Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Hits the Wind Tunnel, Gains Downforce: Video
By Jake Lingeman
We've seen the gaudy output numbers of the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1: 580 hp and 556 lb-ft of torque make it the fastest Camaro ever produced--by a long shot. We've seen it at the Nordschleife dropping a supercar-like time of 7 minutes, 41.27 seconds around the 13-mile, 170-turn track. Now it's time to learn a little bit about what it takes to stabilize such a powerful beast at speed.
“The Camaro ZL1 lapped the Nürburgring in an incredible 7:41.27, which would not have been possible without the work of our aerodynamics team,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “The design of the ZL1 creates downforce like a race car, harnessing air pressure to press the tires against the track for extra grip and control at high speeds”--speeds like the 170 mph that the ZL1 hit on the Nordschleife.
Normal cars are built with a bit of lift at speed to increase fuel economy. The Camaro LS is proof of that, returning 30 mpg on the highway in part thanks to 200 pounds of lift at 150 mph. The ZL1, on the other hand, generates 65 pounds of downforce. So let's see how it's done.
It starts with the front fascia. The fascia channels air for engine and brake cooling. The lower opening is larger than that of the SS, providing greater airflow to the intercooler heat exchanger. The corners of the bumper were also reshaped to minimize lift.
The ZL1 and other high-performance cars (think the Dodge Viper) have vents in the hood. They're partly for looks, but they also allow air to exit the engine compartment. With sealed hoods, air trapped in the compartment creates lift at the front axle. The ZL1 avoids that.
The ZL1 Camaro also incorporates a racing-style front splitter and front-tire air deflectors. They channel and redirect air, making the downforce less sensitive to pitch changes. It also looks boss, and the factory-installed lip sits high enough to avoid most road imperfections.
Two belly pans, one beneath the engine and one just in front of the transmission, help minimize turbulence under the car and increase stability at speed.
The biggest producer of downforce is the rear spoiler. On the ZL1's decklid, the unique wing provides 150 pounds of the 265 pounds of downforce. It's taller and wider than the spoiler on the Camaro SS.
Check out the video, which explains more and shows the car going through its development paces. If you decide you're sold, the ZL1 goes on sale later in 2012, while the ZL1 convertible. expected to be shown at the L.A. auto show, will be offered as a 2013 model. Pricing will be announced later this year or early next year.
Watch the video at AutoWeek.
Content provided by AutoWeek.
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