This last week I had the pleasure of participating in the 2012 Rocky Mountain Driving Experience, which kicked off in Denver, near DIA. It was the third annual edition of the affair, but my first. About three dozen journalists from four states attended, and 32 cars and SUV’s were on hand to test.
Bud Wells, the dean of Colorado auto critics, and myself carpooled down to the Holiday Inn on Wednesday, the 13th, for breakfast and auto selection in the parking lot. A drive to Estes Park ensued, with a slip seat (trucker term) driver arrangement as the norm. On the way I drove a VW Tiguan and a KIA Optima hybrid. After a delicious lunch and Dodge presentation, I returned, sharing driving duties behind the wheel of a Dodge Dart R/T, Buick Regal GS, and an Acura RDX.
Thursday morning the activities continued with a caravan to Deer Trail, Colorado, to the Colorado Off Road Extreme Park to kick up some dust. We did some four wheeling as well as some dirt track racing. In the dirt I was able to ram around in a Jeep Rubicon and a Range Rover Sport. After lunch the participants moved on to High Plains Raceway in Byers for some high speed motoring. I drove about ten cars out on the track, and was able to reach 115 mph (I think) on the little 2,000’ straightaway.
One of the cars that commanded my attention at the track was the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with a supercharged/intercooled 6.2-liter LSA V-8 putting out an SAE-certified 580 horsepower. Chevy introduced the hot rod Camaro at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show and started producing the car early this year as a 2012 model, which is what I drove last week. Sixty-nine ZL1 Camaros were produced in 1969 with all-aluminum 427 c.i.d. V-8s designed for drag-racing, and at that time they were the most powerful Camaros ever built. Now the 2012 ZL1’s are the most powerful Camaros EVER BUILT.
The ZL1 at High Plains Raceway was fitted with the Tremac T6060 six-speed manual transmission, plus the newest Magnetic Ride Control system, like a Corvette. That last item is probably the car’s most significant technological feature, and can adjust the ride on the car 1,000 times per second. That means that at 60 mph, the Camaro is “analyzing” every inch of pavement. It weighs over 4,100 lbs., but got around HPR plenty fast for me.
Other, faster cars were on hand as well – two Audi R-8’s and a Mercedes Benz C63 AMG, plus one that was perhaps equal to the Camaro, the Nissan 370Z. So by the time I drove a good number of these beautiful cars, I was grinning ear to ear.