Melding competition character with fully street-legal mechanicals, the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE ups the performance ante of the SS Coupe to a new level. Combining the best of the SS and ZL1 component sets, the new 1LE brings back a racing-spec Camaro designation that was first used in the late ’80s. It is meant to serve as a serious track-day offering, with Chevy angling to have the new Camaro 1LE approved by the SCCA for Touring Class competition – a realm where it would take on its natural archrival, the Ford Mustang Boss 302.
Available only on 1SS and 2SS Coupes, the heart of the 2013 Camaro 1LE package is a 6.2-liter LS3 V8 with a special high-capacity fuel pump. Developing 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, it gets backed by a close-ratio variation of the Tremec 6-speed manual transmission used in the SS. This bespoke box dissipates competitive heat via the same air-to-liquid cooler used on the 580-horse Camaro ZL1. To further quicken acceleration, the 1LE also features a deeper 3.91:1 rear axle cog in place of the standard 3.45:1 unit.
While all Camaro SS models benefit from some minor chassis tweaks that were introduced on the ZL1, the suspension and driveline bits in the 2013 Camaro 1LE receive even more functional upgrades. Highlights include a front strut tower brace, bigger anti-roll bars, beefier halfshafts, ZL1-spec wheel bearings, toe links and rear shock mounts, monotube rear dampers and ZL1-based 20-inch staggered-width light alloy wheels mounting Z-rated 285/35 Goodyear Eagle Supercar G:2 performance rubber. While these modifications give the Camaro 1LE more precise handling and response – not to mention the ability to corner with over 1.0g of lateral grip – Chevy says they do little to detract from the ride quality of a baseline Camaro SS.
To help it look and act the part, the 2013 Camaro 1LE boasts a matte-black hood, black-finished alloys and a functional front splitter and rear splitter that help reduce high-speed aero lift. Inside, the 1LE features more ZL1 elements, including its flat-bottom steering wheel and a short-throw shifter, both trimmed in a grippy faux-suede microfiber. One thing you won’t find here is Chevy’s new color, touch-sensitive radio with MyLink infotainment system, a creature feature new to Camaro for 2013 but confined to only LT, SS and ZL1 models.
So what’s the bottom line on Chevy’s latest bad boy? Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer, sums it up rather succinctly: “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 2013 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE hits showrooms late this year. Its final pricing will be released closer to the official on-sale date.