Simraceway Stand-off #2: 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 v. 1968 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS
I know the idea to compare two different Camaros might sound a bit silly, but please bear with me here.
Many of us petrolheads (and I’m no stranger to that) like to rant on about how cars of the past century were so much better, so much purer and involving. But thanks to SRW, we get to actually pass that theory through the crucible of simulated driving.
On the left, we have the 1968 RS/SS, nearly 50 years-old but still pretty, and filled with a 376-hp rumbling V8. On the right we have its modern-days descendant, the 2013 Camaro ZL1, bigger, heavier, and much more powerful at 580-hp of screaming supercharged V8.
What surprised me the most about this test is how similar the two are. It’s a really weird feeling to pop out of a classic car into a modern brute to find it to be pretty much the same thing. The core philosophy remains the same: big V8 upfront, drive to the back, and that’s pretty much it.
And in both cars, this has pretty remarkable effects. The first one you’ll notice however, is not that pleasant: both cars like to understeer on turn-in.
Of course that isn’t that surprising considering the architecture of the cars, but on the one hand I expected the RS/SS’s relatively low weight to do the trick and on the other hand I thought the ZL1’s massive front tires would pull it into the corners with little regards to the rules of physics. But it’s not really the case: the ‘68’s tires are pretty old school so they don’t provide all that much grip, while the 2013’s ones are a bit overwhelmed by the mass and speed of it all.
Once you’ve stopped the cars enough (pretty easy in both cases, for two road cars), you’ll find another side-effect of that pretty liberal definition. The cars do like to pitch and roll a bit. Now that wasn’t much of a surprise regarding the 68 car, as it’s the case with most of its contemporaries. But I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed by the ZL1 there.
But then, if you’ve been patient enough, the big V8s come into play to make driving those cars a memorable experience. In both of these it’s really easy to start to slide and to maintain the sidewayseness, which, coupled to a pretty epic soundtrack is enough to make you forget about these cars’ shortcomings, and perhaps even a little more so in the ZL1. And after all, that’s what they’re all about isn’t it?
But at this point we need a winner and I’m afraid it isn’t going to be the modern car. As much as I love the ZL1’s mean stance and modern take on the so very American idea of a pony car, it just doesn’t feel as special as the old car. Its dynamic weaknesses are amplified by a bit of overweight that can make it a bit frustrating on the tighter tracks: you really have to be patient with it through the corners. That’s not to say it’s a boring car, because it is pretty unique and still a good laugh on track.
But the RS/SS is lighter, and it shows. With much, much less power it wasn’t that much left behind by the 580-hp ZL1, which says a lot. That said, the cars do feel pretty similar, as much as two cars separated by almost half a century can. The RS/SS wins it because if what you really want is the old school muscle car experience, then going back to the original will feel that bit more authentic and pure.
The classic car wins this one, but not by a country mile!