There was always a little bit of a gap between the impressive Camaro ZL1, one of the most powerful vehicles in the nameplate’s history, and the Camaro SS, the smaller, less-expensive of Chevy’s iconic luxury line. In an attempt to juggle the power of the ZL1 with the reasonable price tag of the SS (in addition to wanting to compete with rivals such as the Ford Mustang Boss 302), GM decided to combine their two Camaro’s, producing the 1LE performance package.
“The Camaro 1LE combines the best elements of the SS and ZL1 to take road-racing performance to a whole new level,” said Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser (via CarScoops.com). “That the 1LE breaks the three-minute lap at VIR puts it in the upper echelon of performance cars. That it starts under $40,000 makes the Camaro 1LE one of the most affordable, most capable track-day cars offered by any manufacturer.”
The package is included only on the SS-1 and SS-2 coupes, presenting an interesting question: should you opt for the already-impressive ZL1 or the fast-approaching SS? Luckily, we’ve figured out the differences between two cars, allowing you to determine which one is best for you. Before you go looking for a Chevrolet in Albany, New York, check out why the ZL1 or SS (with the 1LE) is the right purchase for you…
Based on pure brute strength, there really isn’t a more powerful Camaro than the ZL1. The 6.2-liter V8 engine is capable of producing 580 horsepower and 556 ft-lbs of torque, while reaching a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds. Coming with rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission, the ZL1 delivers a 14 city mile per gallon/19 highway mile per gallon fuel efficiency.
Meanwhile, the standard SS’s engine looks relatively similar to that of it’s bigger brother, including the 6.2-liter V8 engine. It can pump out 426 horsepower and 420 ft-lbs of torque, all while delivering a fuel economy of 16/24 city/highway mpg. Accelerating from 0 to 60 takes around 4.5 seconds (an impressive number), and noise from the two-mode exhaust system will make you think you’re driving a car with a considerably larger engine.
If you add on the 1LE package, the 1SS gets even more impressive. Your coupe would come with the exclusive Tremec TR6060-MM6 six-speed manual transmission, which is tuned for “road-racing performance” due to the tuning of the close-ratio gearing (which is paired with a higher 3.91 final-drive ratio). Similar to the ZL1, the transmission will feature a “standard air-to-liquid cooling system” for track use.
Engineers also wanted to focus on optimal body-motion control without compromising ride quality and wheel-motion. The 1LE includes “exclusive, monotube rear dampers” as opposed to the typical twin-tube dampers, allowing the designers to tune the vehicles suspension to get that desired body-motion control.
While the 1LE could never come close to producing the type of power that the ZL1 is capable of producing, it certainly rivals the coupe in performance. The ZL1 has generally been known for being a track-focused car, confirmed by the vehicle’s 7:41.27 lap at the world-famous Nurburgring. The track-tuned suspension and powerful engine makes for a super-fast, super-enjoyable ride.
Chevrolet also wanted to assure that their new performance package would receive high grades on the track, and the company confirmed their effort by adding a bunch of track-related features. It starts with a huge 27-mm solid front stabilizer bar and 28-mm solid rear stabilizer bar, which are both responsible for that previously-mentioned improved body control.
There’s a strut tower brace (intended to improve the feel and response of your steering wheel), 20 x 10-inch front and 20 x 11-inch rear aluminum wheels (similar to those on the ZL1), 285/35ZR20 Goodyear Eagle Supercar G:2 front and rear tires (as seen on the front of ZL1’s), wheel bearings, toe links and rear shocks (improving on-track performance), and high-capacity fuel pump/additional fuel pickups (which improves fuel delivery during “high-load cornering”).
The Camaro is one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road, and that familiar body can still be identified when the top is lowered. Even when the top comes (in an impressive 20 seconds), there is still no confusing the ZL1 with any other Chevrolet vehicle.
Of course, the unique design certainly contributes to it’s popularity. The tires are seemingly pressed against the pavement, an intentional design by Chevrolet to enhance grip and control while also maximizing down-force. Plenty of other stylish parts of the exterior do more than just look cool. The ‘hood air extractor’ helps cool some “critical components while [also] reducing aerodynamic lift.” The “sculpted decklid, horizontal wrap-around taillamps and a rear diffuser” makes the car stand out while also improving “aerodynamic efficiency.”
The air extractor is included to “achieve the highest stiffness and strength possible” while also producing a very low mass, and the lower splitter reduces front lift. To the casual driver, these just seem like interesting designs that were included for aesthetic purposes. Leave it to Chevy and the Camaro to produce parts that not only look great but also improve the vehicle’s performance.
The ZL1 features a number of technologically-advanced features that truly enhance the driving experience. It starts with the color Heads-Up Display on your dashboard, which displays the speed, RPM, lateral g-data while cornering, and even your radio stations. This allows you to utilize helpful information while never taking your eyes off the road. Chevy has also included the popular Rear Vision Camera, with the seven-inch color screen assisting the driver while parking or backing up. Finally, there’s the Boston Acoustics nine-speaker sound system, assuring that you’ll also be driving a bumping, loud ride.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to identify the 1LE package, as well. The “matte black hood, front splitter and rear spoiler” makes it easy to recognize, and the black 10-spoke wheels gives the car a bit of an intimidating feeling. The splitter and spoiler weren’t just included because they look cool (which they certainly do), as the two pieces improve the car’s on-track performance by reducing the aerodynamic lift when the car reaches high speeds.
When you get to the interior, there’s plenty of ZL1-inspired features. There’s the recognizable flat-bottom steering wheel, which is trimmed in sueded-microfiber and designed for an easier heel-and-toe driving experience while on the track. Also coming with the ZL1 is the “quick-acting, short-throw shifter,” which is also trimmed in sueded-microfiber. The general consensus has been that Chevrolet rushed through the interior design of the 1LE, resulting in a “cheap” feeling that is not consistent with the rest of the car. However, considering the number of amenities, the 1LE’s cabin is still more luxurious than most on the road.
Despite all the exclusive features on the 1LE, it comes in at a considerably lower cost. A 2015 ZL1 has an MSRP around $55,505, while the SS with the 1LE performance package should set you back around $40,000.
If you’re looking for power and luxury, the ZL1 seems to be the right choice. If you’re seeking a lower-priced, equally-impressive vehicle, opt for the 1LE package. Regardless, you won’t be making a bad choice, and we’re confident that you’ll be happy with either of the highly-regarded vehicles.