Top Speed: 145 mph
Horsepower: 275 hp
Quarter-Mile: 14.1 seconds
Zero to Sixty: 5.4 seconds
Braking Distance: 141 ft from 70 mph
Back in 1966, General Motors sent out several cryptic letters to automotive journalists inviting them to a meeting to be held in Detroit. When they arrived, they were told that Chevrolet is making a new line of small sports cars called the Camaro. When asked what a “Camaro” is, those journalists were told that it’s “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.”
The intent was to present the world with GM’s answer to the already enormously popular Ford Mustang. Not much has changed since then, with the Camaro always seeming to play second fiddle to the vastly more popular Ford pony car. GM knows this, so to try and capture more of the entry-level market, they’ve continued to raise--or should we say lower--the bar when it comes performance on the cheap.
Their latest answer is the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE Turbo. It’s not an official trim level--the 1LE Performance Package was previously an available option on higher-level Camaro trims such as the SS and ZL1. The 1LE package's upgraded the brakes, gave the car better suspension, and a set of summer racing tires that all vastly improved performance.
Now, that same 1LE package is available on the base-level LT trim, combining the efficiency of the 2.0-L turbocharged engine with the handling of the 1LE. The result is an inexpensive, entry-level sports car that can serve as a gateway to track day or as a strictly better handling version of the Camaro.
Before we even get to the cool 1LE package stuff, let’s start with the base level LT features. It comes with a very efficient 2.0-L turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine that produces 275 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s nothing to really write home about, but the LT was never intended to win any drag races.
It’s worth noting that the engine is very forgiving in that it’ll rev to 7,000 RPM well after it stops producing. Power seems to max at around 5,500 RPM, meaning the driver will shift somewhat earlier than the dial would indicate. And shifting is absolutely required: the 1LE Performance Package doesn’t allow for an automatic transmission. A 6-speed manual is not only standard--it’s mandatory. You will learn to shift.
Zero to sixty is nothing special at 5.4 seconds--faster than a Corolla but nothing to compare with more powerful muscle cars. Standing quarter-mile is done in 14.1 seconds and given enough time the engine will eventually get you to 145 mph. Plenty of speed for the highway, but not so much you would kill yourself at the track.
Now for the 1LE. First comes the magnetic ride control suspension with a set of Multimatic DSSV dampers. These read the road thousands of times per second to provide just the right firmness in all situations. Second is a set of Brembo brakes with 4-pistons on each caliper. A limited-slip rear differential combines with electronic stability control to ensure perfect control, while a set of transmission and engine coolers ensure you can spend all day racing without blowing a gasket.
In the back is a brand new active exhaust system that has a valve that bypasses the muffler depending on whether the car needs more airflow or not. It can also be opened up wide manually in case the driver wants to show off their engine noise, but with a 2.0-L turbo 4, there’s not a whole lot of engine to impress with.
For that sporty look, the hood is wrapped in black vinyl, while the wheels and rear lip spoiler are all painted black. It’s not quite the same as getting carbon fiber versions of those components, but it helps with the image.
On the inside, the shift knob is covered in microsuede, while the wheel is replaced with a flat-bottom design made for easier entrances and exits. RECARO racing seats are available, but they’re a $1,595 extra. There’s also a performance data and video recorder, but it’s also extra--$1,300 to be exact.
At its cheapest, the 1LE Turbo can be had for the price of $30,995. That’s $26,495 for the base LT trim Camaro and an extra $4,500 for the 1LE package. Its natural competitors are of course the Mustang and the Challenger, but neither quite provide the same kind of handling upgrades as the Camaro.
A Challenger SXT with the Super Sport Group comes to $29,334 and provides better brakes, wheels, and tires, but doesn’t provide the same magnetic suspension as the Camaro. A base-level EcoBoost Mustang comes to $32,225 with the Performance Package and Active Exhaust upgrades, but again is missing the magnetic suspension that comes with the 1LE (the Mustang can add it for another $1,695).
However, both the Mustang and the Challenger have more power than the Camaro--305 horses on the Challenger and 310 ponies on the Mustang.
If you were going to put the three in a drag race, the Camaro would come dead last. But if you were to race all three around a course with a lot of winding curves, the Camaro 1LE would likely make a better showing of itself. It might even come out on top.
There is one thing that sets the Camaro well in front of the competition: its warranty. You can throw the Camaro around a track and if something brakes, GM will fix it. So of all three options, the Camaro is the best one to race around a track without a care in the world. And that is a feeling no amount of money can compare to.