Sunday, April 19, 2015

2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Long-Term

Among auto enthusiasts there exists a small but vocal minority that hates computers. Not all computers — just the ones designed to make a sports car safer and/or faster around a corner. Such computers are referred to condescendingly as “nannies” by most enthusiasts, but these guys really, really hate them. Almost as much as they hate any kind of automatic or automated transmission.

To them, the sports car peaked sometime around the Ferrari F40, when big power was paired with a manual transmission, low weight, and a finely tuned, purely mechanical suspension. They rail against automatic and dual-clutch transmissions, no matter how much faster said gearboxes make a car on the dragstrip and around a track. They decry mean-spirited and ruthless computers that intervene when the tires slip, even the computers designed to make the car corner faster by better utilizing the available grip than the human driver is. To them, driver involvement and control are everything. The cardinal sin any automaker can commit is to take any amount of either away from the driver. To them, every aspect of performance should hinge on the driver’s ability, come whatever may. They should all be buying Z/28s.

The Z/28 is perhaps the last of the old-school supercars. Think back to that era of Countachs and Testarossas. The Z/28 comes from a proud tradition of mechanical performance. Up front is a big-displacement, naturally aspirated V-8 connected to a manual transmission and the rear wheels. The non-adjustable suspension utilizes hundreds of hours of track testing in its design and alignment and features shock absorbers typically found only on race cars. Giant tires put the power down, and giant brakes stop the beast. It even has hydraulically assisted power steering. Reducing weight wasn’t done with carbon fiber. It was done by making the window glass thinner and tossing unnecessary bits such as the trunk carpeting. In a world where supercars are all moving toward space-age materials, forced induction, dual-clutch transmissions, computer-controlled damping, electrically assisted power steering, and high-performance traction and stability control, the Z/28 is as old-school as it gets.

Hell, it’s even got the low-rent interior of those ’80s wonders.

Of course, some of you will rightly argue the Z/28 is equipped with GM’s impressive Performance Traction Management computer. With five modes, you can dial in exactly the amount of leeway and assistance you’d like from the traction and stability control. In Track mode, you get no stability control, only traction control, and even that’s designed to limit engine torque to nearly the exact amount the rear tires are capable of putting to the ground at any given instant. In practice, you can simply stomp on the loud pedal mid-corner and the computer will sort out the throttle for you. It’s quite a piece of equipment.