As gearheads, we often have a hard time fighting the urge to tinker with our cars. The fact that they are brand new and/or in perfect working order, are only minor obstacles easily overcome when increased performance is on the table. “If it aint broke, don’t fix it,” said no car guy ever.
If you needed further proof that Chevrolet Performance is run by hot rodders just as nuts as the rest of us, it’s evident in their line of upgrade parts for the Camaro SS.
This plethora of suspension, brake, and powertrain parts is designed to take the already potent-Camaro to even loftier performance marks. And, to demonstrate what the components could do, Chevrolet assembled three Camaros with varying levels of upgrades and invited us out to Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump Nevada to take them for a jaunt on track.
The first Camaro we drove was a bone-stock SS. The car was equipped with the factory Brembo four-piston brakes and was shod with the stock-size wheels and 245-mm front and 275-mm rear tires. This wasn’t our first time behind the wheel of a 5th-gen Camaro but it was the first time we’ve had one on a road course.
The Camaro SS is a blast on the boulevard, but on the track, the car’s 3700-pound curb weight begins to rear its chunky head. Though, the 426-horsepower LS3 engine assured from ample power to pull that mass up to triple-digit speeds on the straightaway and the brakes did an admirable job of hunkering the car down.
Corner entry was a begrudging affair – especially as speeds increased. The supple suspension that makes the car comfortable on the street contributed to significant body roll on turn-in. The car resisted directional inputs and tended to push off the line mid-corner. Chevy must have noticed the same road-course deficiencies we did because the next Camaro they ushered us into was light-years more at home on a racetrack.
That concept was dubbed the “Ultimate Street Camaro.” The combination of added Chevrolet performance parts caters to the daily driven car that sees occasional weekend track duty. The suspension is stiffened via larger front and rear sway bars, sourced from the 1LE sport suspension package, and the rear suspension links have revised geometry.
To really haul the car’s weight down on the straights, a set of ZL1 6-piston calipers were swapped onto the front. Bigger wheels – again from the 1LE – measuring 20×10-inches on the front and 20×11-inches on the rear cary wider Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 rubber. From the driver’s seat, the reduced body roll is immediately noticeable. The car is much more responsive and dives, rather than pushes, toward apexes. Mid-corner grip was also substantially improved.
The last, and most serious, car GM brought out was their Ultimate Track Camaro. This machine represents the next best thing to a Z/28, and with a substantial price reduction. On the list of upgrades are all of the components from the Street Camaro with the addition of Z/28 springs and DSSV dampers, a helical limited slip differential with cooler, Z/28 aero components, and functional brake ducts.
“With the Z/28 parts, the Camaro SS is transformed into an entirely track-focused machine,” said Mark Dickens, Director of Chevrolet Performance.
The Track Camaro takes things a bit further in the acceleration department than its stablemates with the addition of hardcore engine upgrades. An LS3 power upgrade kit ups the ante 30 horsepower via a hotter camshaft and higher flow cylinder heads. That extra grunt is immediately evident on track. With noticeably more top end pull and increased midrange grunt, the car rockets out of corners and down the straight. The ZL1 brakes are still more than capable of shrugging off that speed.
While the extra power is a welcome addition, it is far from the highlight of the car. It’s the Z/28 suspension that gives the car a newfound handling prowess unbecoming of its heft. Turn-in is razor sharp and the heightened grip levels can easily slosh the blood back and forth between the driver’s eyeballs.
The already-reduced body roll is now virtually nonexistent thanks to the Z/28 spring/shock package and the helical limited slip allows the power to be applied much earlier exponentially more efficiently on corner exit. Where the SS would have been fighting for grip or pushing wide when powering out of a corner, the Ultimate Track Camaro is planted and gaining car lengths by the second. Basically, this car no longer feels like what we’ve come to expect of a “Camaro.” This is a racecar.
The idea of factory hotrod parts is certainly nothing new, but we are glad to see the concept is still alive and well. Building up your Camaro via these components will dramatically increase its track potential. And, the ability to do it in stages certainly makes the process easier on the wallet. We were even told that the brake/suspension components are fully compatible with a V6 car as well – that could make for a cool fuel-efficient daily driver that can still tear up the road course / autocross on the weekends.
Also, it’s no secret, especially to Camaro owners, that performance parts can substantially improve their cars. But, here’s the kicker: If you have a certified Chevrolet service department install these components, the factory warranty remains intact. They will even honor that warranty if you have a mechanical issue at the racetrack. Now that … is virtually unheard of.