The last Camaro we tested was a 2010 model and we came away with the feeling that it hadn’t really blown our socks off. So when GM informed us that they would be delivering a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE, I was pretty excited, having read some very good things about this car. Often with much anticipation comes a let down, however, when our Red Hot (that’s what they call it) tester arrived, I sat myself in the excellent Recaro seats, turned the key and from that point onward couldn’t get the stupid grin off my face.
I’ll be honest muscle cars are not usually my thing and certainly not bright red ones, but when you are settled in and driving, this car suddenly turns you into an addict. So what’s different in this car over the standard one?
Engine And Transmission
The beating heart of the SS is the 6.2-liter LS3 V8 with 426 hp @ 5900 rpm 420 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm. Our car came with the optional $895 two-mode exhaust system that opens valves to allow for more noise under hard acceleration and at higher rpm. Basically it’s a noise maker, it pops, it farts, it burbles, it crackles, it’s very angry and it’s amazing. I can see how, for some, it could get tiresome, but I loved it.
The 1LE borrows it’s brilliance from the ZL1. Chassis changes are pretty extensive with enlarged front and rear anti-roll bars, a strut brace under the hood, monotube rear shocks replace the SS’s twin-tube units, and black 20-inch wheels shod with 285/35R-20 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 rubber. Upgraded wheel bearings, rear shock mounts, and larger fuel pump are used as well.
The 6 speed manual only transmission gets a short-shifter kit with slightly shorter ratios. The shift knob is furnished in suede as is the steering wheel.
How Does It Go?
Wherever the Camaro went we got a lot of stares from passers-by and other motorists. Our office told us they could hear it from the 7th floor of our building, such is the noise it makes. After you start it up you feel the engine’s lumpy idle, sending shivers through the car as it bounces around on its motor mounts. They could, by remapping the chip, make the 1LE as smooth as a BMW V8 but you get the feeling that Chevy didn’t want to, they want you to get that old school muscle car sensation.
It’s not the easiest car to start off in, 1st gear is easy to find but the clutch is either in or out with a reasonably strong action. You have to take it by the scruff of the neck and really drive it. Once on the move you realize how much GM engineers have improved this car. Boy, does it take corners well, you can leave in in 3rd for most of the time on back roads and drop down to 2nd on tighter turns and power out. There’s a ton of grip too, you have to be a complete hooligan to unstick those Goodyear Eagles. The Camaro is heavy and never feels light, but the 1LE upgrades make it feel a lot lighter than the standard car. Even trips to the grocery store were an event.
The steering is light but very precise with no slop at all and it scythes through corners with precision. Add to that the very responsive brakes and this car is a lot of fun. Negatives, there are a few, it’s hard work in stop and go traffic and it’s hard to see out of, but these are small issues. You buy this car for the open road, maybe a weekend car only and take it to the track now and then. We only had the car for 3 days so we couldn’t do our normal performance testing but we would estimate a 0-60 time in the around 4.6 seconds.
One morning I energetically took off from a stop light towards the I5 on ramp and on looking in my rear view saw the dreaded blue lights of an SDPD Explorer. I hadn’t been speeding but I was accelerating fast so when the office came up to the window he asked me if i was late for work. I said no this is a tester vehicle from GM and he immediately started to chat about why this was different from the SS and told me all about his SRT. After 5 minutes he waved me on my way. Nice result.
The Recaro Performance seats are well worth it, not just to hold you in place during cornering but general comfort. The interior needs a refresh but that is coming to the 2nd gen model due soon. Please GM give us the 1LE package on that car. It has a few flaws; if you have a cup in the cup holder you hit it with your elbow every time you change gear. As a positive though sitting in 5th gear your index finger perfectly situated to turn the A/C on and off. The back seats are pretty uncomfortable for taller folks but this really isn’t a car for passengers anyway. A couple of folks at the office who sat in the back got motion sickness but that was probably my driving.
We have driven the 2015 Mustang GT with performance pack and we found the Camaro SS 1LE much more involving and entertaining. It just feels so raw, it puts a smile on your face. It’s a subtle as a sledgehammer, it’s in your face, it’s bold, it’s brash, and my socks have now been officially blown off! Now I need to go home and listen to Bitchin’ Camaro.