In the transition to becoming a track-ready car, automakers will strip weight, stiffen up the chassis, slap-on a new set of brakes and tires and then bump up the engine performance. Chevy’s new Camaro SS 1LE follows the formula pretty closely, but is that all it takes to make it a better track-focused coupe than Ford’s Mustang GT Boss 302?
|1. Powered by the same 6.2L V8 engine as the Camaro SS, the 1LE makes 426-hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
2. Performance upgrades on the 1LE package include a thicker sway bars, upgraded half-shafts, new wheel bearings, toe links, a strut tower brace and monotube dampers borrowed from the ZL1, as well as a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission, 285/35/20 tires, a tranny cooler and a high-flow fuel pump.
3. The 1LE package stands out from normal SS with flat-black hood, front splitter and rear spoiler not to mention 20-inch black wheels.
4. Adding roughly $3,000 to the price of a Camaro SS, the 1LE costs $37,035.
The Camaro SS is already a high-powered sports car, but in order to make the jump to becoming a track star it had to look to the 580-hp, fire-breathing Camaro ZL1 for a few parts.
UPDATES FOR 2013
For 2013 the Camaro line gets a few upgrades all around, including the new SS with the 1LE package. Immediately noticeable in the car is the new color-touch radio with Chevy’s MyLink system, which is now standard on all models. Chevrolet says that a navigation option will be available later this year.
All stick-shift models get a hill-assist feature and a new shift-knob lifted right from the ZL1. That includes the 1LE, which is only available as a manual transmission.
Under the hood, the 1LE package doesn’t add any performance-enhancing upgrades, which might come as a strange omission considering the track-ready intent of this car. However, using the same 426-hp V8 engine used in the regular Camaro SS, more isn’t really necessary here.
GETS SOME HELP FROM A 580-HP FRIEND
In simple terms, the Camaro SS with the 1LE package is about half-way to becoming a Camaro ZL1. It uses plenty of the same parts, including the same wheel-bearings, a more powerful fuel-pump, and a transmission cooler from the bigger more powerful Camaro. All these elements are designed to allow the 1LE to withstand a hearty thrashing, repeatedly.
The 1LE also borrows the same black-finished 10-spoke wheels the ZL1 – a clue to its performance capabilities. It doesn’t get any special badging, but instead relies on a few other visual cues make it stand out, like the flat black hood, a black front splitter, black fin-like antenna and black decklid spoiler.
Chevrolet let us loose on Gingerman Raceway in Michigan to test out the 1LE’s performance credentials, analyzing it on a few slippery curves and one superb straight.
It took a few laps to really understand what Chevrolet did to the SS in making the 1LE. As expected, when it comes to normal driving or straight-line acceleration, it’s hard to tell the difference. The car is fairly comfy, and engine performance is smooth and predictable. Of note, new gearing for the six-speed transmission is included and designed better for road racing.
At its limits, the 1LE shows composure and is easy to manage. The SS’s normal four-piston Brembo calipers do a superb job of slowing the big beast down before entering a corner, however, after a few laps brake fade is evident. Those who do want to track their 1LE should make the small investment in some upgraded pads.
Some of the reason for the squishy middle pedal is the fact that the car really is quite heavy. At around 3,800 lbs, the Camaro is still 200 lbs heavier than its closest competitor, the Mustang GT Boss 302.
Even with all that weight, the Camaro feels quite sharp. 1LE models get an exclusive set of rear dampers – though not the ZL1’s magnetic ride control shocks. Perhaps most noticeable of the suspension changes are the larger front and rear stabilizer bars that help to cut down on body roll considerably.
With the added cornering potential the 1LE could do with some more supportive seats. There’s simply not enough bolstering for a car that intends to spend time at the track. Even the lowly V6 Mustangs are available with sporty and supportive Recaro seats.
Traction is also surprisingly abundant thanks to the standard tires that come with the 1LE package. The Goodyear Eagle Supercar G:2 tires are incredibly grippy and measure 285/35/20 at all four corners. That’s one step wider in the rear compared to the standard SS, helping put down the power better out of the corners. Front end grip is also up substantially compared to the relatively puny 245 wide units used on the SS.
ROAD-FOCUSED TECH AND PRICE
In addition to the MyLink touchscreen, the Camaro also features a Heads-Up Display (HUD) that projects the car’s speedometer and tachometer on the windshield. Both the HUD and MyLink Touchscreen are great additions to the Camaro, that make it feel less like it’s retro nameplate suggests. MyLink is slightly more responsive than what you’d find with a MyFord touch system, and also features analog controls, if you don’t want to poke at a touchscreen. However, there isn’t much here to compete with Ford’s extensive Track Apps feature that is standard in the Mustang GT Boss 302.
Still there are some other luxury amenities that make the Camaro 1LE a liveable vehicle. A rear-view camera and backup sensors are all available, and Chevy’s OnStar system gets a nice new look thanks to a fancy frame-less rear-view mirror.
Where the Camaro 1LE really steps up its game is in regards to pricing. This track-ready Camaro starts at $37,035, meaning all those enhancements cost just around $3,500 over a Camaro SS. In comparison to its closest competitor, the Mustang GT Boss 302, that’s a difference of around $6,000 in favor of the Camaro. Of course, the Mustang GT Boss has a few advantages over the Camaro 1LE, particularly in terms of weight, seats and power.
Chevrolet strays from the traditional formula of making a track-ready car. The 1LE package doesn’t add power or reduce weight, but there are quite a few advancements here for those looking to take the Camaro to the track. The tires and suspension really help tighten up the feel of the normal Camaro and improve its capability, while styling updates help make the 1LE look impressive; though perhaps its most attractive feature is it’s pricing.