Think the horsepower wars are over? Think again. In the latest round of muscle-car wars, Chevrolet launched the first volley with its 580-hp Camaro ZL1, and Ford retaliated with its 650-hp Mustang Shelby GT500. Now Chevrolet is taking another swing by unveiling the convertible version of the new ZL1 at the Los Angeles auto show. "You are looking at the most powerful convertible Chevrolet has ever built," said Chevrolet marketing vice president Chris Perry. "We're continuing our tradition of offering world-class cars that outperform the competition at an incredible value." Like the hardtop version, the Camaro ZL1 convertible employs a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that produces 580 hp and 556 lb-ft of torque. It can be hooked to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Performance figures for the convertible aren’t yet available, but we know the coupe will be incredibly quick. Equipped with an automatic, the ZL1 hardtop hits the 60-mph benchmark in a claimed 3.9 seconds, completes the quarter-mile drag in 12.0 seconds at 119 mph, and tops out at 184 mph. Don’t think the ZL1 is a one-trick pony car: in addition to dispatching drag-strip competitors, the car should be able to pull 1.0 g of cornering grip. Magnetic Ride dampers, a unique power-steering setup, Brembo brakes, and tweaked suspension geometry are all supposed to help the Camaro tackle corners adeptly. In fact, the car lapped Germany’s Nürburgring in 7:41 -- a time that Chevrolet says is on par with a Porsche 911 Turbo S and a Lamborghini Murciélago. John Fitzpatrick, Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro marketing manager, says he expects that about 85 percent of ZL1 sales will be coupes. (About 70-75 percent of regular Camaro V-6 and SS sales are coupe models.) Fitzpatrick says that buyers who want the performance of the Camaro ZL1 will pick the coupe so that they can drive it on a track. Acknowledging that the ZL1 is a serious performance machine, Fitzpatrick says Chevrolet is currently considering launching a driver-training program for ZL1 buyers. Like the similar program for buyers of the Corvette ZR1, the program would help ZL1 owners learn how to safely exploit their car's performance. The Camaro ZL1 coupe goes on sale in spring 2012 as a 2012 model, with prices starting at $54,995 (including a $900 destination charge). The ZL1 convertible will arrive in summer 2012 as a 2013 model. It will likely be a few thousand dollars more expensive than the coupe -- probably costing about $60K. For more on the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible, check out our First Look here. For more on the 2011 Los Angeles Show, including videos, the latest photos, and more information, click here to visit our L.A. Show homepage.
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