I’m in the base model, on a pencil-straight desert road, and I already love this car.
Even with the V-6 engine you can get in an Impala, the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE has already wormed its way into my heart. The immediate steering response, the feel of the suede-covered steering wheel, and the short throws of the manual gearshift make it clear that the 1LE has the heart of a world-class sports car.
Best of all, the fun hasn’t even started. Track time is yet to come in both the V-6 and V-8 versions of the 1LE.
A pair of track packages
The 1LE package is essentially a track package, but it’s really much more than that. It’s a complete integration of performance parts into the Camaro. It’s part of a “flow down” approach to performance in the Camaro lineup, with top-end ZL1 parts flowing down to the V-8 1LE and SS parts flowing to the V-6 1LE.
The FE3 suspension package from the SS underpins the V-6 1LE. It consists of stiffer dampers, rear cradle mounts, and ball-jointed rear toe links and stabilizer bars. The V-6 1LE also comes with 12.6-inch front and 12.4-in rear Brembo brakes with 4-piston front calipers, a manual locking rear differential, and a dual-mode exhaust system. A set of 20-in Goodyear Eagle F1 ran-flat tires—245/40 front and 275/35 rear—ride on 8.5- and 9.5-in black forged aluminum wheels.
To handle the heat generated by track driving, Chevrolet equips the car with two external oil coolers, an extra capacity engine oil cooler, a transmission cooler, and a rear differential cooler.
On the outside, the V-6 1LE gets a satin black front splitter and rear blade spoiler, a satin black hood wrap, and HID headlights. Inside, Chevrolet adds a suede-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel, a suede-wrapped shift knob, and a short-throw shifter.
All that comes for a very reasonable price of $4,500 on top of a base 1LS model, bringing the total to $32,895.
The V-8 version builds on that equipment. Most notable is the addition of the FE4 suspension, with stiffer tuning and General Motors Company's [NYSE:GM] Magnetic Ride Control adjustable dampers. The tires are massive 285/30R20 front and 305/30R20 rear Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar summer performance treads on 10- and 11-in satin graphite forged aluminum wheels.
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The Brembo brakes have 14.6-in front two-piece rotors, 13.3-in rear rotors, 6-piston front calipers, and 4-piston rear calipers. The limited-slip differential is controlled electronically.
Interior upgrades consist of Recaro front bucket seats and a head-up display. The Recaros are a $1,195 option in the V-6, and Chevrolet's Performance Data Recorder is a $1,300 option for the SS.
Chevrolet charges an additional $2,000 for the upgrade features, making the V-8 version a $6,500 package. Turn your Camaro SS into a 1LE and your starting price will be $44,400.
The venue for my 1LE drive is the Nevada desert. The street portion of the drive is a two-parter. On day one we start in Las Vegas in an SS model and head to Pahrump, the home of Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch. Day two starts with a V-6 1LE drive, and ends with a few hours of track time in both models.
Both versions of the 1LE get no engine upgrades, and both come only with the 6-speed manual transmission. Still, they are both a bit faster than the standard V-6 and V-8 models they are based on, no doubt because their stickier tires and buttoned down suspensions put the power to the pavement better.