What appeared to be, at the outset, an anticlimactic mid-year refresh for the fifth-gen platform, turned out to have a surprising twist. General Motors dropped a figurative bomb at the 2013 New York Auto Show, revealing the 2014 Camaro Z/28. The leaked LS7 engine codes for the 2014 model turned out not to be a hoax when the Z/28 appeared from back stage and was pronounced Chevrolet's 4-passenger king of the track. Recaro seats, 6-piston carbon ceramic brakes, huge tires, weight reduction, and a dry-sump LS7 - what more do you need to say? The Z/28 is a car built for enthusiasts. Congrats GM, it's nice to feel like you are listening.

Clearly the 1LE and ZL1 were built with handling in mind. But the Z/28 was built with domination in mind. Forget about those measly 285mm Goodyear Supercar tires on 20-inch wheels, and say hello to Pirelli PZero Trofeo R 305/30ZR19s (the widest front tire on any production car, and they're R-compounds!). "We made nearly 200 changes to improve the track performance, which cumulatively make the Z/28 capable of 1.05 g in cornering. For perspective, with all other things equal, increasing maximum grip from 1 to 1.05 g can cut up to four seconds per lap," said Mark Stielow, Camaro Z/28 engineering manager. Among those changes were race-proven, spool-valve dampers that allow four-way adjustment (instead of two-way with conventional dampers) to optimize bump and rebound for both high- and low-speed motions. Stiffer springs and bushings were also used to improve cornering. The use of 19-inch wheels reduced unsprung weight by 42-pounds compared to the standard SS and ZL1 wheels and lowered the center of gravity by 33 millimeters. And of course the massive 394x36mm front and 390x32mm Brembo Carbon Ceramic Matrix rotors with 6-piston front and 4-piston rear fixed, monoblock calipers are the coup de grace. In addition to saving 28-pounds, this enables the Z/28 to produce 1.5g in deceleration - that's serious braking power!

Seeing as though weight is the number one complaint with the fifth-gen, this was deemed a crucial aspect of the program. "We looked at every subsystem for opportunities to save weight," said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. "Our goal was to get rid of everything that didn't make the car faster, and keep only what was required by law. For example, we wanted to eliminate the audio system completely, but we had to keep a single speaker for the seat-belt chime to meet safety requirements." A few examples include: eliminating the tire-inflator kit, interior sound deadener, carpet from the trunk, air conditioning (though it is optional), and HID headlamps and foglights as well as the unneeded wiring. The standard LN4 battery was replaced with a smaller, lightweight LN3 battery. Thinner rear glass, 3.2mm compared to 3.5mm on the standard Camaro, was even used to cut poundage. Surprisingly the rear seat was kept, though redesigned to reduce weight, because "we felt it was important to keep the 2+2 configuration of the Camaro Z/28 as Chevrolet already has a world-class two-seat sports car in the Corvette," said Oppenheiser. All in all, the Z/28 is 300-pounds lighter than the ZL1.

"We set out to make the fastest road-racing Camaro possible that was still street-legal," Oppenheiser proclaimed. And the 500-horse, dry sump LS7 was a large part of achieving this goal. The 7.0L (427cid) V-8 was the ideal powerplant for this model because it delivers incredible power in a lightweight package, according to Jordan Lee, Small Block chief engineer and program manager, that also helps provide ideal weight balance and a broad torque curve for fewer shifts per lap. A unique dry sump oil tank was outfitted for the Z/28 as was an induction and exhaust system to deliver 500hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. The intake looks almost like an aftermarket piece and uses a K&N air filter, meanwhile the newly redesigned (but standard) dual mode exhaust increases the torque and audible experience during acceleration. Mated to the LS7 is a close-ratio Tremec TR6060 (with a 2.66 First and 1.78 Second gear) along with 3.91 rear gears to stay within the rather broad powerband. The standard (clutch-type) diff is ditched for a helical gear style limited slip differential that will continually adjust torque bias to maximize available traction and apply more power coming out of the corners (while working with the Performance Traction Management system). Last but not least, what really helps make the Z/28 track capable is the full complement of standard coolers starting with the liquid-to-liquid engine oil cooler, meanwhile a second system cools the transmission and differential.

And of course, let's not forget about the aerodynamics and styling. As with all 2014 models, the Z/28 has a wider lower opening, narrower upper opening, and a hood vent that reduces lift and underhood heat. The Z/28 also has a full aero package starting with the front splitter, which produces downforce at speed and mates to an underbody panel to reduce lift. The front and rear fender flares as well as the extended rocker panels also contribute to aerodynamic stability, and are finished off by an aggressive rear splitter and diffuser. Moving to the interior, a distinctive matte-metallic finish - called Octane - combines with the ZL1's flat-bottom steering wheel and Recaro seats for the ultimate road race cockpit. Aggressive bolstering and cutouts for five-point harnesses help keep you planted during hard corners, not holding the door panel for dear life. The manual adjusters and rear seat design also help save weight.

"While the Camaro ZL1 offers exceptional performance on the street, the drag strip, and the track, the Z/28 is entirely focused on the track performance. The Z/28 will be too track-focused for most drivers, but offers road-racers one of the most capable track cars ever offered from an automaker," said Oppenheiser. GM says that while the 2014 Camaro will be available at dealers "later in 2013," the Z/28 will be coming to a track event near you in spring 2014. I can't wait.

2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Preliminary Specifications

Overview
Model: 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Body styles / driveline: Four-passenger, front-engine, rear-drive coupe
Construction: Unitized body frame, one- and two-sided galvanized steel
Manufacturing location: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Engine: LS7 7.0L V-8
Displacement (cu in / cc): 427 / 7008
Bore & stroke (in / mm): 4.125 x 4.00 / 104.8 x 101.6
Block material: cast aluminum
Cylinder head material: cast aluminum
Valvetrain: overhead valve, two valves per cylinder
Fuel delivery: sequential fuel injection
Compression ratio: 11.0:1
Horsepower / kW: 500 / 373 (est.)
Torque (lb-ft / Nm): 470 / 637 (est.)
Transmission: Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual
Gear ratios (:1):
First: 2.66
Second: 1.78
Third: 1.30
Fourth: 1.00
Fifth: 0.74
Sixth: 0.50
Reverse: 2.90
Final drive ratio: 3.91
Chassis / Suspension
Front: double-ball-joint, multi-link strut; direct-acting stabilizer bar; progressive-rate coil springs; inverted monotube shock absorber
Rear: 4.5-link independent; progressive-rate coil springs over monotube shock absorbers; stabilizer bar;
Traction control: StabiliTrak, electronic stability control
Brakes: Power-assisted, Carbon Ceramic Matrix front and rear discs; six-piston fixed front, and four-piston rear calipers
Rotors: Front: 15.5 x 1.4 in (394 x 36 mm); Rear: 15.3 x 1.3 in (390 x 32 mm)
Wheel size: front: 19-inch x 11-inch; rear: 19-inch x 11.5-inch
Tires: Pirelli PZero Trofeo R - front: P305/30ZR19; rear: P305/30ZR19
Exterior Dimensions
Wheelbase (in / mm): 112.3 / 2,852
Overall length (in / mm): 192.3 / 4,884
Overall width (in / mm): 76.9 / 1,953
Overall height (in / mm): 52.4 / 1,330
Track, front (in / mm): 66.14 / 1,680
Track, rear (in / mm): 64.65 / 1,642