Chevrolet Camaro Review & Features

First Drive

2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE First Drive

A few years ago, Chevrolet revived the Z/28 moniker for a track-focused version of the previous-generation Camaro. In all but name, the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is the Z/28's torchbearer.

Starting with the supercharged 2018 Camaro ZL1, the 1LE package consists of a host of changes to the suspension, wheels and tires, plus a conspicuous body kit. The result is the most extreme Camaro ever built, and its sights are trained well beyond rival Ford's most potent Mustang variant, the Shelby GT350R, for outright track-day dominance.

Shots fired.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Trackworthy, But Not Gutted
Sales of the Z/28 were initially modest and promptly slowed to a gelatinous ooze, making the existence of this spiritual successor that much more of a surprise. The formula has changed slightly in the meantime, however. While the Z/28 stripped out features in order to shed pounds, the ZL1 1LE tips the scales at 3,820 pounds without trading away creature comforts — you can still get the amenities offered in the ZL1 such as heated and cooled seats and navigation.

Still, the ZL1 1LE is not a car for poseurs. The only transmission offered is a six-speed manual. Its tires are highly specialized. The civility implied by the console rocker button is a facade — Tour mode won't soften the ride one iota. If you're not tracking a ZL1 1LE, you're doing it wrong.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Where The Rubber Meets The Track
A car is often only as good as the tire it wears, and the ZL1 1LE delivers in a big way. Goodyear developed a new tire, the Eagle F1 SuperCar 3R, specifically for the ZL1 1LE. The widest ever offered on a Camaro, they're mounted on wheels that are an inch wider and an inch smaller in diameter than those of the standard ZL1. While the 3R is legal for street use, dry track performance is its overarching priority. It has a bare minimum of tread depth, huge outer tread blocks and an all-new compound derived from Goodyear's racing tires. Drive through standing water or in cold weather at your own peril.

You might expect a track-oriented car like this to boast stabilizer bars as thick as your wrist, and you'd be wrong — the ZL1 1LE's rear bar is slightly smaller than the ZL1's, but it gains three-position manual adjustability. The ZL1 1LE gets its increased roll stiffness from new coil springs that are roughly twice the rate of the ZL1's springs.

Overall, the ZL1 1LE's ride quality is said to be very similar to that of the Z/28, though our track-only drive time precluded confirming this characterization. Given its predecessor's unyielding disposition, it's a safe bet that the ZL1 1LE won't shine as a daily driver.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

New Dampers, Less Slop
Multimatic spool valve DSSV dampers are part of the 1LE package and replace the ZL1's variable magnetorheological dampers. These fixed dampers are fundamentally different from traditional shim pack-based dampers. The gist is that DSSV dampers provide more precise tailoring of damping rates and exhibit far less sensitivity to temperature. So while the tires will probably be useless in cold weather, the dampers won't care.

Compliance in the chassis was exorcised on many fronts. For the ZL1 1LE, GM ditched the rubber mounts in the rear subframe in favor of solid aluminum inserts and replaced the rubber-isolated front upper strut mounts with rigid ball joints. The dampers boast aluminum housings to shave weight and increase stiffness, providing more consistent suspension geometry during hard cornering.

Track day addicts will love that the ZL1 1LE's front struts have threaded lower spring perches to allow for manual ride height and corner balance adjustments. Plus, the forged aluminum front upper strut mounts can be rotated to increase negative camber by 1.5 degrees for track use. This is impressive dedication to track-day use for a production car.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

All This Plus a Supercharged V8
On the powertrain front, changes from the ZL1 are minimal. The 650-hp, 650-lb-ft supercharged 6.2-liter pushrod V8 is carried over with no changes. Sixth gear in the Tremec manual box is shorter to suit Nurburgring marketing purposes and little else, and there's a 1LE-specific calibration for the electronically controlled differential. That's it.

Various cartoonish aerodynamic appendages have sprouted on the ZL1 1LE, and you'd be hard-pressed to miss them. The large, freestanding wing, a deeper front splitter and canards make it look as though a ZL1 made a top-speed run through a Super Autobacs store. At least these bits are functional, reducing lift.

If there's an obvious cost-saving measure, it's the brakes. Stopping power is handled not by carbon-ceramic brakes à la Z/28 but with the conventional steel brakes from the ZL1. They may not have the fade resistance of the pricey carbon ceramics, but replacement costs will be lower.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Track Impressions
Our track time was brief but enough to cement several impressions. For one, the ZL1 1LE's juvenile looks are at odds with the way it hustles around the track. Beyond its crazy-glue grip, it inspires confidence with its friendly manners yet has surprising fidelity. It feels at once planted and eager on turn-in, not quite tossable but supremely composed.

If you carry too much speed midcorner, it continues to grip hard while it slides, and the recovery is gentle rather than abrupt. Its limit of grip is not an edgy peak that unduly punishes you for getting it wrong; rather it is a big, friendly plateau. You can be more deliberate with the throttle when firing it away from an apex than you'd expect, too, for a car pours such an avalanche of torque to only two tires.

The ZL1 1LE works with the driver no matter his or her skill level — it won't bite a novice, and it still responds willingly to an experienced driver's attempts to influence its corner entry attitude through weight transfer adjustments. It's a fat man that can dance. Oddly, its sense of speed is masked by the husky torque curve and indifferent engine note. Six hundred fifty horsepower has never been so anticlimactic. But it is certainly effective.

The ZL1 1LE's uptick in performance relative to the Z/28 hasn't resulted in a commensurate price increase. In fact, the ZL1 1LE's $71,295 sticker is $7,500 more than a standard ZL1 but thousands less than the erstwhile Z/28.

The Camaro ZL1 1LE won't be a "limited edition" item either, though GM doesn't have unrealistic expectations of demand for such a specialized vehicle. Roughly 800 to 1,000 examples are expected to find homes this year. Poseurs need not apply, but they probably will anyway.

Chevrolet Camaro Review

For most of the past four decades, the Chevrolet Camaro has been the poster car of young (and not so young) speed freaks and boulevardiers alike. You know, the type of folks who value the rumble and thrust of a small-block V8 and sleek styling as much as would-be Hollywood starlets value a photo op.

Starting out in the late 1960s as an answer to Ford's Mustang, the original Chevrolet Camaro could be had in coupe or convertible form and with six-cylinder or V8 power. Forty years and five generations later, the concept really hasn't changed, as the current Chevrolet Camaro also can be had in coupe or convertible form with six-cylinder or V8 power. It even looks similar and carries the classic Camaro qualities of tire-spinning performance and a reasonable base price. But this is a thoroughly modern car that makes for a decent everyday driver, despite some significant practical drawbacks.

Current Chevrolet Camaro
The Chevrolet Camaro is available as a two-door coupe or convertible and in five trim levels: base LS, midgrade LT, high-performance SS and hyper-performance ZL1 and Z/28. The LS comes standard with niceties like alloy wheels and air-conditioning, to which the LT adds power seats and a touchscreen with smartphone integration. The V8-powered SS includes a limited-slip differential and a sport-tuned suspension. The ZL1 boasts a variety of performance parts like Brembo brakes and adaptive suspension dampers, plus standard leather upholstery and Boston Acoustics audio. The hard-core, coupe-only Z/28, on the other hand, has a race-ready suspension and modifications for reduced weight.

The Camaro LS and LT pack a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 323 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with the V6, and a six-speed automatic is available. The Camaro SS is equipped with a powerful 6.2-liter V8 matched to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The manual-gearbox SS cranks out 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, with the automatic version tuned to "just" 400 hp and 410 lb-ft. Offering the same transmission choices, the Camaro ZL1 gets a supercharged version of the 6.2-liter V8 good for 580 hp and 556 lb-ft of torque. The Z/28, which is 300 pounds lighter than the ZL1, employs a 505-hp 7.0-liter V8 and comes only with the six-speed manual.

On the road, any of these Camaros will provide brisk performance, a reasonably compliant ride (though the Z/28 is significantly firmer) and respectable handling, while the V8-powered versions should satisfy the most ardent acceleration addicts. The ZL1 and especially the Z/28 are astoundingly capable on a racetrack with their special suspensions. However, in day-to-day driving, the poor outward visibility, mediocre cabin trim, cramped backseat and tiny, oddly shaped trunk opening could be deal-breakers. As such, we'd advise potential buyers to also consider the Camaro's equally classic competitors, the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang.

Used Chevrolet Camaro Models
After a seven-year hiatus, the Camaro returned for 2010. In that first year, the Camaro was offered as a coupe only, and the V6 engine produced 304 hp. The next year saw the convertible's introduction and a bump up to 312 horses for the V6. It reached its current output for 2012, which also saw the introduction of the ZL1 and a number of noteworthy changes to the cabin. Camaros produced prior to this suffered from an oddly shaped steering wheel and gauges that were hard to read. For 2014 the Camaro introduced revised styling (including one-piece taillights that replaced the original double-rectangle design) and the debut of the Z/28.

Running from 1993-2002, the previous Camaro generation continued the age-old tradition of performance and style above all else. Initially just a coupe body style was offered in base and Z28 trims, the former coming with a 3.4-liter V6 (160 hp) and the latter with an LT1 5.7-liter V8 (275 hp). Transmission choices included a five-speed manual (V6), a six-speed manual (V8) and a four-speed automatic.

The following year saw the return of the ragtop, while 1995 brought a 3.8-liter, 200-hp V6 for the base Camaro. For 1996 the Z28 had 285 hp and the SS trim was reincarnated, complete with a 305-hp version of the 5.7-liter V8. A midcycle refresh took place for 1998 with a new front-end look and powerful new LS1 5.7 V8s for the Z28 (305 hp) and SS (320 hp). Apart from minor trim differences and a bump in power for the Z28 in 2001 to 310 hp, the Camaro soldiered through 2002 mostly unchanged. That last year also marked the Camaro's 35th birthday, which was celebrated with a 35th-anniversary SS.

Although fast, stylish and affordable, this Chevy Camaro was lacking in terms of refinement, particularly in regards to the interior. The clunky steering wheel design was about as sporty as a taxicab's and there was an abundance of low-grade plastic trim. Furthermore, the seats were rather plain and short on lumbar and lateral support. On the upside were the large gauges, decent cargo capacity and buttoned-down handling (though midcorner bumps could upset the solid rear axle suspended out back).

Consumer feedback is mostly favorable toward Camaros from this era. Praises center on the strong performance (even with the V6) for the money, relatively good fuel economy, mechanical reliability, cargo capacity, handling and styling. Chief complaints concern cheap interior construction, a smallish interior considering the body size and occasionally leaky T-tops.

For more information on these and even older Chevrolet Camaros, go to our Chevrolet Camaro history page.

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