2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE Review
We hit the track in Chevy's 2013 Camaro SS 1LE.No Comments
We expected a better-handling SS, and while we got that, we also got a car that was a baby ZL1.
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.
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.
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.
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.