Friday - - Motoring -

Ihave mixed feel­ings about the fifth-gen­er­a­tion Ca­maro. It cer­tainly de­serves praise and I want to like it, but this could have been the lat­est Firebird, the great­est mo­tor in au­to­mo­tive his­tory in my view (bar­ring a dif­fer­ent front and tail end), had GM not killed off that fire-breath­ing mon­ster in 2002. It got worse when Pon­tiac was laid to rest a few years later and with its demise went any hopes of the iconic Firebird line be­ing res­ur­rected.

The Ca­maro and Firebird were based on the same F-body plat­form from the very be­gin­ning in the late Six­ties, shared a large per­cent­age of parts and, to the un­trained eye, were al­most iden­ti­cal. Chevy was able to bring back the Ca­maro in 2009 and it’s gone from strength to strength.

Now the facelifted fifth-gen is here and I’ve be­gun to warm to it – al­though those new hor­i­zon­tal tail­lights are atro­cious; had this been a Firebird, they’d have looked much bet­ter. Fine. I’m bit­ter. I can’t help it. But when be­hind the wheel of this mighty ZL1 with its su­per­charged 6.2-litre 580bhp V8, I also can’t help but say that it is awe­some.

That head­line-grab­bing 580bhp fig­ure isn’t all that this ZL1, which traces its name­plate back to 1969, has to shout about. Fire it up and you won’t hear any­thing else over the fe­ro­cious growl from that force-fed V8. It sounds like a yelling match be­tween the king of the jun­gle and a great big griz­zly.

And it doesn’t just take off like a bolt of light­ning; it is equally adept at han­dling cor­ners as it is at oblit­er­at­ing the straights. Chevy didn’t just give this one enor­mous power, mak­ing it the fastest Ca­maro ever. No, it also gave it the fab­u­lous Mag­netic Ride Con­trol, four-wheel in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion and a Per­for­mance Trac­tion Man­age­ment sys­tem in­flu­enced by the Corvette, which has five per­for­mance set­tings from road to track— with each one en­sur­ing the ZL1 de­liv­ers to­tal ex­hil­a­ra­tion. Me­chan­i­cally, not much has changed dur­ing the re­fresh but cos­met­i­cally, it’s had a nip and tuck.

The ZL1 is still equipped with Brembo brakes (with mas­sive 14.6in front discs and cool­ing ducts that route air from the fas­cia to the cal­lipers), unique 20in wheels with per­for­mance sum­mer tyres and a re­tuned power steer­ing. The ex­te­rior’s func­tional carbon-fi­bre air ex­trac­tor on the bon­net is still the most eye­catch­ing el­e­ment of the mus­cu­lar body. It’s gained a unique rear spoiler and re­freshed front and rear fas­cias; there’s a wider, lower mouth and com­pressed up­per grille, mak­ing the front still the most ag­gres­sive in the seg­ment.

You can’t miss the large lower split­ter that re­duces front lift, while the LED head­lights are even more pierc­ing than be­fore. Maybe in time the tail end will grow on me. It’s not that bad to be fair; the deck­lid and dif­fuser look pretty tasty.

In­side, it’s more up­scale than be­fore and fea­tures suede trim, a flat-bot­tomed steer­ing with pad­dle shifters and Re­caro sport seats.

On the tech front, it makes the 1969 ZL1 look very much like the di­nosaur it is. Back then, a cig­a­rette lighter was a big deal. For 2014, you get ameni­ties like the new MyLink con­nected ra­dio, a rear-view cam­era dis­played on the 7.0in di­ag­o­nal colour touch­screen, sat-nav, pre­mium Bos­ton Acous­tics sound sys­tem, a USB port and a colour head-up dis­play.

But it’s on the move where the ZL1 im­presses most. It feels taut and con­nected to the road; those ad­justable shocks make all the dif­fer­ence and though I only drove it on the road, I could feel it’s geared up to de­stroy the track.

Speak­ing of gears, the six-speed au­to­matic swaps the cogs with­out a fuss, match­ing the rev range per­fectly. But in man­ual mode and while op­er­at­ing the pad­dles, it re­ally shines. It’s even more re­spon­sive and just adds to the over­all fun fac­tor that this car de­liv­ers in spades. Some

Specs & rat­ings Model Ca­maro ZL1 En­gine 6.2-litre V8 su­per­charged Trans­mis­sion Sixspeed auto, RWD Max power 580bhp @ 6,000rpm Max torque 754Nm @ 4,200rpm Top speed 296kph 0-100kph 3.9sec Price Dh230,000 Plus Ex­haust note, power

Mi­nus Vis­i­bil­ity isn’t the best things could be bet­ter; vis­i­bil­ity from the front, of all places, is re­stric­tive, while the A-pil­lars are so thick you can’t see what’s com­ing at you from your left or right.

But you’d for­give the ZL1 this the mo­ment you turn the key. Its fullthroated bel­low­ing is so sav­age you’d think twice be­fore crit­i­cis­ing any as­pect of this car. Is the rau­cous ex­haust note more ob­vi­ous than the car’s ac­tual power? No. Not when it’s armed with 754Nm of torque, can hit 0-100kph in un­der four sec­onds and go on to a top speed just un­der 300kph. Its ac­cel­er­a­tion is al­most on a par with some ex­otic su­per­cars that cost three times as much.

For what you get, this is a bar­gain. It’s built to per­form and it does so – only af­ter it’s left a mas­sive plume of smoke cre­ated by those sticky 305/35 rear tyres. It’s heavy but ag­ile and happy in the cor­ners, which is nervewrack­ing at first but you soon grow in con­fi­dence with its abil­ity to grip, re­main to­tally planted and the fact that it steers with pre­ci­sion.

This isn’t a nor­mal car, so for­get about fuel ef­fi­ciency or boot space. Worry about that and you’ll miss the point. This is about brute power, smokey side­ways ac­tion and killer looks. I’ve fallen madly in love with this car. It’s so good that it’s soft­ened the blow that a fifth-gen Trans Am doesn’t ex­ist. Al­most...

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