crankandpiston.com takes the face-lifted Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for a spin in the mountains. And stumbles across an unbelievable stretch of road.[Not a valid template]
The crankandpiston team is currently at 798m above sea level halfway between Dubai and Fujairah, and we can’t quite believe what we’ve stumbled across. It’s a road. A mountain road, filled with twists, turns, hilariously steep elevation changes, and kickbacks so tight it would have Mount Panorama weeping with jealousy. And it’s brand new, so much so that the tarmac is still being laid around us. Hard to believe we’ve stumbled across this location completely by accident.
Just a few hours earlier, the team – crankandpiston photographer Arun, videographer Jose in our long term Volkswagen Passat and I – had been wending its merry way to Dibba Beach. It’s a colourful area on the far-West side of the UAE and our location of choice to shoot the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, a face-lifted hardtop version of the animal we drove last year. So far our journey has taken in a quick stop off at the Bab Al Shams desert resort for some motion shots, but the 10km truck road that takes us the majority of the way to Fujairah has brought with it a few problems. There are no white lines, an extraordinary amount of bumps, and several dozen completely mental motorists, most of whom seem hell-bent on aiming for our Summit White Camaro rather than avoiding it. In a standard saloon or SUV, this road would be hair-raising. In the ZL1, it’s absolutely terrifying.
The design of the Camaro is suitably aggressive for a muscle car, and as such it has made the cabin a little restricted. Visibility is proving an issue, with a razor thin windscreen, rear window and wing mirrors making it difficult for me to see from which direction I will be t-boned first. Standing as I do at 6-foot 2-inches tall, I’m also finding it difficult to sit upright without clouting my forehead on the sloping roof: in an effort to reach the steering wheel at all, I have to sit much further forward than I’d like.
This doesn’t sound the most positive start for the ZL1 but things do improve. There’s been little change to the cabin on the face-lifted ZL1, Chevrolet‘s new MyLink connected radio aside. And I for one am glad, since the back-to-basics design of the Camaro’s cabin – with the four-guage engine/oil temperature readouts, simple-as-you like climate control rotary dials and Alcantara upholstery – is exactly what a muscle car should offer. There’s no room for pomp or flashiness in a car whose primary feature is the stonking great lump under the bonnet, and it’s a good balance in the ZL1 with a multi-function steering wheel and a panoramic sunroof the only real ‘luxuries’. Even the figure-hugging sports seats are proving comfortable.
Having avoided head-on collisions for a good 15 minutes, we decide against pushing our luck and bail out at the nearest available sideroad. There’s still 90km to go before we reach Dibba, but the scenery on our detour through the mountains more than makes up for the time we lose. Indeed, it’s not long before the road begins climbing, the winding turns and stunning view into the valley below proving a gold mine for Arun, who insists we pull over for some more beauty shots. It’s as good a time as any to take in the face-lifted Camaro.
‘Menacing’ is the only word to describe the ZL1. There’s been no real aesthetic change for 2014, the key exception being the boxier, one-piece taillights that have replaced the previous dual-design lamps. This seemingly small and trifle re-design has proven a point of point of contention with many muscle car purists, but it’s a design I think looks pretty sharp, attention now being drawn to the dual exhaust pipes from which the booming notes of the ZL1’s 6.2-litre supercharged V8 can be heard (and who doesn’t love that?). At the front, the dominant feature remains the enormous bonnet bulge – complete with ‘ZL1’ emblem – offset nicely by an air-intakey front bumper and those angry headlamps that seem to glare at you from every angle: the Chevy bowtie on the slim-line front grille looks almost comical by contrast. The ‘facelift’ may be fairly tame, but the most dynamic fifth generation Camaro is still a looker. A really mean looker.
Our detour road begins to straighten out as we descend further into the mountain range, and I decide to open the taps. Briefly. All 580hp is thrown mercilessly through the rear tyres, which begin twitching on the slick tarmac as the rear fights to break free. The traction control warning light, which so far has remained dormant, flashes spasmodically until I flick the six-speed paddle shift gearbox into second. Then the real fun begins.
Story concludes on page 2