The Camaro is a big car. With a large-displacement V8 up front, it tips the scales at almost two tons. The wide track, long doors, and low roofline make it difficult to get in or out in a tight parking spot. Sharp, straight edges and flat panels add visual heft. Inside, the narrow windows and small mirrors amplify the perception. But for all its burliness, we found it to be a slightly civilized take on the traditional muscle car. Enter the 1LE Performance Package. Akin to sending a linebacker to ballet camp, the Camaro 1LE is far more sure-footed and agile. Toss aside those preconceived muscle car notions. This Chevy can drive.
Just as Chevrolet announced a Final Edition of this 5th generation of Camaro, we had our time in the 2015 SS 1LE. This isn’t our first experience with the bowtie-adorned pony. We previously spent a week with the 2013 SS Hot Wheels Edition. That glitzed-up big-boy-toy Camaro was, disappointingly, an L99-powered automatic. However, the unique visuals paired with a popular nameplate drew an astounding amount of attention. Even after another two years of production, the Camaro is still just as popular. Gas stations and parking lots drew fan of all ages. But this car, for us, was focused on much more than turning heads.
Checking the 1LE Performance Package option on a 1SS or 2SS Camaro will set you back $3,500. For that chunk of change, Chevrolet bolts on a number of ZL1-based components for added performance. Buyers, and the industry, should take note of its added value. Starting with aesthetics, the 1LE adds a unique matte black hood, front splitter and matte spoiler. Not only do you get visual changes to the car, but there are a host of performance upgrades as well. The 1LE features a unique Tremec transmission with closer ratios and a higher final-drive ratio than the standard SS. That transmission gets its own radiator to withstand repeated track abuse. Revised rear dampers and larger front and rear stabilizer bars help decrease body roll. Stronger rear axle half-shafts, wheel bearings, toe links, and rear shock mounts are fitted to withstand the added traction from the 2nd generation Goodyear Eagle Supercar tires wrapped around the black, 20” ZL1 wheels. A strut tower brace stiffens the front end for better steering response. The transformation is readily apparent.
Before we lavish praise on the Camaro, we must note some of its pitfalls. Unfortunately, some of our week was spent in traffic and we can confirm that the 1LE and its 6-speed manual transmission are rough around town. The clutch is heavy, far more so than the Corvette’s excellent 7-speed manual that we tested earlier this year. The throttle and brake pedal are still curiously close to each other, as well. Inside, the supposedly revised interior is rather low-rent. The cloth trim looks more like carpet than anything else, and the miles of plastic are hollow and dated. On the plus side, the 1LE adds alcantara trim to the flat-bottomed wheel and shift knob, making the touch points far more pleasing.
Our tester featured the optional, and pricey, Recaro performance seats. Trimmed in leather and alcantara, they fit in both form and function. With masses of side and thigh bolstering, they encourage the type of driving style that we have we, and this Camaro, try to promote. The affordable navigation and rear vision packages add some real-world comforts to keep this model from being overly track-focused. This Camaro is at home as a track car or touring car. The revised front end boasts a more sinister apperance, set off by the large cooling vent in the hood.
The difference between this 1LE and the Hot Wheels Special Edition are immense. This Camaro packs the full 6.2L LS3 V8, good for 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft torque. Once you get heat in the tires, you realize that this Camaro isn’t meant for the drag strip. Sure, it’s definitely fast in a straight line, but this isn’t a one-trick pony. Taking the Camaro through the back roads of New York and Western Massachusetts proved enlightening and incredibly rewarding. The 1LE turns in with immediacy that rivals Porsche, and the traction out of the corner via the 11″ wide rear tires is immense. The entire process is far more composed and controllable than we could initially believe. Tipping deeper into the throttle triggers the optional dual-mode performance exhaust to shift from a rumble to a throaty bellow. We couldn’t live without it. Approaching the next corner with too much pace is not an issue either. The Camaro’s standard Brembo brakes slow you down with force.
Getting comfortable with the car takes some time. The grabby clutch and limited visibility limit early confidence. But the mechanical improvements quickly replace trepidation with trust. Pressing the traction control button enables Competition Mode. This relaxes the traction control’s interference while keeping stability control alert. For all the grip built into the rear of the 1LE, the LS3 can wrench the rear tires loose with ease. As it does, a bit of well-weighted steering input and balanced throttle application keep the car within its limits. You can learn this car’s limits and keep yourself within them, never needing the saving grace of stability control. After a few hours of hard driving and a noticeable drop in fuel level, the car remains unfazed. The 1LE conveys one sentiment; it is a track weapon at an affordable price.
As we found in the past, the Camaro is an icon. Multiple configurations and options allow anyone to build their ideal Camaro. From the regular LS all the way to the mighty Z28 and everywhere in between, the Camaro has a little something for everyone. As one young enthusiast confirmed, our “white Bumble Bee” is still recognizable the world over. Admittedly, the Chevrolet Camaro is far from a perfect car. But this SS 1LE mixes all the right ingredients from across the range into one, perfect, Camaro combination. Engineering and development has honed this pony into a thoroughbred. If you’re looking for a muscle car that can do everything a sports car can, and even do it better, look no further than the SS 1LE.
|2015 Camaro 1SS Coupe||$33,355|
|SS 1LE Performance Package||$3,500|
|Recaro Performance Seats||$1,995|
|Dual Mode Performance Exhaust||$895|
|Rear Vision Package||$495|
|As Tested MSRP||$41,730|