1LE Camaros have the greatest range of engine sizes of any track-capable car. From the 2.0-liter turbo engine to the 6.2-liter V8s, high-speed fun is available from mild to hot-DAMN-this-is-spicy. Comparing the 2.0T Camaro with the 1LE track package to the 6.2 V8 Camaro SS 1LE brings some surprising conclusions.
The Chevrolet Camaro 1LE Track Performance Package is a comprehensive set of performance upgrades available on almost any Camaro. For the 2.0T and V6 Camaros, the 1LE Track Performance Package costs $4500 and includes a heavy-duty cooling system, suspension parts from the Camaro SS, and lightweight 20-inch staggered wheels. On the Camaro SS, the 1LE package is more comprehensive – the V8 Camaro gains magnetic ride control and even wider wheels and tires, alongside high capacity cooling upgrades. The SS 1LE Track Performance Package adds $7,000 to the muscle car’s MSRP.
Recently, I was able to do a quick test-drive of an SS 1LE to compare it to my own Camaro 2.0T 1LE. The following conclusions from this short drive are subjective – an instrumented track test wasn’t in the cards at the time – but still eye-opening as to the pros and cons of both cars.
Aside from looking nearly identical, the SS 1LE and 2.0T 1LE are essentially the same car from two perspectives: ergonomics and ride quality.
Both Camaros’ interiors are functional in their intended use. Driver-focused but also comfortable, the Camaro is a car that feels equally at home on a racetrack as it does on a road trip. Thank relatively spacious front seating space with good adjustability, a double-bubble roof, and well-positioned arm rests on the door and center console.
Outward sight lines aren’t as permissive as other cars, so daily driving requires attention. Luckily, both the 2.0T and V8 are quite engaging to drive. This is a driver’s car regardless of engine selection. Paying attention, and staying situationally aware, is easy to do and more than makes up for the compromised sight lines.
In other words, don’t let the “visibility issues” stop you from test-driving a 1LE Camaro.
Ride quality is surprisingly similar, and comfortable, for both cars. “Wait, what? How does a 3,700 pound car ride just as well as a 3,350 pound car?” The Camaro SS 1LE’s Magneride suspension damping more than makes up for the weight difference versus the 2.0T 1LE. The old tradeoff of “You need stiffer springs to corner the same in a heavier car,” no longer applies.
Both the SS 1LE and the 2.0T 1LE feel absolutely composed in corners. Limit-handling characteristics would need a track test, and thus aren’t tested here, but the two cars feel very similar.
The price difference, and displacement difference, of $13,000 and 3.1x as much engine, are the real differentiators here. As mentioned earlier, the SS 1LE’s heftier weight is balanced out by the excellent Magneride damping, so our remaining comparison revolves around the powertrains of the 2.0T 1LE and the SS 1LE.
2.0T and V6 Camaros are available with the Tremec TR-3160 6-speed manual, while V8 models get the beefy TR-6060. While the 2.0T 1LE’s TR-3160 is the same transmission found in the Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang, in Chevrolet’s application it doesn’t feel as sporty as the Camaro SS’s transmission.
Compared to the SS 1LE’s very crisp, mechanical shift feel, the 2.0T’s shift action feels, for lack of a better word, fuzzy. Slightly softer and more vague in shift action, it’s as if the 4-cylinder Camaro’s transmission lined internally with the same microsuede that covers the steering wheel and shift knob.
Clutch actuation is also a significant differentiator – the Camaro SS 1LE’s clutch is far more direct and quickly-engaging than that of the 2.0T. The V8’s clutch engagement feels quite a lot like that of an ND Mazda Miata, while the 4-cylinder feels squishier and less precise.
The more “serious” shift & clutch feel on the SS 1LE is no surprise, as the V8 is a more performance-focused package. The LTG 4-cylinder & TR-3160 combo is shared with the Cadillac ATS, where its less aggressive shift feel is more welcome. That said, modifying the 2.0-liter Turbo Camaro for more crisp gearbox action shouldn’t be too difficult for owners installing short-shift kits and more track-focused clutches.
Now, comparing the 2.0T motor to the LT1 V8 requires context: both of these motor choices produce Camaros that are fast, by any measure. The 4-cylinder hits 60 mph in less than 5.5 seconds, and has an ample torque curve both for daily driving and track use. The V8 does 0-60 in about four seconds, and has enough excess power and torque as to absolutely need a racetrack to be enjoyed to its fullest.
Power output differences aside, it’s the sound quality where the V8 really sings a case for itself. The SS 1LE comes with an active exhaust that, when open, sounds excellent. The Camaro Turbo 1LE, by comparison, isn’t even available with different sound levels. Just quiet, and still quiet. Muffled by both a turbocharger and a large suitcase-style muffler, the 2.0T only hums and whistles along while the LT1 bellows.
Which Track-Package Camaro is Right For You?
If you’ve read this much about 1LE Track Performance Package Camaros, you’re likely looking at track and autocross time too. Both 1LE options reviewed here (as well as the V6 1LE and ZL1 1LE that Chevy also warranties for track use) are massively capable track cars that also can be daily-driven, and even road-tripped. Which option is best comes down to budget and intended use.
At a $31,000 entry price, the 2.0T 1LE is the lightest rear-wheel-drive turbocharged car on sale today, short of a 4-cylinder Toyota Supra. The Supra, mind you, costs around $10,000 more, is almost as heavy, and has fewer horsepower. If you want a track-ready RWD car with a 50/50 weight distribution that’s fast, the turbocharged Camaro is not just a bargain, but also one of the best options at any price.
If, for $13,000 more, you want a car that’s louder and even faster, then the Camaro SS 1LE is an excellent option. It grips and road-trips just as well as the Camaro Turbo, while adding more power and a symphony of cylinders.
Both of these performance cars handle track time and daily driving with ease. The SS 1LE is a refinement of its muscle-car roots, while the 2.0T makes a great case for itself as the best “old-school” tuner car money can buy right now.
If you see full-scale track driving events frequently, the V8’s additional power and sound will add to that experience. If you attend more autocross events, or just want a tuner car with great handling and practicality, the Camaro Turbo 1LE is the best performance bargain on sale today.
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