2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE Review

We hit the track in Chevy's 2013 Camaro SS 1LE.

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August 2, 2012

2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE Review

We expected a better-handling SS, and while we got that, we also got a car that was a baby ZL1.

Introduction
If the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 tickles your fancy but you don't have more than $50K sitting around, you might want to try the company's equivalent of a track-day value meal, the Camaro SS 1LE.

The 1LE package, available only on manual-transmission SS coupes, borrows liberally from the ZL1, giving the car a lot of the ZL1's track-day abilities at a much more reasonable cost ($37,035 including the $900 destination fee); with the aim of giving Ford's Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca a reason to be afraid.

2013 Chevrolet Camaro The Basics All SSs get a couple of trickle-down items from the ZL1-the SS now has standard electric power steering and manual-transmission SSs are available with a dual-mode exhaust, which comes from the ZL1.

The 1LE also brings over the 20-inch front tires from the ZL1, but in this case they're mounted at all four corners, riding on the same blacked-out rims from the ZL1. All 1LEs get a matte black hood, the same shifter from the manual-transmission ZL1 (including the same suede grip and short throws, all manually-shifted SSs get the ZL1's shift knob), and the SS's standard Brembo brakes.

That's not all-other ZL1-inspired goodies include the flat-bottomed steering wheel (with the same suede grip), a higher 3.91 final-drive ratio, close-ratio gearing for the transmission, a standard air-to-liquid cooling system, and larger front and rear solid stabilizer bars (27 millimeters up front and 28 millimeters in back, up from 26 and 27, respectively, on the standard SS). The rear axle half-shafts are beefed up, there's a strut tower brace, and the 1LE gets the ZL1's high-capacity fuel pump and additional fuel pickups. The wheel bearings, toe links, and rear shock mounts also come from the ZL1.

A unique front splitter and rear spoiler help set the 1LE apart from other SSs, and all SSs now get Chevy's MyLink multimedia suite. The 1LE has the same 426 horsepower/420 lb-ft of torque 6.2-liter V-8 as the rest of the SS lineup (SSs with the automatic transmission put out slightly less power, but as noted above, you can't get a 1LE with the automatic).

What the 1LE doesn't have is the ZL1 Performance Traction Management system, which gives drivers several modes of stability/traction control to choose from. Instead, it has the same Competitive Mode as other SS models, which turns traction control almost off.

Orders for the 1LE open in August, with deliveries beginning in late September.
2013 Chevrolet Camaro On The Track Chevy recenlty gave us a few hot laps in the 1LE at southwest Michigan's Gingerman Raceway. We were limited to the track-no public road driving-which is fine with us, since the SS 1LE is meant to be taken to the track-the kind with corners.

It's been a while since we've piloted a regular SS coupe, but if our memory is accurate (and given our weekend habits, that's dubious), we'd say the 1LE is a much different animal. We expected a better-handling SS, and while we got that, we also got a car that was a baby ZL1. Like the ZL1, it's smooth around the track, and not nearly as intimidating as a powerful rear-drive sports car should be. We had a lot of trust in the SS's standard Brembos (we were dropping from 104 mph to 35 or so at the pit entrance, with only a small amount of space in which to do so), and also like the ZL1, we found the steering accurate and smooth. We'd like a little more feedback from the system and a little more heft, but it's better than what we've experienced in the Boss.

The ZL1's shifter adds a dimension of fun to the 1LE. Gingerman is a third-gear course in this car-we didn't need to shift on the track-but just trundling around the pits, we liked the shifter better than the one in the standard SS.

It's hard to tell if acceleration has greatly changed without a non-1LE SS on hand for comparison sake, but 420 lb-ft of torque is nothing to sneeze at. And the 1LE sounds great, even if it doesn't reach the same sonorous heights as the ZL1.
2013 Chevrolet Camaro Interior The interior doesn't change much, save for the new MyLink system, the flat-bottomed steering wheel, and the ZL1-style shifter. While the changes may be subtle, they do improve the cabin.
2013 Chevrolet Camaro Exterior The matte-black hood and ZL1 wheels give the SS 1LE a more sinister appearance, and serious gearheads will know that this Camaro is committed to on-track excellence.
2013 Chevrolet Camaro Fuel Economy and Safety The SS 1LE shares its safety systems with the regular SS, and the same goes for fuel economy, which is rated at 16 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. Like the non-1LE car, the 1LE has traction control, stability control, and the standard complement of airbags.
2013 Chevrolet Camaro Final Thoughts Chevy folks insist that they aren't worried about cannibalizing ZL1 sales with the less-expensive SS 1LE-Chevy reps say the 1LE is meant to appeal to SS owners who want to track their car and prospective ZL1 buyers who just can't afford the top-dog Camaro and don't need the extra 154 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque. Camaro engineers also admit that the standard SS understeers at the limit and the 1LE is meant to address that.

We didn't find the limit (our hosts at Chevy were no doubt thankful for that) but we did find a car that does a very good job of wearing a ZL1 costume despite its SS badging. It's a hoot on the track, with a smoothness that belies its muscle car roots. And it's relatively affordable.

The ZL1 remains the best of the Camaro crop, but the SS 1LE gives buyers a lot of the ZL1 experience for a lot less dough. That's a win in our book.

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