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A Hat-Trick of Chevrolet Performance Models

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By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

About fifty miles west from our Nation’s Capital situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are some wonderful and scenic driving roads that provide the opportunity to experience cars that are intended to be driven hard.

A beautiful sunny day and a selection of ten performance cars from Chevrolet’s stable would make for a lot of excitement and pleasure. Granted this beautiful Virginia countryside is also quite suitable for horseback riding. But on this day, if my math is correct, there was a total of 4,479 horsepower at the disposal of a select contingent of auto writers from the Mid-Atlantic and DC area.

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Three Corvettes, two SS sedans, and five Camaros would be our mounts for the day. What to drive first would be a hard choice. The Chevy team made it easy at the start by assigning cars and driving partners. We then got to switch to another car after about 45 minutes of driving.

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The 2014 Corvette Stingray is the most powerful standard Corvette model ever, with 455 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque…and 460 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. with the available performance exhaust system. It is also the most capable standard Corvette ever, with Z51-equipped models able to accelerate from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, run the quarter-mile in 12 seconds at 119 mph, achieve 1.03g in cornering grip and stop from 60 mph in 107 feet.

The soon to come 6.2 LT4 in the 2015 Z06 Corvette has just been announced by GM rated at a monstrous 650HP.

The Stingray Coupe starts at $51,995 and the Convertible is priced at $56,995, both prices include destination. Russ Clark, the Director of Chevrolet Car Marketing tells me that so far this year about 36% of Corvette buyers chose the convertible.

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The 2015 Camaro lineup includes coupe and convertible body styles in these models:
• The 323-horsepower V-6-powered LS coupe and LT coupe and convertible – including the 2LS with an EPA-rated 30 mpg on the highway
• The Camaro SS coupe and convertible, with a 6.2L V-8 delivering up to 426 horsepower
• The road-racing-inspired Camaro 1LE performance package with unique gearing, suspension tuning and tires that make the model capable of more than 1 g of lateral acceleration
• The 580-horsepower supercharged Camaro ZL1 coupe and convertible.
• The track-capable Camaro Z/28…a coupe only, featuring the 7.0L LS7 engine rated at an SAE-certified 505 horsepower. The Z/28 is best described as a street-legal race car.

Unlike Camaros of old, today’s Camaro features fully independent front and rear suspensions, with the rear suspension featuring a 4.5-link system that includes a unique, L-shaped upper control arm that attaches to the knuckle at one end and incorporates a ride bushing in the rear. Ride and handling on the twisty Virginia roads was just outstanding and very confident.

Camaro prices run from $23,555 for the V6 to $56,255 for the ZL1 and up to $75,000 for the Z/28. About 14% of Camaro buyers opt for the convertible.

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New to the Chevy stable and Chevrolet’s first V-8, rear-wheel-drive performance sedan since 1996, the new Chevrolet SS is designed to deliver performance on the street and on the track. In 2013, 25% of all performance cars purchased in the U.S. were Chevys. The SS will certainly add to the mix. The new SS benefits from a proven, race-tested, global rear-wheel drive architecture that is the foundation for the Camaro, Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle and Holden’s VF Commodore. It’s powered by the LS3 V-8 delivering 415 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque, and is matched with a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually using TAPshift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. With an aggressive 3.27 final-drive ratio, the Chevrolet SS accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in about five seconds – making it one of the quickest sedans on the market

The Chevrolet SS is priced at $45,770 including destination and a $1300 gas guzzler tax. I don’t think EPA mpg numbers are a big part of the purchase equation when the SS gets shopped.

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Louis Chevrolet was a racer and Chevrolet continues his legacy with lots of on-track competition. We see Chevrolet SS in NASCAR and Camaro and Corvette in various sport car road races and soon the Corvette C7.R in the prestigious 24-hours of LeMans. On the drag strip, Chevy’s Erica Enders-Stevens NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock driver competing in her pro-stock Camaro just set new NHRA records of 6.464 seconds and also 215.55 mph in the quarter mile.

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If you prefer a more “stock” drag race Camaro, stock meaning Chevy builds it this way, the COPO Camaro is designed to NHRA racing specifications, including a solid axle and a full chrome-moly roll cage. Inside, most of the standard sound-deadening and power accessories have been deleted in order to optimize weight for NHRA racing. Also included: a pair of racing bucket seats…there’s no rear seat, a safety harness for the driver, a competition floor shifter, and Chevrolet Performance gauges. Engine choices with up to 500HP are offered for competition in different NHRA classes.

Chevrolet is “finding new roads.” We found some new roads in Virginia. All of them lots of fun to drive; all of them driven with fun cars; all of them driven confidently in Chevy performance cars that deliver not just straight line performance but ride, handling and braking to match.

In 1911 there were 207 car brands in the U.S. Now in 2014, Chevrolet is one of three that are still around. Do you know the other two?

© Larry Nutson