Camaro 1LE Laps VIR in 2:58

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Chevrolet's bargain msucle car keeps the pace with signficantly more expensive performance machines at Virginia International Raceway.

0-60 times, quarter-mile traps and top speeds are all well and fine, but they're isolated indicators of a vehicle's performance. What you really need to compare a car's capabilities is a benchmark lap time. That's why European automakers put so much emphasis on the Nurburgring, and why American automakers spend so much time at Laguna Seca. But those aren't the only the only race tracks in the world, or even America. When it comes to muscle cars, the showdown takes place at Virginia International Raceway.

Chevrolet

At the top of the VIR leader board sits the Corvette ZR1 with a 2:45 lap time, the Viper ACR just a few ticks behind it 2:48. Now Chevrolet is touting its Camaro 1LE, which recorded a lap at 2:58. Wait a second, that's thirteen seconds off the lap record. What's remarkable about that? Well, we'll tell you.

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The 1LE costs just $37k - markedly less than the $100k ZR1 and ACR. Its time places it on par with the Shelby GT500 and the base Corvette (which cost a good thirteen grand more), and more to the point, over 4 seconds faster than the five-grand-dearer Mustang Boss 302. Based on the Camaro SS (with its 6.2L 426hp V8), the 1LE upgrades with enlarged stabilizers, strut tower brace, 20" wheels and more. Of course lap times aren't infallible, with factors like climact and driver skill altering the outcome significantly. Still, the fact that an "affordable" Camaro can dice it with the elite is impressive all on its own.

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