The new 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1 is clearly the fastest production Camaro to ever hit the road, but that’s just part of the story. According to Colorado Chevrolet, the ZL1 is a true all-around sports car that has both the power to hit 170 mph on Germany’s famed Nürburgring racetrack and the handling chops to cover the course even faster than a Porsche 911 GT3. And while a 580-hp V8 is primarily responsible for the former, it’s the ZL1’s aerodynamic design that helps enable the latter.
“The Camaro ZL1 lapped the Nürburgring in an incredible 7:41.27 seconds, which would not have been possible without work of our aerodynamics team,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “The design of the ZL1 creates downforce like a race car, harnessing air pressure to press the tires against the track for extra grip and control at high speeds.”
According to Chevrolet Dealers TX, to achieve this, the Camaro crew focused on improving seven key aspects of the ZL1:
Front fascia—Numerous changes were made to the ZL1’s front fascia to increase airflow for engine and brake cooling, including the addition of a large lower opening and the carefully engineered placement of the fascia’s integrated brake-cooling ducts.
Hood—To prevent air from being trapped in the engine bay, which creates unwanted lift, the ZL1’s hood has a vented, carbon-fiber insert that improves air flow and keeps the front tires planted in all driving scenarios. The insert’s venting improves engine cooling, too.
Front splitter—The ZL1 uses a racing-style splitter instead of the traditional front air dam to further increase downforce, yet this factory-installed unit was designed specifically to allow plenty of ground clearance for everyday driving.
Front tire deflectors—Lift and drag also are reduced by using dedicated deflectors to optimize airflow around the wheels and tires.
Belly pans—Under-car aerodynamics are vital for high-performance handling, and the ZL1 has two separate belly pans—one below the engine cradle, the other behind the engine assembly—to help reduce turbulence beneath the vehicle. Transmission-cooling is upgraded at the same time, thanks to NACA-style ducts designed into the rear belly pan.
Rocker panels—Subtly reshaped rocker panels cut down on lift and drag, and also boost stability, particularly in high cross-winds. They also protect the car from stone chips.
Rear spoiler—The unique design of the ZL1’s rear spoiler, with an incorporated center high-mounted stop lamp, provides nearly 150 lbs. of downforce all by itself.
“From the driver’s seat, the added downforce makes a huge change in the feel, and responsiveness of the ZL1 at high speeds,” said Oppenheiser. “One of the best examples of how aerodynamics improved the performance of the ZL1 is the ‘Fuchsröhre,’ or Foxhole at the Nürburgring. In the ZL1, you can take that sweeping left-hand corner flat-out in fifth gear—nearly 160 mph (257 km/h). That’s a great testament to the confidence-inspiring stability and control the aerodynamic design helps give the Camaro ZL1.”
The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is slated to go on sale early next year at Rockville Chevrolet and local dealers, with a ZL1 convertible model scheduled to launch in the summer.