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, check out why the ZL1 or SS (with the 1LE) is the right purchase for you…
2019 Model Update!:
It’s been almost four years since the sixth generation of the Chevy Camaro was first introduced. The trim levels have remained largely the same, but there have been some new features and options introduced over the years worth taking another look at. In general, the Camaro remains one of the most impressive and powerful sports cars on the road.
The ZL1 continues to stand apart as a high-water mark of performance engineering and design that makes it live up to the promise of American high-speed engineering. While the SS can’t quite reach the same intense levels of speed and overall power, there are still very few sports cars out there that can stand up to what the Camaro SS can do. Two SS trim levels are still available, with some distinctive differences between them, so let’s take a look at what they all have to offer below.
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”).
Let’s start with the SS trim levels and what they have to offer. There are two of them: the 1SS and 2SS and although the differences between them are not as extreme as those that differentiate them and the ZL1, they are still important. Both SS trims comes with a 6.2L V8 engine that provides up to 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque with a standard 6-speed manual transmission. This beast can push the SS models to go from 0 to 60 in just 4.3 seconds—though with the available 10-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission, that goes down to 4.0 seconds.
Both the 1SS and 2SS have Brembo front and rear performance antilock brakes designed to help maintain steering control even on slippery surfaces. In terms of performance, the SS models both handle pretty much the same—the differences come down to the kinds of features packed into their interiors. The available 1LE Track Performance Package includes RECARO performance front bucket seats, magnetic ride control, and dual-mode exhaust.
It’s not just the SS trim levels that were gifted with more powerful engines since the current generation of Camaros were introduce—the ZL1 refused to be left behind. The 2019 Camaro ZL1 comes with a 6.2L Supercharged V8 engine that provides up to 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. Much like the SS trim levels, it comes with a 6-speed manual transmission with an available 10-speed paddle-shift automatic, which lets the ZL1 clock in at 0 to 60 in just 3.5 seconds.
So as the modern SS has come closer to what the ZL1 could do a few years ago, the modern ZL1 has simply thrown down an even greater gauntlet. The moral of the story? The ZL1 remains unmatched by other trim levels as the dominant Camaro on the road.
Even better, the 2019 Camaro ZL1 now also has access to the 1LE package. The 1LE performance package includes 19-inch wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar 3R summer-only tires for optimal performance. This package makes the fastest Camaro on the road even faster, based on testing on General Motors’ Milford Road Course, where it shaved off a few seconds from the best time of the standard ZL1.
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.
How do the 2019 Camaro models look inside and out? Absolutely stunning – and the SS trim levels have seen numerous improvements over the years. The ZL1, as you would expect, places an emphasis on performance, but refuses to sacrifice style and still makes an immediate and unforgettable impression. The interior luxury options on the 2SS are particularly impressive, bringing it close to what the ZL1 has to offer.
The 1SS might give you the same level of performance as the 2SS, but it falls short in a few specific ways. For example, the 1SS has an 8-inch Infotainment display with Bluetooth functionality, a 6-speaker sound system, and an 8-inch driver information center. The 1SS has single-zone climate control and pretty standard seats.
By comparison, the 2SS features a similar 8-inch Infotainment display but includes a 9-speaker Bose premium sound system, heated and ventilated driver and front-passenger seats, and dual-zone climate control. It also has an 8-inch driver information center but includes a head-up display that projects information, such as vehicle speed, selected gear, and phone information onto the windshield. This head-up display is available with the 1SS, however, if you choose the 1LE performance package.
The inside of the 2019 Camaro ZL1 is as impressive as you would hope, with some of the best features you can find on the road. It includes the same 8-inch touchscreen Infotainment display and the 9-speaker Bose premium audio system found in the 2SS. The ZL1 comes with RECARO performance front bucket seats, which are added to the SS trim levels if you choose the 1LE performance package. It also has a sueded microfiber-wrapped steering wheel with a flat bottom, rather than the leather-wrapped steering wheels found in the SS models.
You also get a wireless charging area in the ZL1, and not to be outdone by the 2SS, the ZL1 still has a head-up display that initially set it apart from other models. Interior spectrum lighting on the ZL1 gives it a unique overall appearance that is, to be honest, just completely rad! If you really want to stand out from the rest of the pack, consider the brand-new “Shock” premium exterior color, which might not be everyone’s favorite, but certainly makes an impression.
A few years ago when we looked at the different trim levels of the Camaro, we didn’t really dip into the safety features it offers. Considering the kind of power and speeds that the 2019 Camaro can give you, the safety features are definitely important. They are also one more way the 2SS trim level stands apart from the 1SS.
Safety with the 1SS is pretty barebones and includes an electronic parking brake, StabiliTrack with electronic stability and traction control, and multiple airbags. It has a rear vision camera, as you would expect, and a tire pressure monitoring system. That’s about it, however, for the 1SS.
Fortunately, the 2SS steps up the safety features significantly and includes everything found in the 1SS. The 2SS features forward collision alert, lane change alert with side blind zone alert, and both rear park assist and rear cross traffic alert. All things considered, the 2SS gives you not just a more luxurious ride, but also a safer one.
There’s also no shortage of great safety features with the ZL1, as you would expect considering its price tag. These include rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision alert, and lane change alert with side blind zone warning. In other words, you don’t have to worry about losing out on any safety features just because you want a Camaro with 650 hp.
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.
Even though the Camaro has come a considerable way since 2015, most of what was true then is still true today. The ZL1 offers an unmatched experience both in terms of luxury and overall performance. Chevy has done a good job offering more options overall, however, and the 2SS trim level is a great choice if the ZL1 is out of reach—or just more power than you really need—but you want a comparable level of sophistication and safety.
When it comes to bragging rights on the road, however, the 2019 Camaro ZL1 is still the clear leader. Considering the price of these vehicles, you would hope that’s the case. Things have gone up a little since 2015. The 2019 Camaro 1SS starts off at $37,995, while the 2SS starts off at $42,995, and the ZL1 will set you back $62,995 before any additional options. Of course, the 1LE package adds about $7,000 to those price tags, and you’re looking to spend even more if you want a convertible model.