Now that the Camaro is a legitimate world-class sports car, it should come as no surprise that GM wants to make it as quick and capable as possible on a race track. And while there’s no doubt a manual gearbox is the more involving experience for the driver, automatics these days are simply faster, more consistent, and more precise than any human-operated transmission. That’s why the ZL1 1LE, the pinnacle of Camaro performance at the moment, is getting a 10-speed automatic transmission option.
“This transmission is optimized for speed,” Camaro chief engineer Mark Dickens said in a statement. “With unique Track Mode calibrations and 10 gears, you are always in the perfect gear when rolling on or off the throttle. You may not be a professional race car driver, but now you can shift like one.”
GM says the automatic trims a half-second from the ZL1 1LE’s lap time around the 2.9-mile Milford Proving Grounds, and on longer tracks like the Nürburgring Nordschleife it can best the manual by a “several seconds.”
Arriving to showrooms in late February, the automatic-equipped 2019 Camaro ZL1 1LE will come at a $1595 upcharge compared to the six-speed manual, which—don’t worry—isn’t going anywhere.
The only additional hardware the 10-speed version will get is a new transmission oil pan and an additional cooling duct for the steering gear. Otherwise it’s the same supercharged, 6.2-liter, 650-hp track-slayer, albeit with specific tuning for the Multimatic dynamic spool-valve suspension dampers, electronic limited-slip differential, and Performance Traction Management (PTM) system.
It’s not particularly shocking that GM would add an automatic to the ZL1 1LE, even though the car has previously only had a manual gearbox targeted at its enthusiast audience. Once an option on the standard Camaro ZL1, the 10-speed (co-developed with Ford) is widely used in other GM SUVs, as well as in the Ford Mustang, F-150, Ranger, Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, to name a few.
The timing of this new transmission option probably isn’t by accident, either. Or at least, not completely by accident. After all, Ford did just introduce its ultimate Mustang, the 2020 Shelby GT500, exclusively with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The real question we’re wondering, though, is when the inevitable Camaro Z/28 comes, will have an automatic or remain a row-your-own exclusive?