In the economic sports coupe category, we have popular favorites like the Mazda Miata, the Ford Mustang, the Nissan Z, and the Chevy Camaro. Among them, the Camaro still manages to hold its own with a great sense of identity and a penchant for staying fresh through longevity. While yes, it borrows a lot from its even sportier sibling, the Corvette, what it doesn’t get enough credit for is its ZL1 model and its ability to elicit feelings of the classic muscle car era. While the Camaro all by its lonesome may not be enough to get you to visit a Chevy Camaro dealer when you compare it to some of the other economic coupes out there, the ZL1 trim really adds a lot to the value proposition.
The 2023 model year doesn’t add a lot of new features to the offerings, but what it does have still makes it one of the more attractive options on the market when it comes to a sports coupe with attitude. Surprisingly enough, we seem to have fewer and fewer brands indulging in that market these days, so the pickings have become slim. However, what pickings that we do have available, such as the ZL1, are still quite eye-catching for what’s on offer.
More Powerful Than the 2023 Corvette 1LT
One of the very first questions most people would ask if you even propose the idea that a 2023 Camaro ZL1 is worth looking into is, “Isn’t it more expensive than the Corvette 1LT?”. Yes, from the outset it’s a couple thousand more than the entry-level 2023 Corvette trim, the 1LT; plus, it’s a Camaro, not a Corvette. But what if I told you that the 2023 Camaro ZL1 is actually a better value than the 2023 Corvette 1LT if you’re all about menace and muscle from your sports car? It’s true, though.
The 2023 Corvette comes standard with an LT2 V8 across its model year line-up. No matter the trim, it’s going to be a V8, as opposed to the Camaro, which has a variety of powertrain configurations for its model year line-up, ranging from a turbocharged 4-cylinder up to a supercharged V8. The interesting thing about it is that the ZL1 is actually paired up with a supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V8. So while it’s ever-so-slightly more expensive than the 2023 Corvette 1LT, it does give you more overall power since the 1LT delivers 490 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque compared to the ZL1’s 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.
Not to make this section particularly long-winded, but essentially, you are getting what you pay for. The ZL1 Camaro is slightly more costly than the 1LT Corvette because it offers more performance than the 1LT Corvette. That’s one of the things that make this particular model so intriguing; it’s all about pushing boundaries, even past some of the segment leaders in a class you would assume is much higher than the Camaro. It’s not even just about the raw power; it’s also about the style and what the ZL1 brings to the table.
A Beast Built for the Track
The big selling point for the 2023 Camaro ZL1 is its ability to tear up the tarmac on the track. It’s designed to be as fast as it looks, and it sure looks fast. The 6.2-liter LT4 supercharged V8 with its 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque is finely tuned so that it can reach speeds of up to 198 mph. With the transmission oil cooler equipped with either a six-speed manual or a ten-speed automatic transmission, you can also make some amazing lap times. Also, the Camaro ZL1 enables you to hit 0 to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and complete a standing quarter-mile run in as fast as 11.4 seconds.
The ZL1 is capable of its track performance thanks to a top-to-bottom tune with a chassis and suspension setup designed to accommodate the speeds it can reach. This particular Camaro runs on Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar staggered summer tires and is equipped with four-wheel anti-lock two-piece rotor brakes with six-piston Brembo monobloc kits on the front and four-piston calipers on the rear. This also enables you to manage precision braking whether you’re on the track or the road, with just a 107-foot braking distance from 60 to 0 mph. So you can practically stop on a dime if you need to.
The car is just decked out to be cool in every aspect of its performance, with an auxiliary engine cooler, a rear differential cooler, dual-mode performance exhaust, and a custom launch control with line-lock. So if you’re keen on getting a sports coup from a Camaro dealer for the express purpose of drag racing it, then the line-lock feature is a must-have, as it stabilizes the vehicle to ensure you get the cleanest, straightest launch when the light turns green. Even when you’re not just drag racing, the ZL1 also manages to include magnetic ride control for performance-enhanced stability, cornering, and traction. So the ZL1 isn’t just about looks; it’s about being extremely competent on the track, too.
A Modern Relic of the Past
The thing that really stands out with the Camaro ZL1 is that it’s just so stylish. Where so many cars have gone for very similar or very samey looks, especially in the compact and midsize segment, the Camaro stands out quite a bit in its own sports coupe market. It’s not like you could get it easily confused with the Honda Civic or Mazda Miata, but the Camaro ZL1 is something special, mainly because of the exterior modifications made to give it that aggressive muscle car appearance.
The center carbon fiber hood scoop alone lets you know this isn’t just any old pony car. The large 20-inch dark graphite-painted aluminum wheels give you that aftermarket tuner vibe, something you would expect to see from a decked-out car in the Fast & Furious franchise. The added accouterments in the form of the low profile rear spoiler, the front air dam, rear valence, the aerodynamic side skirts, and the very pronounced front inlets on the fascia, along with the massive grille opening, just screams muscle car.
Many of these elements give the Camaro that modern flair that hones in on its engineering to be efficient on the road at high speeds. Even more than that, a lot of these stylistic designs are a throwback to its roots as one of the more popular choices during the bygone muscle car era. That’s also not to mention that decked out in the black color scheme or the Radiant Red Tintcoat makes the car look so much more dangerous. It basically screams “hero car with villainous intent.”
Charming ‘Till the End…
Where a lot of manufacturers are moving away from the traditional sports coupe and toward the electrified crossover, it’s nice to see that even into the 2023 model year, the Chevy Camaro retains its sports car appeal while still being economical. As mentioned time and time again throughout the article, it’s a rare vehicle in a dwindling segment where much of the competition is looking to get away from big V8s and grumbling gas-powered engines.
Will an all-electric Camaro maintain the same sort of charm we see from the current generation of the Camaro? We will have to wait in order to see how that all turns out. For now, those who still relish a well-designed sports coupe that doesn’t have a supercar price will likely appreciate the muscle car charms that come with the Camaro ZL1 package. How long will you be able to indulge in its combustion-engine charms? Well, time will only tell, but it’s still one of the coolest-looking trims available on the market.