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Cooley's Logbook: 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1

The ZL1 is a beast, with a more raw edge than the Shelby GT500. Cooley takes it on the road and on the track to find out if a low tech hot road still has a place in this world - and, really, to savor that exhaust note!

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I came away from the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with the impression of slightly unrefined brawn. Unlike the Mustang Shelby GT500, which is almost delicate in its handling, the Camaro is sort of a raw thing. It shudders and bangs when you start it, doesn't finesse the road surface -- and ride quality suffers a bit with that -- and has no fussy LCD-based cabin tech. It really feels close to a track car that was smoothed over enough for road use, just what Chevy had in mind.

It has one of the great angry faces among all cars today, but its overall posture is part of why it's such a claustrophobic experience to drive. I could never own this car, I enjoy the scenery of interesting roads too much.

This is also one of those rare cars that really must be ordered with the manual transmission. The 6-A is beefy, but has no finesse. It doesn't shift down in hard-braked corners, change gears very crisply, or otherwise feel like it belongs in a 2012 model that costs over $50 grand.

Check out the seats on a lengthy test drive before you buy one of these. I found them oddly lumpy and narrow. Maybe I just needed more than a couple days with the car to get used to them, but that entire concept is a red flag in my book.