I'm a green guy. I'll admit it. I like hybrids, EVs, CNGs and everything in between. Fuel economy will greatly impact my next car buying decision and environmental policies will factor into whom I vote for next month.

But I have to admit, I absolutely love muscle cars. I love the roar of the engine, the squeal of the tires, their stance on the road and, of course, getting to use all of that glorious, unabashedly fuel-guzzling power. There's something about mashing on that accelerator that gets the blood going in a way that no EV will ever be able to do, no matter how much torque they employ.

Hence my excitement when I learned I would be spending a week behind the wheel of a Camaro ZL1. Though it goes against several fundamental beliefs, I couldn't wait to drive it.

The 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is the most powerful Camaro that GM has ever made and it comes with a stat sheet that could get even the most ecocentric individual salivating: 580 hp, 556 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 MPH in 3.9 seconds, top speed of 184 MPH. This Camaro was designed to compete with the Ford Shelby GT500, which is generally considered the acme of Motor City Muscle.

Although I knew I was going to filling up the gas tank a lot, I was ready to get on the road to see if this behemoth could really rev my inner motor the way I hoped it could.

So does the driving experience of the Camaro ZL1 live up to the hype? Does it offer up a real challenge to the Ford Shelby GT500? Read on to see what I discovered.

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How Much?

MSRP: $59,545
Invoice: $57,163

As Tested: $62,245

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Key Stats

-6.2L supercharged V8 engine
-580 hp, 556 lb-ft of torque
-Six-speed manual or option six-speed auto transmission
-14 mpg City, 19 mpg Highway
-Seats 4
-10.2 cubic feet max cargo capacity

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What We Like

Michael: This car is powerful. Scary powerful. In fact, I'm not sure I would hand the keys to the ZL1 over to anyone who didn't have at least a little bit of track exposure or, at the very least, familiarity driving cars with 400-500+ horsepower. In spite of a great Performance Traction Management system, it is still incredibly easy to squeal these tires.

I could probably go on for a few hundred more words trying to explain how this engine seems to elicit some kind of incredible primal response within us, but instead you should just know that this beast is an absolute blast to drive.

Beyond the engine, the other aspect of this car I'd like to highlight is the use of magnetorheological dampers, which are special shocks also found on the Cadillac CTS-V, Corvette ZR1 and some Ferraris. One would rightly expect a punishing ride from a car like this, but these shocks actually make for a pretty smooth and comfortable drive. Going over bumps at high speeds isn't nearly as big of a deal as you would think, making the ride on freeways and crumbly back-roads surprisingly pleasant.

Autoblog: To say we were impressed by the overweight Camaro's ability at [the track] would be an understatement. With an official curb weight of 4,120 pounds, this car should be more of a linebacker than a ballerina. And it is. But it's a linebacker wearing a fluffy pink tutu and those crazy lace-up shoes with blunt-tipped toe boxes... and we mean that in the best way possible. After all, the ZL1 rather impressively managed to lap the Nürburgring in seven minutes and 41 seconds. That's almost 40 seconds quicker around the 'Ring than the 2009 Chevrolet Camaro SS.

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What We Don't Like

Michael: The interior of the ZL1 could stand a little TLC. Too many hard plastics, mediocre seats and an infotainment system that is a little short on features makes this car feel cheaper than it actually is. For $60,000, buyers expect a certain level of refinement in the cabin – no matter how incredible the engine and driving dynamics are – and the ZL1 doesn't quite deliver. I love having the HUD (heads up display) and visibility is better than I expected, but interior comfort is not this car's strength. To be honest, I like the Mustang interior better.

Autoblog: As you might expect, fuel economy is bad. Like, really bad. The EPA estimates you'll get 14 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway driving a ZL1, which means it's also subject to the federal government's Gas Guzzler tax. If its similarly tuned corporate cousin, the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, is anything to go by, that should add an extra $1,300 to your tab for a manual-equipped model and $2,600 for an automatic. Ford fans will freak if we don't also mention that the more powerful 2013 GT500 is efficient enough to earn exemption from the GG tax. And naturally, the ZL1 only drinks premium.

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Bottom Line

The Camaro doesn't really have any faults that you wouldn't expect from a muscle car (very little storage, awful fuel economy, minimal passenger room), so I think the only thing this car needs is a revamped interior to add a little bit more comfort.

But all in all, I think Chevrolet has created exactly what it intended: A car that employs fantastic power and driving dynamics and stimulates every sense, making for a thrilling and engaging ride both in a straight line and on curvy tracks. You know a car is a winner when you feel that tingle go up your spine upon turning the key and hearing the engine come to life. That's exactly what the ZL1 does. Every. Single. Time.

While I've since reverted back to my (somewhat) green ways, for one week in the ZL1, none of that -- fuel economy, emissions, basic efficiency -- mattered at all. While behind the wheel, the only things in the world were me, the car and the road ahead. The ZL1 made for a week that I won't soon forget.

AOL Autos Score:

4/5 Stars


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