For the Camaro faithful, nothing says “affordable performance” quite like the alphanumerical combination of one letter and two numbers: Z/28. Originally an option code for cars built to compete in the SCCA Trans-Am series, the name stuck and has been associated with fast Camaros since 1967.
When the fifth generation Camaro debuted in 2009, it was assumed that a Z/28 version would be launched soon after. Instead, Chevrolet has brought back other legendary trims, such as the ZL1 and the 1LE, both previously associated with competition Camaros.
Now, finally, the Z/28 is back, debuting today alongside an updated 2014 Chevrolet Camaro range at the 2013 New York Auto Show.
While the new Camaro Z/28 is not intended to compete in a specific race series, it is solely focused on track capability. And just like the original, it forgoes ultimate horsepower and torque for improved weight balance and track performance.
Under the hood lies GM’s race-bred LS7 engine, but with unique induction and exhaust systems. In its latest application, the 7.0-liter V-8 delivers 500 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.
The car also features a full aerodynamics package that creates downforce at speed, helping significantly with cornering. In initial testing, the new Camaro Z/28 has already proven to be quicker than even the Camaro ZL1, thanks mostly to increased grip, better braking performance and a 300-pound weight advantage--yes, you read that correctly.
The engineering team subjected the car to an intensive lightweighting program, also saving 100 pounds compared to the regular Camaro SS. To help keep weight down, only the bare essentials remain. The only transmission choice is a six-speed manual and air-conditioning is absent, though buyers will be able to opt for it should they desire.
More examples of weight savings include the removal of the tire-inflator kit, sound-deadening material and fog lights, as well as the installation of a smaller battery and windows with thinner glass.
On the interior, the Camaro Z/28 features a matte-metallic finish trim named Octane, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and standard Recaro seats with microfiber suede inserts. The new seats (also available on the coupe versions of the SS and ZL1 models), feature aggressive bolsters and only come with manual adjustment to save weight.
The rear seats of the Z/28 have also been modified for weight reduction--GM says it kept these as anyone wanting a two-seat car should buy the Corvette--by eliminating the seat-back pass through and using high-density foam instead of the usual steel mesh found in these.
Power from the LS7 V-8 is distributed to the rear wheels via a limited-slip differential featuring a helical gear set, rather than traditional clutch packs. The new design enables the driver to apply more power and get through corners faster, by continuously adjusting the torque bias to maximize available traction. The differential works in unison with a custom traction control system, which allows drivers to adjust the level of throttle and brake intervention to match their capability and driving environment.
For the suspension, Camaro Z/28 benefits from race-proven, spool-valve dampers. Compared to a conventional damper that offers only two-way tuning for bump and rebound, a spool-valve damper allows four-way adjustment to precisely tune both bump and rebound settings for high-speed and low-speed wheel motions. This allowed engineers to increase the damper stiffness without affecting ride quality too severely. Additional chassis changes include stiffer string rates and suspension bushings.
The wheels are 19-inch light alloys which reduce unsprung weight by 42 pounds per set compared to the 20-inch wheels standard on the Camaro SS and ZL1. They come shod in Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires measuring in at 305/30--even at the front. The brakes are Brembo carbon ceramic discs, clamped down by fixed monoblock calipers with six pistons up front and four pistons at the rear. Compared to similar-size, two-piece steel rotors, the lightweight but pricey carbon discs save 28 pounds per set of four.
With all of this, it's little wonder the car ranks as the most track-capable offering in Camaro history.
The new Camaro Z/28 goes on sale early next year, a few months after the market launch of the regular 2014 Camaro range.
The new model year sees the most significant redesign for the Camaro since the introduction of the fifth-generation car back in 2010. The changes are mostly cosmetic, though Camaro SS models get a functional hood vent and the overall shape of the latest car is also said to be more aerodynamic.
Further details will be announced closer to the market launch of the 2014 Camaro range later this year.
Follow all the latest announcements from the 2013 New York Auto Show, here at Motor Authority.