Back in the 60’s, you had to be “in the know” to get a ZL1 Camaro, from a dealer who knew how to exploit GM’s COPO special vehicle ordering system. Now, all it takes is a healthy checkbook. That doesn’t mean they’re not special. Quite the opposite actually. And you can get yourself this very special ZL1 1LE, if you know what to ask for.
While not everyone has access to Germany’s Nurburgring, there are plenty of great race tracks in our country; and believe it or not, there are more than a few Camaro owners who regularly partake in track days at many of those fine facilities. Well, this 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is for them.
It’s the answer to the question, “what can I do to make the ZL1 even more potent on a road course?”.
Well, more power was not really a necessity; the 650-horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque coming out of the supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V8 is more than adequate to get you around any race track. And with all of the plastic covers we see under hoods these days, it was refreshing to feast our eyes on lots of hard-working mechanical bits in plain view.
No, the real key to the 1LE Extreme Track Performance Package is more downforce, along with more grip to handle it and upgraded suspension to control it; as well as less weight for all of those components to deal with.
Now, we really didn’t notice much in the way of body roll in the ZL1 we tested at Roebling Road Raceway last year, but after putting this one through its paces this year, if there was any at all, it has now been eliminated.
Plain and simple, this car feels awesome on track; highly rigid with grip aplenty. It will basically do whatever you tell it to do. It has no problem with late braking, and on/off throttle hijinks don’t seem to upset it in any way. Even steering feel is quite good.
It’s hard to say that you can truly feel the additional downforce in corners, but there’s undeniably more grip for getting through them, and you definitely are making faster lap times. Although some of our driver’s did note they could sense some additional drag going down Roebling’s long front straight.
We’re well-documented fans of GM’s Performance Traction Management; between that and the new Multimatic Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve dampers; it’s like having your own personal pit crew to give you the ultimate setup every time you head out on track. You have to get to Sport 2 or Race mode if you want to have the real fun. Anywhere else, it does want to cut power from you.
If you prefer a custom setup, you can now manually adjust front ride height, camber plates, and the rear stabilizer bar as well.
Bottom line, it can be incredibly well-balanced and nailed down if you want it to be; but it can also be smoked and slid at will.
Now, going 1LE requires sticking with the standard 6-speed manual transmission. It worked just fine on track, with no complaints from our drivers; and active rev matching is as fun as it is useful.
But having 4-fewer gears than the automatic, and of course a third pedal to push, we couldn’t match the 3.5-second 0-60 run of the automatic equipped ZL1 that we had here last year.
Obviously it’s always fun ripping through the gears yourself; but keeping things pointed straight is a little more challenging with the manual too. So, if pink slips are your goal, stick with the automatic ZL1.
Either flying low or standing still, this is certainly one bad looking Camaro. The blacked-out ZL1 hood provides a true menacing element. What’s new for the 1LE are the added winglets on the front fascia; technically called “dive planes”, which sounds like something that you’d find on a submarine. And, of course, the impossible to miss carbon fiber wing at the rear.
But all this performance does come with costs. Like Gas Guzzler Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 14-City, 20-Highway, and 16-Combined.
But the biggest cost is the MSRP. ZL1s start at $63,795; adding the 1LE Extreme Track Performance Package takes it to $71,295.
That makes it one pricy Camaro. Still, you’d pay well over six figures for anything else close to it performance-wise, so we’ll call it money well spent.
When it comes to top dog Camaro performance, the 2018 ZL1 1LE, is without a doubt the “one” you want, even if you never plan on taking it to a race track. It’s simply the best Chevrolet Camaro yet.
Engine: 6.2 liter
Torque: 650 lb.-ft.
EPA: 14 mpg city / 20 mpg highway