Damn! I’m a Camaro guy! At least, that’s how I felt when I had the 2015 Chevy Camaro SS 1LE in my driveway for a week. That may change in the coming weeks as I’m booked in a 2015 Ford Mustang GT. I love my job, and I love this business I’m in.
And this business keeps getting crazier and better. The more competition there is, the greater the odds that cars like the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger will thrive and continue to thrill. By the time these lines are published, I’ll have torn up my neighbourhood streets in the ‘Stang, and will probably like it very much. My current limited experience tells me that I wouldn’t pick it over the Camaro or the Challenger.
A debate raged on when I participated in a comparison test that involved the three ponies. It seemed that there was a clear division between the three testers and the cars. Although I loved the sound and presence of the Scat Pack Challenger, the Camaro’s “go eff yourself” stare and stance swooned me, among many other things.
Chevy’s Camaro is an honest car. By this I mean that GM’s not trying to distract drivers and/or buyers with fancy technology or overbearing safety crap. No, the Camaro is a straight driving tool. On one hand though, Chevy’s MyLink works really well, but I left the radio off (and my phone on silent) every time I was behind the wheel.
Stupid steering wheel
I do have a beef with this car: I can’t stand the stupid steering wheel and its oversized idiotic horizontal spokes! I’ve been complaining about this for a few years now and I still don’t understand why GM doesn’t prioritize proper grip over redundant audio buttons and cruise control. What gives? This is a sports car with emphasis on SPORT but no, sorry. The Z/28 featured the same fail when I drove it last year… Baffled, I am.
This is where my gripes with this phenomenal car end. I love the amazing optional Recaro seats ($2,095), and generally speaking, the archaic and simple dash layout. The driving position is good, if not slightly compromised because of limited outward visibility and to that of the gauges.
What makes the 1LE?
The 1LE is one of the best-known secrets in the sports car world. It is a real performance package that does not include stickers, thankfully. It does throw is a specific manual transmission, 3.91 rear axle ratio, fat 20" black forged aluminum wheels, equally fat P285/35ZR20 tires, performance suspension with a front strut tower brace, and larger stabilizer bars. The remainders are aesthetics and include a matte black hood, front splitter and rear spoiler to go along with a suede flat-bottom steering wheel and shifter.
For $3,675, a more comprehensive package one cannot find. It can be added onto a base SS 1SS, which retails for $39,390. And so, for about $43k, you’re sitting on a serious machine.
The Super Sport Camaro involves a 6.2L LS3 V8 that punches out 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, when mated to the 6-speed manual transmission. The engine is plenty vocal on its own, but another option to seriously consider on this car in the dual-mode exhaust system. For $940, you get an exhaust note that perfectly matches the car’s exterior character.
The grin (many of these this summer it would seem) aside, every time I walked up to the Chevy Camaro my mind was filled with background music to the tune of Metallica’s Creeping Death. With a determined movement, I’d reach down for the door handle, jump in, the music would stop, the engine would storm to life, and I’d blast off.
The shifter and clutch are not your user-friendly Japanese type. The left pedal is heavy and the lever requires a firm hand and push or pull to move around. Care is also a necessity as driveline backlash is omni-present if the synchronicity isn’t perfectly executed when driving. But when it’s mastered, the pleasure is all yours.
Revving the V8 is a pure delight. Although eager to climb, it does not scream to its redline like a German V8 does. Nevertheless, the instant throttle response (because GM can) and growing swell of push rises along with engine speed, and the more you prod the more you get poked. It’s a lovely exchange between motor and driver.
On and off the track
The SS will reach 100 km/h in about 5 seconds and will do it effortlessly all day long. The 1LE, however, was conceived to go around corners far more than it was for straight-line acceleration. The suspension is taut but forgiving enough for regular roads. Body roll is limited, similar to that of the Boss 302 I drove a few years back, a far more focused car than the ‘Maro. A basic SS is not especially soft but by comparison, the 1LE remains far flatter around a track.
One of my favourite aspects of the Camaro is its turn-in. It is crisp and nearly instantaneous. With the larger tires and revised suspension, the result is sharper steering still. Oversteer is easy to induce; however, on the track the Chevy Camaro is more predictable than a Mustang; the latter requires more corrections to keep on the racing line, while the Chevy is better planted, and more confidence inspiring.
My decent track experience with the Camaro 1LE demonstrated only one shortcoming, mechanically: the brakes. For street use, the Brembos are fantastic. The 4-piston front and rear calipers crunch down and never falter. After a few laps at Monticello Motor Club in NY, the pedal got soft more quickly than I anticipated. The SS 1LE can carry far more speed throughout a lap, and that fact seems to be the Brembos’ undoing. Perhaps a ZL1 optional brake upgrade would be a good idea.
The Camaro lives on?
Bottom line: I love the current Chevy Camaro. And the fact that a new one is here scares me a bit. I’ve not yet driven one but I hope that GM hasn’t polished it up too much, like Ford did to the Mustang. The Camaro’s raw nature is one of its most attractive features, in my opinion.