Forget the Mustang GT350R, this Camaro is hungry for Porsches, McLarens, and the Mercedes-AMG GT R.
You can almost hear the Ford engineers going through the ritual of gnashing their teeth and stamping their feet, the same one they always partake in when Chevrolet unveils another ground-breaking Camaro. To be fair, Chevy’s team does the same thing with every new hot Mustang that comes out, but in this ongoing war between the two muscle car powerhouses, no one side is ever the victor for long. Thanks to the ZL1 equipped with the 1LE package that Chevy just dropped, the crown has just gone back to the Camaro’s corner.
Just days after a ZL1 proved that it could get close enough to the 200 mph barrier to reach out and touch it, Chevrolet has gone ahead and debuted a track-tuned version of the 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque ZL1. The 1LE package, previously available only on the LT and SS Camaro trims, adds aerodynamic aids, a limited-slip differential, cooling hardware, upgraded brakes a revised suspension, and other track-tuned goodies to help the Camaro become a true race car. The results were stunning, with the V6 Camaro equipped with the 1LE package beating out cars like the Dodge Charger Hellcat around Virginia International Raceway and clearing certain sections of track faster than a Jaguar F-Type SVR and an Audi R8 V10.
And then there’s the stock Camaro ZL1, which destroyed the Nurburgring, lapping the famous track faster than the Mustang GT350R, McLaren 650S Spyder, Koenigsegg CCX, and the Mercedes-AMG GT S. Mashing two good things together doesn’t always work out, think Doritos Locos tacos for example. But in this case, it’s beautiful. White and a contrasting shade of black spill the ZL1 1LE’s sex appeal all over the floor, but even with a slippery track, there’s a carbon fiber rear wing, air deflectors, and dive planes on the front facia, guiding the wind to push the Camaro onto the track. Even with that help, Chevy decided to upgrade the four contact patches with a set of Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R tires.
Despite losing an inch in diameter and adding one to its overall width, these Goodyears help the ZL1 1LE pull off an outrageous 1.10 G skidpad figure. The tires are developed exclusively for this super Camaro and are designed to warm up faster, helping squeeze the most out of what is sure to be a short lifespan for each set. Even with a 10% increase in footprint, the wheel and tire combination weighs 1.5 pounds less per corner. These combine with lighter dampers, rear glass that’s been reduced in thickness, and a fixed-back rear seat to shave 60 pounds off the 1LE over the standard ZL1 coupe. None of these changes would amount to a complete track car without a revised suspension, so Chevrolet went ahead and ticked off that box.
As a result, the ZL1 1LE gets race-derived Multimatic DSSV (Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve) dampers all around. These are used in conjunction with adjustable camber plates. Pit lane adjustments are made easy with front dampers that feature adjustable ride height and a three-way adjustable rear stabilizer bar. Even Chevrolet's own engineers are brimming with excitement. “The track-focused 1LE package offers progressive levels of performance across the Camaro lineup, from the V6 1LE to the SS 1LE,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “But with the new ZL1 1LE, the progression takes a quantum leap — this is the ultimate track-day Camaro.”
This is all good and well, but what we really want to hear is how much faster this ZL1 is over many of today’s hottest supercars since, given the ZL1’s performance, it will likely shame cars worth twice as much. The only hint we get is word that the ZL1 1LE made a 3 second improvement in lap time over the standard ZL1 coupe around GM’s 2.9-mile Milford Road test track. Consider us impressed. While Chevy is waiting to announce price closer to the Camaro’s late 2017 sale date, we at least know the features list will include a six-speed manual with Active Rev Match, Brembo brakes with red calipers topped by a 1LE logo, a dual-zone climate system, Bose audio, heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.
All our wishes seem to have been met except one: our desire for Chevy to send the ZL1 1LE to Europe, if anything to prove that muscle cars have matured quite a bit since the other side of the Atlantic last checked in. Be sure to check out the teaser video for a taste of the action.