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A Dragon in Wolf’s Clothing: The ZL1 1LE

By Justin Reimlinger
On May 19, 2017

Since 2015, GM’s Camaro program has left us wondering, “What’s next?” in terms of affordable track-day performance, and finally, we have the answer: the 2018 ZL1 1LE. Words cannot do the car justice, but I will try. Imagine you took the fan favorite Z/28, which ended production in 2015, and said, “We like that, but what would happen if we gave it steroids?” Add 650 horsepower and a 6-speed manual only gearbox and you have the best alternative to Godzilla, or I should say the Nissan GT-R Track Package.

Powered by the LT4 6.2 liter engine, the same one in the Z06 Corvette and CTS-V, it utilizes technologies pioneered in the last gen ZR1 (LS9) on top of newer, stronger castings like the aluminum block and heads that also handle heat better. On top sits a 1.7L supercharger that, when compared volume to volume, is larger than the new Civic SI’s entire motor. Mark Dickens, executive director of Chevrolet Performance Variants, Parts and Motorsports Engineering, “The new Camaro ZL1 1LE offers the supreme track experience. It’s the pinnacle of Camaro performance and advances the 1LE’s nearly 30-year legacy of uncompromising, track-tailored capability.” The only downside I see of being a track focused car with an engine like this is its wet-sump oiling system, which hopefully, the engineers have accounted for since this machine can pull 1.10 G turns.

As with every successful race car, there are other things to consider like suspension, brakes, tires and aerodynamics. When it comes to the latter, trust me, you will not lose this car in a parking lot. The aero package for the ZL1 1LE is nothing short of full racespec complete with a huge carbon fiber rear wing (think Viper ACR size), specific air deflectors and dive planes on the front fascia to produce grip-generating downforce to help the car stick harder and drive faster in turns. It also features racing-derived, lightweight Multimatic Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers front and rear for excellent wheel and vehicle control. The front-end ride height is adjustable with the front dampers, which are used with all-new, adjustable camber plates. The rear stabilizer bar also offers three-way adjustability. All of the components are designed for quick changes at the track for optimal performance and a quick return to street settings when the track day ends. Lightweight forged aluminum wheels are an inch wider but an inch smaller in diameter, front and rear, than standard ZL1 wheels and are used with new Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R tires that deliver max lateral grip. Rubber widths are 305/325 front and rear. Developed exclusively for the Camaro ZL1 1LE, the 3R tires are designed to warm up faster to help maintain more consistent grip and speed, lap after lap.

Though the lettering does look like alphabet soup, there’s good reason for it. Introduced in 2012, the ZL1 Camaro put the muscle back into the lineup, offering a whopping 580 horsepower super-charges motor, a hallmark of the ZL1, while being dubbed by the brochures as, “the most technologically advanced Camaro ever.” The ZL1 went extinct with the ending of the fifth generation Camaro in 2015, but was resurrected again in 2017. This package is the base package for the car. Now the 1LE is significant because it is Chevrolet’s way of giving corner carving performance without adding much to the MSRP, usually including upgraded suspension components, wider wheels, a manual transmission, and a matte black hood. In fact, there is someone on our campus who has a fifth generation 1LE. Adding both these packages together brings you the car in question. Thank you for reading, and please remember, life is too short to drive boring cars, so crush your Prius.

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