By on November 20, 2016

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE pulled over by police

It’s fall in the Mojave Desert. Morning greets us with a cool and blinding brightness at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada. Several of us mill about like the speed freaks we are, anxiously awaiting our next fix, sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes, pacing in anticipation.

And then it happens: someone hits the little rectangular start button on the SS 1LE to my left. Synapses fire up in unison with the 6.2-liter LT1 V8, brain buzzing to the rhythmic burble pouring from the quad tips of the Camaro’s Active Exhaust, one swift kick of the right foot away from liberating bliss.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE track shot

On the surface, Chevy’s formula is absurdly simple: take the superlative sixth-gen Camaro, strip it of superfluous weight, dial in the suspension, amp up the brakes, and throw on the stickiest rubber you can get.

But, the Camaro 1LE is much, much more.

Humbled by History

The fuel-sipping ’70s had long faded into a bad dream; in its place came cheap gasoline and a new lust for sporty cars. By the late ’80s, many domestic and foreign manufacturers had obliged, which in turn made the SCCA’s newly minted Showroom Stock class one of the most competitive road racing series in America, unless you drove a Camaro.

Since no one goes racing to lose, and losing is bad for sales, Team Camaro threw a kaleidoscope of track-focused upgrades at the third-gen F-body. New gearing, brakes, fuel system and suspension made the car competitive, but Chevy also had to sell those parts to people as part of the rules — giving birth to RPO code 1LE.

From 1989, through to the Camaro’s demise in 2002, the 1LE was discreetly available to SS shoppers — provided you ticked the right combination of order boxes.

A Modern Mistake

Let’s face it: the fifth-generation Camaro was conceived in a time of chaos, and doomed by a mandate from management to not compromise the 2006 concept car’s styling. The Camaro would be born with too much form and not enough function, manifesting as terminal understeer when driven hard.

Serendipitously, a solution showed up during ZL1 development courtesy of a chassis mule. It started with an extension of the rear stabilizer bar, along with new rear drop links and new lower control arms. All of a sudden, the car was starting to rotate.

Eventually, the car would also get upgraded toe links, rear shock mounts, front stabilizer bar, and a new strut tower brace — everything the ZL1 had, minus MagneRide. That’s when someone asked, “Why don’t we sell this?”

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE

Trickle Down Economics

Re-engineering the fifth-gen was an expensive lesson that would permeate the entire sixth-generation program. If Team Camaro wanted to reach new found levels of performance, high-end capability needed to be baked in from day one, which would allow the engineering team to easily port over go-fast parts from the top down.

This time the $6,500 1LE package includes the magical FE4 Magnetic Ride Control suspension system pilfered from the ZL1. Along with adaptive magnetorheological damping, FE4 also adds stiffer springs and bigger stab bars front and back.

At the corners sit a set of 20-inch, bite-your-lip beautiful, forged-aluminum wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar rubbers, measuring a grin-inducing 285 in the front and 305 in the rear. Keeping things compliant are a racy red set of six-piston Brembos, chomping down on two-piece, 14.6-inch rotors in the front. Four-piston calipers keep the car’s rear settled.

Coupled with the SS’ standard LT1 is the 1LE’s unsung hero is a 3.73:1 ratio electronic limited-slip differential. The eLSD cranks up cornering performance and offers sociopathic levels of control over the 455 horsepower and 455 lb.-ft. of torque at your toe-tips because the car can now optimize when the diff engages. All cars belt out through a standard Performance Active Exhaust, while five external coolers will help you run longer sessions.

Inside, you drop into a familiar cockpit, now stripped of extras and swathed in suede. The Recaro buckets, flat-bottom wheel, and 5.1:1 short throw shifter impart a feeling of practical precision.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE track shot

Dual Threat

Chevy also inaugurated the first-ever V6 1LE — available on LGX-equipped 1LS and 2LT Camaros. The $4,500 V6 1LE package trickles down the SS’ standard FE3 suspension, including rear cradle mounts, dampers, toe links and stabilizer bars. The 3.6-liter V6 still offers 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque.

V6 cars get new four-piston Brembo front calipers along with larger 12.6-inch front rotors, staggered 20-inch alloy wheels (8.5-inches thick in the front, 9.5 rears) wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric run-flat tires.

The new parts don’t stop there. The V6 also gets a new fueling system to cope with higher cornering loads, a new mechanical 3.27 limited-slip differential, and a new 5.4:1 short-throw shifter. Like the SS, it gets a standard dual mode exhaust and five external coolers.

Aesthetically, it shares a vinyl-wrapped matte black hood, front splitter, and three-piece deck spoiler with the SS 1LE.

Recaro front buckets are optional on the V6 1LE and will set you back $1,195; both the SS and V6 offer an optional $1,300 Performance Data Recorder, which allows you to record and analyze your lapping sessions.

Adding a V6 to the 1LE recipe gives Chevy access to two distinct demographics. The SS 1LE caters to a more experienced and hardcore track aficionado, which has every right to steal sales from BMW and Porsche. The V6 serves as a balanced and affordable option for the aspiring autocrosser, and Chevy thinks it could even take a few sales from the normal Camaro SS.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE burnout

Hot Shoes, Cold Feet

Thanks to new gearing, both the V6 and SS 1LE shave time off the sprint to 60. The V6 will get there in 5.2 seconds compared to 5.4 standard; the SS will do it in 4.2 seconds, a tenth quicker than normal.

In terms of lateral grip, both cars obliterate the fifth-gen 1LE’s 0.91g on the skidpad. Aided by absurdly sticky rubber, the SS 1LE will lay down 1.02g of lateral grip — nearly Corvette levels — while the V6 1LE equals the standard SS’ 0.97g on the skidpad, more if you give it better rubber.

Because it lacks two cylinders and MRC, the 3,490-pound V6 1LE is 257 pounds lighter than the SS 1LE, making it more nimble and compliant. Because it lacks the LT1’s monster torque numbers, you’re able to more comfortably use its capability, both on the street and the circuit.

The SS 1LE, on the other hand, is simply a full-blown addiction. We’re talking exhilarating feelings of excessive confidence, hyper alertness, rambling speech and dilated pupils.

Together, we shattered the California border at speeds typically reserved for the terminally insane as I babbled to myself about stability and fuel cut-off, terrified at how much further the car was willing to go.

Reaching transcendence in the middle of the Mojave, I back off slightly, giving me time to check the map for our turn back to Nevada. Just as I drop the TREMEC six-speed back into fifth for another run to the stratosphere, the bottom of my stomach falls out. The blue and red cherries of a California Highway Patrol cruiser light me up from out of the desert haze.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE pulled over by police

He approaches the Arctic White SS 1LE, rests his hand on the roof and dips down to look at me through the gun slit windows.

“Son, do you know how fast you were going?”

“Ummm …”

“This is a 65, and you were well north of that.”

“Sorry officer, I uh, didn’t know I couldn’t do that. I haven’t seen anything posted for about 50 miles.”

Luckily, he was a fellow speed freak and worked with me on the number. He knew all about the 1LE, we jabbered for a bit about cars and I answered a few of his questions about the Camaro — when two more from our convoy flew by in quick succession.

Turning serious again, he handed over the citation and said sternly, “Tell your buddies they better take it easy.”

Heading back to Pahrump within tolerance of the law exposes the 1LE’s one weakness: road noise. The Goodyears are overwhelmingly loud with the engine turning over at a relatively silent 2,000 rpm at highway speeds. The only solution is to get the LT1 singing above 3,000 rpm, replacing road noise with an atavistic howl.

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE on track

Track Rats

In order to avoid incarceration, we hit the East course at Spring Mountain.

Active Rev Match comes standard on the SS 1LE along with GM’s trick No-Lift Shift — turning upshifting and downshifting into a video game. This frees up cognitive power to focus on what really matters: eating apexes.

All the goodness gained from the SS 1LE’s magnetorheological damping comes with one caveat; the suspension isn’t the best communicator. Because body motion is so well controlled, the car simply doesn’t have much to say, so go ahead and grab as much curb as you want. FE4 is straight wizardry on track, giving mortals the ability to do magnificent things. First it ensnares, and then it scares you with its sheer capability.

The V6 1LE is the more talkative of the two. Its conventional FE3 suspension providing excellent commentary about what’s happening beneath you, asking you to feel, and requiring you to participate on a different level. Despite being slower on paper, the V6 allows you to use more of its potential, offering a more attainable sensation of speed.

What More is There to Say?

Aside from the V6 1LE lacking Active Rev Match (please do it Al Oppenheiser and co.) what more is there to want for $32,895? Better yet, tell me where the $44,400 SS 1LE lacks? You could easily daily drive a V6 1LE; the car is supple enough to not torture you on the road, and sharp enough to handle weekend warrior life. Double so for the SS 1LE, although the SS will go through brakes and tires at a quicker clip.

The Camaro has always been a perfect antagonist to the happy-go-lucky Mustang; although my time in the desert enlightened me to something Ford doesn’t seem to know — the Camaro has moved on, operating on a level of fidelity to the church of speed far above any old 5.0-liter Mustang. Al and his team are now offering levels of performance that used to be exclusively exotic, and for a mere 25 cents on the dollar.

As the mantra goes back at Milford, it’s Camaro vs. Everybody, and this Storm Trooper white SS 1LE is the perfect embodiment of an empire striking back.

This article first appeared on GMInsideNews.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

50 Comments on “2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE First Drive Review – 1LEHEHEHEEE...”

  • avatar

    Looks nice. Is it comfortable? Hows the interior? Can you see out of it? You know like, actually reviewing the car would be nice.

    • 0 avatar

      1LE is basically a track package, so that really isn’t the point.

      Can you see out of it is a rhetorical question. As a daily drive it is an abysmal cave, on the track it is perfectly fine.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m sure it’s fast enough on the street that you’ll only need to look straight ahead — unless you get pulled over, which Michael illustrated above is not a visibility issue. You’ll see the cop after he tags you.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s unfortunate that the styling turned out the way it did. Looks just like the old model and has even worse visibility and practicality, which is saying something.

        I believe they stripped out a lot of the noise insulation for this so it should really be considered a track car, unless you are used to driving a Mazda 3 or a ’60s Bronco every day.

        • 0 avatar

          IMO the 6th gen looks far better than the 5th. It appears more compact in both photos and in the steel; it’s a more refined design than the more study hall sketch looks of the 5th; it’s as if the 5th had gone on a diet and started working out.

          Call it a 5-and-a-half if you must, but I didn’t have any particular problem with the 5’s basic design language, and the 6 did nothing but improve upon it.

          The Mustang, on the other hand, still looks too huge and too much like everything else Ford makes (at least at the front end). The tumblehome rear end is particularly flabby-looking.

          This could be because I’m a child of the 80s, but my favorite Mustang gen remains the Fox, for the same reasons I like the 6th gen Camaro: it looks taut, fit, fun, athletic; like a pony car should.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a track toy, as such it was reviewed as a superfluous piece of metal built for speed and speed alone…

      • 0 avatar

        Buying a new $45K 3700lb car as a track toy makes no sense, this car needs to work on the road, too.

        You want a track car, buy something like this:

        • 0 avatar

          And it does.

          MagRide makes DD a non event, just get over tire noise at cruising speeds.

          “Heading back to Pahrump within tolerance of the law exposes the 1LE’s one weakness: road noise. The Goodyears are overwhelmingly loud with the engine turning over at a relatively silent 2,000 rpm”

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    NOT A MOPAR!!!

  • avatar

    Why does a GM PR flack have a TTAC byline?

    • 0 avatar

      He’s not. GMInsideNews is a VerticalScope forum property.

      • 0 avatar

        Cross-referencing the different properties owned by VS and leveraging the content among multiple platforms may be a smart move from a corporate perspective, but this “review” does come off as more than a bit PR-ish and frankly, helps GMinsideNews a lot more than it helps TTAC.

        This is still “the TRUTH about cars” and if labeled as a review I would expect more from it than just a list of what supposedly makes it great. I didn’t learn anything I wouldn’t expect to see in a brochure or on GM’s own website. If anything, the author seems more pro-GM than Bark seems pro-Ford.

        No, he doesn’t need to rip on the car but there is not a car out there that does not have some negatives or things that a potential buyer may weigh as a liability even when very narrowly compared to just its direct competition as opposed to the market at large.

        I’d be very interested in reading a “counterpoint” from any author on staff that is not as directly invested in GM. I imagine it would be hard to be at all critical of the product when one’s website is so narrowly focused and dependent on inside access (GMIN, not TTAC). Spending less than five minutes on GMIN makes it abundantly clear that it is very much a GM “ra-ra” site and does not appear at all objective. Maybe if I spent more time there a different reality would emerge but that’s the theme that’s on the surface.

        Look, I understand about budget limitations, I also just read the new “What is TTAC trying to be”, but this kind of “review” isn’t what I think most readers are looking or asking for. I really don’t want to be a d!ck but it does read more as an advertorial.

        • 0 avatar

          As a track day toy it literally leaves you wanting nothing. It’s not a review of the Camaro, but the Camaro’s available track option.

          Most people don’t seem to understand; things like no backseat, a small trunk, and gun slit windows mean absolutely nothing as you dance between 5th and 6th on some canyon road on your way to nowhere.

          No one stumbles into the Camaro as a daily driver, those making that choice are making it with already open eyes.

          If I recited the same old tropes that make up the bulk of Camaro reviews it would have been called derivative, I would have been told to get over it and find something else to talk about.

          Frankly, I don’t find the sight lines or blind spots an issue. Set the mirrors up properly and you forget it’s supposed to be an issue after hour 2 behind the seat.

          I fell in love with the car because it allowed me to do things I’m not capable of on my own, it’s effortless to drive fast.

          When something drives like [i]that[/i] and gives you a giddy feeling of irresponsibility in your gut, how it looks starts to fall in significance rather fast.

          I compare the car to a drug addiction because that’s what it feels like to me. It gives me the same feeling as my dad used to when he would take me out in his Foxbody Mustang on quiet summer nights growing up.

          Everytime I got behind the wheel of the 1LE I felt like I was chasing that feeling.

          The car tapped into the root of my obsession with cars on a visceral level, I’m sorry you felt it read as advertorial…

          • 0 avatar

            Fair enough, somehow I did not interpret or understand it to be intended as a review of the track option by itself to the exclusion of the other salient Camaro points, both positive and negative as they may or may not be.

            I have not driven any Camaro of the 5h or 6th generation, thus have no pre-conceived notions of any of its points. It’s fairly rare on TTAC to see a review of a particular option package as the main point of a review, and the tests that are meant to be reviews of how a car performs on track are very clearly described as such. I suppose the lead image of the car getting pulled over the the CHP gave me the impression that this was just another Camaro review in one of its many variations, to the casual reader (or even general enthusiast), the trim levels and options are not distinctly and immediately obvious as being “track” vs “street”. That image immediately sets the expectation that it is another go-fast-on-the-street-package with some track capability which, let’s be honest, is what the Camaro as well as any sports car or sports coupe in any iteration is trying to sell.

            How track-focused is it, is the back seat removed completely (a la Porsche GT3)? and are other comfort and convenience options either absent or factory deletable? (Edit: How much weight has been removed from the standard equivalent car as alluded to in the text?)

            My other point was looking at the background of you as a writer, while obviously you liked the car, when put in context with your other writings as well as your own website, well, it does tend to make one be a little more hesitant to take everything at face value – in the same way as when Bark is writing about a Ford, most of the time it is gushing with praise and the Ford Taurus review is his “wobble”. Perhaps a comparison of how the track package compares with the competition’s offerings would be useful.

            Actually, what would be VERY useful and I think welcomed is if you reviewed a few Fords and Bark reviewed a few more Chevys! :-) Much in the same vein that instead of a company’s execs being given a constant rotation free cars of their own manufacture, they should be given (or forced) equal time in products of the competition. Otherwise there is no comparative basis.

            Edit 2: Note that I very much appreciate you defending and engaging your work above. It gives more context/explanation and in the long run eliminates BS as well as snarky hit and run commentary that serves no one and is a detriment to the site.

          • 0 avatar

            Somewhat ironically, I also take care of AllFordMustangs in Vscopelandia.

            My father is a Master Ford tech, I grew up working in a Ford dealership, and we drove Fords as a family.

            But in the garage lived an’86 5.0 Mustang and a ’69 Camaro Pace Car. I learned to drive stick on the Mustang and learned to wrench on the Camaro…

          • 0 avatar

            Well, in that case, touche. :-) But I believe it just reinforces my belief that the article would have been better served by comparing it to or at least mentioning what makes it better than the equivalent (or most equivalent) Mustang, especially since you do apparently have the access or basis for comparison. Without that context, it does read advertorial-ish.

          • 0 avatar

            is it really better than any McLaren, Lotus, Ariel or other “track day toy”? it’s a great piece where you wrote it, not so much here. You can’t change audience without changing the piece and expect it to work the same. Someone somewhere once told me that identifying the audience came before choosing a topic.

          • 0 avatar

            Well, 1st off, I can afford a Camaro- the McLaren really isn’t in the same league. The Ariel is a whole bundle of different- the SS maybe a track doy toy, but you can still drive it around reasonably. The Lotus- used but not used up- that may be a real proposition, but they don’t sell them in America anymore so /shrug. Bottom line I think, for new cars under $50k this would be a very hard car to beat.

    • 0 avatar

      Ok, read the bottom of the oage at GMinside news. Can answer my own question now.

    • 0 avatar

      “Why does a GM PR flack have a TTAC byline?”

      If Ford does, why can’t GM?

  • avatar

    While you were in the Kingdom of Nye, did you happen to spot Art Bell?

  • avatar

    I see the long knives are out over a story that reflects the strengths of the 1LE package without complaining about rear seat room, cave like interior and cheap plastic.

    That isn’t what the 1LE option package is about – and some of the same people gritching are the same folks that declared the FR-S with cheap plastic, cramped rear seat, and abysmal engine performance as the second coming itself. But, but, but, but, that isn’t what the FR-S is about.

    No kidding – same for a 1LE Camaro.

  • avatar

    There is no vehicles that I simultaneously love and hate more that the 6th gen Camaro.

    A 1LE-type package might be cool for the ATS (ATS V-Sport?).

  • avatar

    I’ve never driven a car on a track – it’s simply not something I care to do.

    But I would imagine that track driving involves seeing the cars that are around you. You can’t do that in a Camaro.

  • avatar

    And this is where people who have no experience in these matters shouldnt comment.

    The vast majority of track days worldwide is basically ‘happy laps’ around a track where you categorically ARE NOT racing other cars. That is frowned upon.

    Firstly, you’re in a helmet that limits visibility anyway. If you’re in a fast car, you are overtaking slower traffic anyway. Once the other slow cars are past your door panels, you dont care where they are.

    If the track has any sense of decorum, you dont overtake people on corners and you stick to the slow part of the track on the straights so faster traffic can overtake.

    So as far as track days go, rear visibility is 110% not important.

    As someone who has logged hundreds of hours on the track and has kind of gotten over it, I can safely say the amount of time I’ve seen looking over my shoulder or out of the back window of a my ‘track’ car amounts to pretty much nothing.

    The author is correct. A stripped out Camaro with scaffolding i the back is the perfect track car. LS3, 6 spd manual, rear drive, 6 piston brakes what else is there?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m just here to post the same thing basically.

      If your mirrors and seating position are set up correctly its not an issue. In traffic and in parking lots my Z has below average visibility but on the track its never a problem. You are either passing someone or they are passing you. Its not 4 lanes of people on cell phones dodging construction cones. There is one line around the track, the passing car goes off line to make the pass. I find track driving easier then DD because all the vehicles are doing the same thing. On my daily commute about 90% of the other “drivers” aren’t.

      Wished this review mentioned the traction control. My Z has on/off which isn’t really user friendly. I imagine that like the ‘Vette this 1LE has various “levels” to allows for a smoother learning curve?

    • 0 avatar

      Guys. Don’t brings facts and reason into this GM/Camaro hating fest. Remember every mention of the Camaro has to include the fake visibility issue the Ford cheerleaders have been whining about for years….all while the Mustang is no better.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve yet to ride in the new Camaro but I have been in the Mustang… and the view out the front isn’t that great either. The cowl / hood has these two creases, one of which aligned perfectly when I was in the passenger seat. Maybe its fine once the driver’s seat is adjusted but I notice it immediately and was bothered by it. The hood is long (typical of front engine / rear drive cars) plus its very flat and square. Thus I felt like I was riding at the end of a diving board.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Help me out with all the RPO codes – I don’t speak GM.

    SS is the N/A V8 engine.
    ZL1 is the supercharged V8 and is the fastest Camaro.
    1LE is the stripped-out track car with suspension upgrades.

    Is that right?

    What happened to the Z28?

    • 0 avatar

      SS = N/A V8
      1LE = SS + “Track” suspension upgrades. It’s not really stripped out that much.
      ZL1 = Supercharged

      The previous Z/28 was a comprehensive “you don’t really wanna daily this” car. It had a unique (for the Camaro) engine in using the 7.0L V8, putting it in the middle of the ZL-1 and the SS power-wise (426 -> 505 -> 580).

      By comparison the 1LE is more of a trackable road car, where the Z/28 is more of a streetable track car.

    • 0 avatar

      This review contained far too many unexplained acronyms to hold my interest.


      Seriously, you may as well go back to writing in BMW platform codes as well if you’re gonna pull this. I know a couple of these because I’m aware of General Motors terms. But the average person doesn’t.

  • avatar

    I understood the approach and loved it. Thanks! More please.

    Tired of reviews that talk about infotainment systems before powertrains and driving experience.

    I’m one of the probably three guys that would buy a 4-door hatchback V6 1LE in a heartbeat.

  • avatar

    I’m with those who are depressed that there’s no hatchback or 4 door model available. It’s a brilliant car that just doesn’t have enough useful space for daily driving. The Car is depressingly small. The Mustang’s 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space isn’t amazing, but that’s nearly 50% more room than the Camaros 9.1. The Camaro has the same trunk volume as my Fiat Abarth with the seats up with a far smaller opening. I can’t find good rear seat volume numbers but I’m guessing it’s smaller as well.

  • avatar

    Looks like fun, thanks for the review. I would use such a car in such a way so this is relevant to my interests. It’s also interesting that GM, and Ford and Dodge for that matter are putting more of a performance focus on smaller engined models…now that even the base engines are fast. There’s still a certain unwillingness to accept that, but there it is.

  • avatar

    Nice review, thanks.

  • avatar

    But when do we get an IROC?

  • avatar

    Michael Accardi, I sure hope Chevy paid you for this piece!

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • Lou_BC: I’m in a centre of rural conservative North Central BC. The local Ford dealer has zero problem selling...
  • Lou_BC: Gotta hug something when all the trees are gone ;)
  • Lou_BC: I read about a local company starting to install systems that allow trucks to run on a blend of diesel and...
  • Lou_BC: @freedMike – Yeah. Myopic. It’s a global problem. Big oil producers like OPEC’kers and...
  • Lou_BC: @deanst – right now everyone is begging oil producers for more fuel. It isn’t just a USA issue.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber