How will Ford respond to the 2017 Camaro ZL1?

With the 7:29.6 lap time achieved by the new 650 HP 2017 Camaro ZL1 at the Nurburgring (not yet into Nissan GT-R territory, but also bettering several hypercars), GM has demonstrated that the new ZL1 is 11 seconds faster than the previous general ZL1. Phenomenal! But now the question in the minds of driving enthusiasts everywhere is “how will Ford respond”?

As a side note, it is interesting to see that Chevrolet released this footage for the Camaro ZL1, but hasn’t released anything for the Corvette Z06. That’s because the Z06 has experienced devastating over-heating issues on far smaller tracks – so bad that in hotter states and harder tracks the Z06 has only lasted a few laps before shutting down in “limp home mode”. That’s just unacceptable. A fix is promised for the 2017 models, but that still leaves owners of previous cars in limbo. Clearly from this video the Camaro ZL1 does not have a over-heating issue.

Potential Ford Response

Any potential Ford response has only a few possible directions. Ford took on the last generation 580 HP ZL1 with the 650 HP 2013 GT500 – showing that sheer horsepower could make up for the shortcomings of its otherwise dated platform and crude solid-axle rear suspension. There is the option of reviving the GT500 “Trinity” engine, which contrary to “old-wives tales” does indeed fit in the “new” chassis. Why? Because it’s not an entirely new chassis – it’s simply an update to the old chassis and the engine compartment is exactly the same length and width with only slight packaging changes (one being the swept back headlamps taking space away from the front corners compared with the last car). And like the last chassis, identically, the hood would need to be raised to fit. “Trinity” is a proven (and paid for) solution, although a bit dated.

The other option would be to use the much more modern “Coyote” architecture as a start, perhaps in the slightly larger displacement provided by the GT350 variant. Ford has here an inherently better-breathing engine than GM thanks to its modern DOHC architecture and independently variable (separate intake and exhaust) cam timing. It’s a natural for a turbocharging, especially with the addition of direct injection (or better yet, Ford’s new port- and direct injection combination as proven on the 2nd gen 3.5l EcoBoost). Although fitting a set of turbotchargers in the engine compartment would a major packaging issue, if it’s possible at all. Certainly the packaging for a supercharger would be much easier than two turbochargers, although turbochargers have much less of an issue with heat soak. So the question remains, if Ford decides to compete with the ZL1, will Ford use turbochargers or a supercharger?

A Smarter Ford Response

Ford co-developed a new 10-speed automatic transmission with GM (as the project and design lead), and certainly that transmission would be an option for Ford just as it is for the ZL1 (and the upcoming new Raptor). It will, after all, shift faster than any human can shift a manual transmission. But why stop here? There are two things that would positively separate the Ford from the Chevrolet: a dual-clutch transmission, and a torque-vectoring rear differential. Both are available off-the-shelf from OEM manufacturers (example: the Tremec TR-9007). These, especially when coordinated together, would be an important area of differentiation: faster shifting, always providing the optimum gear, and the ultimate dynamic control (even allowing for a Drift Mode). The objective here is to be able to put down the most effective amount of power at the right time. Anything less is just a pointless waste of power.

This system would also be a way to win the competitive “war” without having to resort to a purely “big HP numbers battle”. Which, while making for excellent publicity, will also attract the unwanted attentions of the insurance companies and the do-gooders in Washington. And with a decidedly liberal Federal leadership about to be elected, horsepower battles might just attract enough attention to cause them to act against we enthusiasts.

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