If you want Inferno Orange like what our tester was dunked in--and we can't think of a reason you wouldn't--that'll be $395. The 20-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels are optional as well, and cost an additional $470. The only other options we had on our 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 were carpeted floor mats (which are installed at the dealer for $155) and an exposed carbon fiber weave hood insert ($600).
Safety and Key FeaturesWhen tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro earned five stars in the agency's revised procedures, and was the first passenger vehicle to do so under these circumstances. With 580 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of torque, Chevrolet packed the Camaro ZL1 with standard safety features like six airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, and a rear view camera. Stability control and four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel ABS are also standard safety features.
While head-up displays are usually more of an annoyance than helpful--our brains associate them with windshield glare most of the time-- we found the Camaro's to be surprisingly helpful in the ZL1. You can easily hit law-breaking speeds on the freeway, but with the help of the HUD, we were able to keep the ZL1 in check and California's finest off our backs by simply looking down towards the hood of the vehicle.
Family Friendliness and UtilityThere are a lot of family-friendly Chevrolet vehicles. The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 isn't one of them. Getting in as the driver or front passenger proves to be arduous enough, but putting child seats in the back is next to impossible. Passengers who are able to contort themselves into the backseat are treated to 29.9 inches of legroom, which sounds as small as that number looks. We recommend using the backseat for things like carrying the milk, eggs, and bread so each doesn't get crushed in the trunk. Remember, there's a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 under the hood and the urges for hard acceleration are difficult to ignore.
Comfort and QualityThere are two buttons that sit below the seven-inch infotainment screen which control the Camaro's ride. These two buttons--"Tour" and "Sport"--adjust the ride feel almost instantly. We left it in Tour most of the time, because Sport made the ride too jarring when sailing over the concrete roads that make up Interstate 405 in Southern California. We did, however, employ Sport when riding around town, which made taking corners a little more fun. It's the little things.
We did have one issue with the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 though, and it was the hard plastic used on the dashboard, center divider, and door inserts. The door inserts at least had a glossy black plastic cover spanning most of the door but the dashboard and center divider were the same low grade plastic seen on the more mainstream Cruze. We did, however, really dig the Alcantara steering wheel, shifter, and leather seats.
How it DrivesThere's 580 horsepower awaiting orders underneath your right foot, so there's really only one thing to do here: Press down on the throttle, hard. Once/if that feeling of wanting to hear the 6.2-liter V-8 supercharged engine howl wears off, you'll see that the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 isn't a bad daily driver. The seats are comfortable, supportive, and do a nice job at holding you upright when using a little extra zest to get up to speed. With 580 horsepower, you'd think getting the ZL1 rolling would be a task in itself but, in reality, it was actually quite simple. Just rolling evenly on to the throttle and away you go. How fast you do all this is up to you. The manual transmission utilizes short throws which, combined with its ease of engine engagement, makes the ZL1 that much more fun to drive. When you downshift, you're met with various grumbles, burbles, snaps, crackles, and pops coming from the exhaust. This is just a friendly reminder that you're driving a 580 horsepower juggernaut.
Outward visibility isn't the best for drivers over six-feet tall as it's hard to see traffic lights when you're waiting at the line. Rearward visibility is obstructed by the Camaro's sharp and low roofline too. Nevertheless, the supercharged LSA powertrain is the star of the show here, and with the six-speed manual transmission, the Camaro performed flawlessly during its stay with us.
SummaryNext to the light-duty pickup truck segment, the muscle car segment is as competitive as it gets in the automotive world. In many cases, brand loyalty stems from a vehicle a person owned and enjoyed early on in their lives. No matter the vehicle segment though, people flock to the brand they're most comfortable with, even if the current product isn't as good as they once remembered. This is why the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is so special. It doesn't matter if you've always had a Ford Mustang or have been more of a Mopar fan, the latest rendition of the Camaro ZL1 is good enough for any sports car enthusiast to enjoy. After spending a week with it, we've determined that the Golden Bowtie's top-level Camaro is easy to live with, though not perfect, as to be expected. We've also come to the conclusion that if you're a fan of sports cars, no matter where that passion originates from, you'll enjoy the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $56,170
EPA City: 14 mpg
EPA Highway: 19 mpg
EPA Combined: 16 mpg
Cargo Space: 13 "grocery bags"
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Poor
Child Seat Fitment, Third Row (if applicable): Not Applicable
Estimated Combined Range: 304 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Low Rating
Notebook Quotes"This is like driving around in a Michael Bay movie. It's all loud noises, explosions, bright colors, more loud noises, more explosions, and fast paced music. It's totally ridiculous, costs a bunch to make, has more packed into it at the price of admission than you'd rightly expect." -Keith Buglewicz, News Director
"I was pleasantly surprised by how the ZL1 felt in my hands, how well the steering wheel conveyed the surface of the road, how its shifter clicked into gear, and how its mammoth brakes stopped the car as quickly as it accelerated." -Jason Davis, Associate Editor, Photographer