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Who Really Wants To Buy A ZL1?

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On: Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 4:11PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Who Really Wants To Buy A ZL1?

So by now you know all about the upcoming Chevy Camaro ZL1. It will be a beast, no doubt. Nearly 600 horsepower and 600-lb-ft or torque out of a supercharged 6.2-liter LSA motor borrowed from its cousin, the CTS-V. A bigger and stronger driveshaft and differential connected to big (and light!) 20-inch wheels shod in massive 305-millimeter wide rear tires (and equally massive fronts) will help this car put all of that power to the pavement. Electric power-steering, huge six-piston 14.6-inch front/four piston 14/4-inch rear Brembo brakes, and the highly touted magnetorheological shocks all serve to help the ZL1 offer a measure of all-around performance and not just hit the market as a one trick pony (car). We also know this ZL1 will definitely not be the sleeper its great, great grandfather was. A big power-dome hood, carbon fiber insert (a la ZR1), a more exaggerated body kit, and shinier (and louder) exhaust all help distinguish its owner as someone with slightly deeper pockets than all of those silly SS and, even worse, RS owners running around. 

But here's the thing; although it's safe to say that we all will rejoice and nearly strain our necks to turn and watch one of these super-Camaros roll by, the big question this writer keeps coming back to is this: "If it were my money, would I spend it on a Camaro?"

Although we hear that the ZL1 could come in with a base price as low as $47,000, and if you can find one at that price, just make sure the dealer didn't just throw a ZL1 badge on an RS and take your 47 grand. The truth of the matter is the best Camaro available will retail for at least what Ford is asking for the ultimate Mustang in the Shelby GT500, which is about $56,000 give or take, before their markup. Typical GT500 markup can range anywhere from ten thousand over MSRP to as much as 30 grand—yes, more than half as much as the advertised price. So now, let's apply that to our new ZL1—that gives us a price in the $60,000-70,000 range after we're all said and done. That's no small chunk of change, but the idea is those that really want a car first will pay whatever they have to in order to be one of the early birds to get this supercharged worm.

Here's the big problem. The ultimate Camaro weighs in at a portly (by supercar standards) 3900 pounds. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that almost two tons takes away some of the potency of 600 horsepower, and the expectations are for this Camaro to do 60 mph in just under four seconds, 100 mph in right around nine seconds flat, and run through the quarter mile in the low 12-second range at about 120 mph. Those figures for that kind of money put the ZL1 in some not-so-exclusive company. There are options, albeit in different execution styles, that offer almost the exact same performance for about that same money. Cars like the Lexus IS-F, Mercedes-Benz C63, Audi TT RS, and even the ZL1's own stablemate, the CTS-V all offer similar performance and higher levels of fit and finish for that same 60-70 grand.

The easy argument to that point is that "A Camaro is a muscle car, and if I want an American rear-wheel drive GM car then the ZL1 is the best bang for the buck out there." Oh, really? Well, might we introduce you to the ho-hum Corvette? No, not the $100,000 ZR1, we're talking about the base coupe. Now, the base Vette might not have 600 ponies under the hood, but it does beat the super-Camaro by another 600 figure—weight. The svelte Vette tips the scales at a scant 3300 pounds, which combined with its healthy 436 horsepower makes it the ZL1's performance equal (and superior, thanks to better balance) in just about every comparison test imaginable. Oh, and because the C6 has been out since 2005, there is no breaking-down-the-door demand which means that it can stay well within the realm of reasonable in terms of its $49,000 base price. But perhaps the base Corvette is just a bit too base for you and you think that the ZL1 is a better buy because of its potential scarcity and novelty—okay, fair enough. But, have you had a chance to take a gander at the Corvette Grand Sport? Here is a fancier spiced-up version of the Vette that will garner plenty of attention and stickers for a base price of $56,000—yup, right about at that same price point that the ZL1 will hover around in accordance with its arch rival the GT500.

That's the thing about the Camaro/Mustang wars. If you want the best Ford in production, the GT500 is it. There are no more Ford GT cars being made, and when you own a GT500, you can say, "Yup, I own the fastest model Ford makes!" But Camaro guys should (and do) take pause when they are about to drop a fat wad of cash down for the best Camaro in the business, because the truth of the matter is the best Camaro out there is only about as good as the worst Corvette. That's a tough pill to swallow, and one that not everyone (including yours truly) would be willing to choke down with more than 50 grand of their own money.

So, what's a gearhead to do with all that money burning a hole in his pocket? Well, the truth is that this entire train of thought makes the most sense when you factor in the potential dealer markup—because paying nearly 70 large for a Camaro when another five grand could buy you a car like the Corvette Z06 that could blow the doors off of any Pony Car ever made is just ridiculous no matter how much of a Camaro fan you are. But, if you can hold onto that money for a little while and let the initial market surge pass, let the dust settle, and accept that fact that it's okay to be the second, third or 700th person to buy a ZL1, you can probably let all of the foolish collectors pay the big price tags, while you stroll in several months later to snag a slightly better (all of the bugs will be worked out) and newer ZL1. And make no mistake, there will be one available sooner or later as Chevy will no doubt sell as many as they get orders for—this isn't the late 60s; they need every dime they can make these days. At that point, you will have the choice of a $50,000 top-of-the-line Camaro or a base Corvette and, at that point, it does, in fact, come down to preference, and the truth about who really wants to buy a ZL1 will be evident to everyone. It's a good decision to have to make.

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