From £33,9408
Fast, loud and brash, the race-inspired 1LE option package transforms the standard Chevrolet Camaro into a track-ready pony car

Our Verdict

Chevrolet Camaro muscle car

It’s now on sale officially in the UK, so would you want to buy one?

27 August 2014

What is it?

The Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE is big, brash, bold and, finished in our test car's premium bright yellow paint, can probably be seen from space.

Chevrolet's supercharged ZL1 and 7.0-litre Z/28 performance models are legendary, but as General Motors’ fifth-generation pony car nears the end of its production run, the manufacturer’s engineers have delivered what is perhaps the coolest and most desirable Camaro yet.

The 1LE production code originated in the 1980s as a secret, in-the-know option box for racers to check and, while today’s 1LE isn’t intended for the racer-only set, it includes much of the same clever engineering that makes it not only noticeably quicker than the SS but also thoroughly more enjoyable to drive.

By all rights, the fundamental changes made to the Camaro by the addition of the 1LE option package should demand a separate Camaro model, but in keeping with tradition and avoiding confusion in the marketplace, the 1LE is available exclusively on the Camaro SS with a manual transmission. The lack of 1LE badging adds a massive cool factor.

Under the bonnet is an unchanged 6.2-litre LS3 V8, producing a thundering 426bhp and 420lb ft of torque, but the exclusive Tremec TR6060 close-ratio six-speed gearbox awakens that lumbering engine.

What's it like?

While sub-5.0sec 0-62mph times are available at the driver’s whim, the 1LE is at its best while carving corners, either on the open road or race circuit.

The six-speed transmission is topped with the short-throw gearstick from the ZL1. The gates are well defined – misshifts are close to impossible – and the Alcantara-covered shift knob feels perfect in your hand.

The shorter gears and the feeling that the small-block comes alive after 3500rpm makes you want to carry revs all the way to the 6600rpm redline.

Refreshingly, the cockpit is very effective and the Camaro’s seating position is near ideal. The Alcantara steering wheel is a welcome upgrade and pedals are placed for easy heel-and-toe footwork.

A common theme here is the use of ZL1-derived components, which help keep the cost of the 1LE package at a very reasonable $3500 (around £2100).

Among them, the 1LE takes the ZL1’s variable-ratio, variable-assist electric power steering, which gives remarkable precision and feel for an electric system.

Turn-in response is as immediate as anything this side of a Porsche Cayman, belying the Camaro’s 1769kg kerb weight, though you do feel the mass in transitions.

The heart of the 1LE’s upgrades, however, is entirely within its chassis tuning. Only spring rates remain the same as the SS, but that’s where the similarities end. Retuned monotube dampers, larger-diameter anti-roll bars and ZL1-spec wheel bearings add a level of control that’s nearly as good as that of the Z/28.

Brembo calipers do the stopping and brake feel is superb, but track day drivers might want to upgrade pads at minimum.

As pleasing as the 1LE is on smooth surfaces, it still possesses those American dimensions that make negotiating narrow roads a real challenge.

As well, all of that mass causes it to move around on rough roads, enough that steering is occasionally a firm, two-handed affair.

Those familiar with the Camaro can identify a 1LE by its unique front splitter and rear spoiler and matt black bonnet, as well as the ZL1’s 20in, 10-spoke black wheels. They are wrapped in 285/35 ZR20 Goodyear Eagle Supercar G:2 tyres on all four corners, even though the 11-inch rear rims are an inch wider than the fronts.

Grip levels are high and you’ll have to be exceptionally aggressive to break traction. No surprise, then, that the 1LE can hit 62mph from rest in around 4.5sec.

Should I buy one?

It’s easy to call this Chevrolet Camaro a Z/28-lite, but by delivering seven-eighths of the Z/28’s enjoyment at half the price, the 1LE is impressive value and an engaging, American-style performance experience.

Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE


Price $38,000 (est. £34k imported); 0-62mph 4.5sec (est); Top speed 155mph; Economy 21.4mpg (UK, est); CO2 329g/km; Kerb weight 1769kg; Engine V8, 6162cc, petrol; Power 426bhp at 5900rpm; Torque 420lb ft at 4600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
7

27 August 2014
I really do like the sound of this. GM could do worse than offer the next Camaro with the wheel on the correct side to compete with the Mustang

27 August 2014
Contrary to conventional wisdom, when the Americans put their minds to it, they can come up with some cracking drivers' cars. The Ford GT, Chevy Corvette, the Mustang, Cadillac CTS-V and now this. Really like the look of this, but I'm not sure if looks its best in yellow.

27 August 2014
Anyone daft enough to import one of these is going to have steer clear of multi-storey car-parks, or risk getting wedged-in firmly.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

27 August 2014
Frightmare Bob wrote:

Anyone daft enough to import one of these is going to have steer clear of multi-storey car-parks, or risk getting wedged-in firmly.

I can't imagine many folk buying one of these and leaving it in a multi storey car park anyway. Would you leave an expensive car in one? In any event, it's not got a much bigger foot print than a host of hideous SUV's that folk buy over here. Since when has such a purchase made any sense full stop? It's heart rather than head led.

Having said all that, it would be well worth entering a multi storey to just drive it up to the top and back down again with the windows open... ;-))

27 August 2014
Straff wrote:
Frightmare Bob wrote:

Anyone daft enough to import one of these is going to have steer clear of multi-storey car-parks, or risk getting wedged-in firmly.

I can't imagine many folk buying one of these and leaving it in a multi storey car park anyway. Would you leave an expensive car in one? In any event, it's not got a much bigger foot print than a host of hideous SUV's that folk buy over here. Since when has such a purchase made any sense full stop? It's heart rather than head led.

Having said all that, it would be well worth entering a multi storey to just drive it up to the top and back down again with the windows open... ;-))

So, on the one hand SUV's (you know, with their ability to carry families, dogs, luggage and have four wheel drive) are 'hideous' whereas a purchase of a two door, two seater, gas guzzling car doesn't have to 'make sense'? Full of double standards there.


29 August 2014
Frightmare Bob wrote:

Anyone daft enough to import one of these is going to have steer clear of multi-storey car-parks, or risk getting wedged-in firmly.

Go check the dimensions for the Camaro, you may be surprised.

The Camaro is only 1" wider and 0.3" shorter than a Ford Mondeo. Car park spaces pose no threat to its usability.

27 August 2014
The more I see their rivals, the more I like the American muscle cars butch looks.

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