Its veritable smorgasbord of vintage automobiles coupled with the beauty of the Berkshires makes this DRIVEN’s favorite trip of the year, and we never leave unsatisfied.
That said, this year was a bit different than years past—in that our wheels for the weekend were something exciting in their own right.
Thanks to our friends at General Motors, we had the keys to a fresh-off-the-assembly-line 2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible.
Finished in metallic gray with a black leather interior and mounted on some staggeringly beautiful 20-inch wheels, this über-Camaro has an imposing road presence and an even more astounding exhaust note than anything else in its class.
Its signature supercharged growl stems of course from its massive powerplant, a 580 hp 6.2L V8.
Around town, the Camaro rumbles with only moderate aggression, but under a heavy right foot, it comes alive and just roars, scaring fellow motorists and announcing your presence with the same intensity as John Williams’s Imperial March.
The enjoyment of this fantastic noise is further amplified with the top down – and while the same engine powers its hardtop sibling, we couldn’t help but feel that we were getting a better deal.
For such a large and powerful vehicle, the ZL1 is remarkably docile at low speeds and on rough streets, thanks mainly to magnetic ride technology and four-corner independent suspension.
This made it a joy to cruise around the city in—not something we would have expected from a high-strung muscle machine.
That said, this car was built for the open road, and it owns the highway.
There wasn’t a single high-end European sports car we encountered on the trip that stood a chance against it.
Speaking of European sports cars, another surprising feature on the ZL1 was its interior quality, light years ahead of anything we’ve seen come out of Chevy, since, like… ever.
The suede microfiber and leather seats were on par with any German manufacturer, and the dash surfaces and trim were superb.
Coupled with an intuitive technology package with touchscreen controls and even a Head-Up display (much needed for those leg-stretching sprints on Route 91), the ZL1 signals the end of a long wait for improvement for fit and finish from Chevrolet.
In contrast to the 40-year-old (plus!) muscle cars lapping the track at Lime Rock with their drum brakes and carbureted big blocks, the ZL1 might as well have been the space shuttle in terms of technical innovation and refinement.
Yet the Camaro brand DNA is strong, and the ZL1 attracted a fair amount of attention at the track from vintage racing fans and drivers alike.
There is something elusively iconic about the ZL1, and whether it is the retro-fantastic design of the body, the bow tie badge on the grille or the simple fact that there is a giant torque-monster of a motor beneath the bulging hood, the car speaks to anyone who speaks car.
If we could point any real criticism at the ZL1, it would be lack of space in the backseat and trunk.
Actually, the trunk of the convertible model is considerably less usable than that of a MINI Cooper, and most of our luggage was relegated to the backseat.
This, of course, matters not to any serious gearhead—and if you’re considering buying the ZL1 for use as the family truckster, shame on you.
That’s what the CTS-V is for.
But if you’re looking for a no-holds-barred, high-tech modern muscle car in which you can drop the top and be treated to a heavy-metal opera while you break the sound barrier, your search is over…
- Posted October 04, 2013
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