Muscle cars and pony cars have never been the most sophisticated of things. For most of their history, they've relied on great looks and brute force--and captivated hearts and minds as a result.

More recently though, things have changed. Customers want their cars to go around corners too, so Mustangs, Challengers and Camaros have become more sophisticated as a result. Latest into the fray is the 2014 Chevy Camaro Z/28, more track-focused than ever and, according to GM, a car capable of developing real aerodynamic downforce at higher speeds.

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Several alterations have been made to the Z/28 over the Camaro SS, so despite outward similarities the two are surprisingly different at speed. Wind tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics have helped Chevrolet develop a car with 440 pounds more downforce at 150 mph than the SS--a car that generates slight lift at that speed.

Starting at the front, a new splitter can withstand 250 pounds of downforce at its tip. Combined with an 'aero closeout panel' under the front of the engine compartment and molded-in aero features in front of the wheels, aerodynamic characteristics are improved significantly. At the back, this is balanced by a new rear spoiler with 'wickerbill'--a small vertical tab at the edge of the spoiler, reducing lift and improving high-speed stability. A carbon fiber hood extractor vent helps improve cooling and also allows air channeled through the grille to exit over the car--rather than exiting out the bottom of the engine compartment, increasing lift.

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Other changes include new rocker moldings, wheel house extensions and front tire deflectors, all encouraging air to flow where the designers intended, rather than increasing drag and lift. A flat belly pan aids this further, and incorporates modified NACA ducts to channel air past areas affected by heat from the exhaust. Even the Z/28's distinctive grille is different from that of the SS, with covers for the deleted fog lamps, an airflow-optimized upper grille, and a modified lower inlet that incorporates provisions for the brake cooling ducts.

And no, Chevy hasn't forgotten the Camaro's raison d'être--you still get a 7-liter LS7 engine with 505 horsepower and a proper six-speed manual transmission--it's little wonder the Z/28 has lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife in just seven minutes, thirty-seven seconds. Pony cars now have great looks, brute force and real cornering ability.


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