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911 GT2 RS vs Camaro ZL1 1LE - Sweating the Details

Blasphemy!! Before you get your pitchforks, let's get two things straight first of all. Number 1, those two cars are not actually going to be cross shopped. I get that and don't mean to suggest that they would be. In fact, even for those people who can afford to buy several of either of those cars and would not turn their nose up a Chevy Camaro (they do exist), if any were to consider both those cars, they would not be looked at as alternatives, just two separate interesting cars. Number 2, stock vs stock, on the same day, same track, same (experienced) driver, the Camaro does not stand chance. Don't get me wrong, the Camaro ZL1 1LE is very impressive and supremely capable. More so when you consider the price. Even more so when you consider that this isn't like the last Z/28 or GT350R.

As much as all the aero bits would have you believe, one of the ZL1 1LE's goals was to retain full functionality. As a result, it doesn't lose any sound deadening. You get to keep your A/C, all the speakers, heated and cooled seats, the lot. You even still have rear seats! (Which are only useful for arguing with your better half that you got a family car.. ) And by now, you've probably also heard about its blistering Nurburgring lap time of 7:16.04. Which nicely takes us back to why it doesn't stand a chance against the GT2 RS. That astonishing lap time, which is so good it doesn't even require a "for a Camaro" qualifier, happens to be "only" two seconds quicker than a 997 (2010) 911 GT2 RS.. the last generation GT2 RS, and it's just over three seconds behind the 991.2 GT3. Forget the Camaro, if Porsche wanted its new 991 GT2 RS to beat the old one by only two seconds - or lose to the GT3 - on the 'Ring, it probably wouldn't have bothered building it.

So the intention of comparing them isn't to suggest they would go toe-to-toe - be it in the market or on track. Rather, it's to revel at how similar these two cars truly are in essence and how holistic the upgrades are to both, despite the vast obvious differences such as the image/prestige or design and, of course, engine location. For instance, both cars use forced induction. Both cars make big power. Both cars are based on much humble versions of themselves. Both cars use very big, very fat, barely street-legal R-comp tires. Both cars rely on big wings (spoilers) and plenty of modifications to put airflow to work. It gets more interesting when you take a look beneath the obvious similarities.


I'll start with the GT2 RS. The engine is based on the 3.8 litre, twin turbo, flat six from the Turbo S. Larger turbos and a new cooling system to reduce intake air temps result in 700 hp, a whopping 120 hp increase compared to the Turbo S and 80 more than the last GT2 RS, the 997. The cooling system sprays water on the intercoolers once intake air temps reach a certain setpoint, resulting in reduced temps under max boost. And a specifically developed titanium exhaust saves approximately 15 lb compared to that used on the 911 Turbo. Unlike the Turbo, though, the GT2 RS is RWD. And distributing that power is an excellent, electronically controlled, limited slip diff.

The Camaro follows the exact same engine sourcing strategy. It goes to the most powerful variant among its sisters - the ZL1 - and cribs its 6.2 litre, supercharged V8. Only here, the 1LE makes do with "only" 650 hp, the same amount of power lesser ZL1's make do with, but that's still 145 hp more than the last Z/28. Although the Z/28 and 1LE aren't directly comparable nameplates, Chevrolet touts this as the most extreme track-focused Camaro to date, and that was true for the last Z/28, so without a Z/28 currently in production, the last one is the closest comparison. Chevy doesn't mention additional engine cooling but the base ZL1 went for no-cost-spared approach to cooling, likely to future-proof powertrain for the 1LE and spread costs. The ZL1, as a result, comes with 11 heat exchangers, which - for those keeping track - is 1 more than legendary Bugatti Veyron when it debuted with 10. When Motor Trend tested the standard ZL1, they purposely looked for overheating issues after running into them with the Z06 with the same powertrain. After going through SIX sets of tires in just four days of testing, it never "so much as simmered." Once again like the GT2 RS, the ZL1 1LE is RWD and also uses an electronically controlled limited slip diff to distribute power between the rear wheels (if you want to learn a little about different kinds of differentials, you can read my post Limited Slip Differentials - The Basics).

Chassis & Suspension

Porsche says the new GT2 RS has exceptional cornering and dry grip, and I fully expect it to fulfill that promise. It uses the same tires as the GT3 RS and in the same tire and wheel sizes, which means steamroller rear 325/30/21 rear tires and 265/35/20 fronts. As you may have expected, every other aspect is addressed, including weight saving, aerodynamics, suspension, and brakes. There's plenty of carbon fibre components, prime of which are front trunk cover, rear engine cover, fenders, and rear air intakes, and an optional Weissach package uses more of it by replacing anti-roll bars and end links with replacements made of the stuff. The standard GT2 RS uses a magnesium roof but that optional package switches it to carbon fibre as well. The Weissach package also ditches the standard wheels for magnesium versions that are said to be 25 lb lighter, which help the package trim a total of almost 40 lb all together.

Outside, there are large front wheel well vents to reduce pressure buildup and lift. And Porsche seems to be quite proud of all the aerodynamic improvemtns, saying that large air intakes and outlets combined with the "striking rear wing underscore the emphasis on aerodynamics and down-force". And underscore the emphasis, they do! Brakes are, of course, Porsche's ceramic composite brakes and rear wheel steering carries over from the GT3 RS. And here's where it gets really interesting: Porsche makes no mention of PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) system. It's possible it was left out, but that would be very unGerman. Why would it be interesting if it's not used? Because if it's not available, it would be another striking similarity to the Camaro in that regard.

The Camaro ditches the trademark adaptable magnetic shocks and uses instead Multimatic's Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve dampers (DSSV or spool valves for short). The same type of dampers used on the last (5th gen) Z/28, which is also used on F1 cars, Mercedes-AMG Project One and the Ford GT. Those used here are an evolution of the ones used on the Z/28 and they're aluminum bodied to save weight. One very neat feature that Chevy built into it was using strut mounts that allow quick, on-the-fly camber adjustments by just jacking the front end, loosening a few bolts, and you have a range of up to -3.7 degrees camber. This is the kind of stuff aftermarket camber plates are for! Now, it's factory.

The Camaro also addresses the same (all) areas like the 911. Tires are just as wide in the back as the GT2 RS, measuring 325/30/19, but the fronts are much wider at 305/30/19 a pop, which makes perfect sense considering the Camaro's relatively huge front mass that has to be dealt with. Unlike the GT2 RS, which uses same tire size as the lesser GT3 RS, the ZL1 has the biggest meats of them all (Camaros), which is keeping in line with the conclusion of last year's feature that Chevy focuses on grip to make impressive lap times (Chevrolet - How do they do it? Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

Brembo brakes carry over from the ZL1, which still uses huge 15.4" front discs and 14.4" rear discs. Weight savings? Yea, there's some of that too, although nowhere near as aggressive as the 911. Lighter wheels, those aluminum bodied dampers, thinner rear glass, and a fixed back seat add up to approx. 60 lb. It's not much, but considering the standard ZL1 is just above 3,900 lb, this should bring the ZL1 1LE down well into the 3,800 lb range, and that sounds much better than "just under 4,000 lbs" (if still porky). In contrast, the 911 is a whopping 600 lb lighter, weighing in at 3,241 lb according to Porsche (just over 3,200 lb with the Weissach package).

And if the GT2 RS's inlets, outlets, and wing underscore its emphasis on aerodynamics, the Camaro's carbon fibre wing, front splitter, and dive planes shove its emphasis on aerodynamics in your face. There is no subtly to the either car, but there's cohesiveness and flow (or at least familiarity) to the 911's looks, where's the Camaro's front end just looks like a mad track build instead of a factory car. Chevy says they're good for 300 lb. at 150 mph, which should be dwarfed by the GT2 RS. I can't find info on it, but the 991 GT3 RS makes 622 lb at 150 mph. Expect more from the GT2 RS.

The Bottom Line
.. as I mentioned early on, is that the 911 GT2 RS will be far more capable. Aero and power alone should be a dead giveaway, then through in a 600 lb weight penalty for the Camaro and it's done for. But like I said at the beginning, the point isn't to suggest that these two are close. It's to celebrate how far mainstream car makers have come in embracing the track car market. You could buy a $70k Camaro that, when it comes to track prep from the factory, has received the same attention and complete transformation that a $300,000+ 911 did, even if outright performance numbers are lower.

Note: I wrote most of this article before any ZL1 1LE was tested, just never had a chance to finish it, unfortunately, so a couple of updates are in order. The ZL1 1LE was tested at 3,842 lb by Car and Driver, as assumed in the article. As for lap times, there are also unconfirmed reports that the GT2 RS went around the 'Ring in under 7:00, with one rumour of a sub 6:50 time.. so expect the GT2 RS to be at least 20-25 seconds ahead of the Camaro's already very impressive lap time. What a MACHIIIIINE! (in the truest Jeremy Clarkson impression).


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