So we’re just going to get straight to the point: you know that sixth-gen Camaro everyone has been catching glimpses of testing everywhere from the Nurburgring to mid-America? Yeah, turns out that was actually the ZL1 1LE, a vehicle which Chevrolet took the wraps off tonight at the hallowed grounds of the Daytona International Speedway to a crowd of automotive journalist that we just so happened to be a part of.
In a move that shocked even a room full of well-informed industry professionals, Chevrolet doubled up on two of its most iconic performance brands by combining the 1LE with the veritable ZL1. While we were shocked when Jeff Gordon rolled the car in—yeah, did we mention Jeff Gordon was driving it—we weren’t surprised to see a new performance variant of the Camaro, though we and almost everyone in the industry was expecting that we would see the debut of the Z/28. But this car did not disappoint us.
“The track-focused 1LE package offers progressive levels of performance across the Camaro lineup, from the V6 1LE to the SS 1LE,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “But with the new ZL1 1LE, the progression takes a quantum leap — this is the ultimate track-day Camaro.”
So lets get down to what you are probably reading this article for in the first place, the specs. The ZL1 1LE is a drastic departure from the standard ZL1, even if its looks might not show it. In fact, it has enough go-fast goodies to have it lapping the Milford Proving Grounds three seconds faster than the standard ZL1—you know the “standard” ZL1 that lapped the Nurburgring in just 7:29.60 seconds. The biggest change for the car is probably the addition of Multimatic DSSV shocks. If they sound familiar, that’s because they were originally piloted on the fifth-gen Z/28 and recently shook up the mid-sized truck market when they debuted on the Colorado ZR2.
The Multimatic Formula 1-inspired absorbers replace the ZL1’s Magnetic Ride Control and help to shave 60 pounds off the car’s curb weight. Chevrolet says that they estimate the car to weigh in at a svelte 3,820 pounds. The car lost additional weight with the use of a fixed rear seat, thinner rear glass, and lighter wheels. Other than that, the ZL1’s interior remains unchanged with the 1LE. You still get Apple Car Play, heated and cooled seats, and power everything.
Other suspension changes include anodized, adjustable camber plates that allow for up to -3.7 degrees of camber to be dialed in up front. The shocks are also threaded and allow the addition or subtraction of up to 20 mm of ride height all the way around. The front shocks are also hard mounted at both ends, removing the annoying rubber bushings that would normally deflect under the conditions that these things are liable to see. The control arms also utilize double ball joint construction which adds a lot of strength and stability to the equation. A three-way adjustable stabilizer bar out back allows you to dial in under- or over-steer depending on track conditions, though camber is fixed at the rear at -1 degree.
The engine also remains unchanged, albeit with the updated supercharger lid that was implemented on all 2017 LT4s, ensuring that the mill is constantly getting crisp, cool air no matter the operating considerations. Some how 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque will have to suffice—and we doubt many will find much to complain about the 6.2-liter, direct-injected bullet. The ZL1 1LE is also only available with the six-speed manual, which is how we prefer it but we were somewhat surprised to see that they won’t be offering it with the track-capable 10-speed automatic.
In the braking department, the standard ZL1 binders carry over with the front six-piston, monobloc Brembos clamping down on a two piece 390 mm diameter rotor up front and a four-piston calipers biting on 365 mm rotors out back. Head honcho Al Oppenheiser said that they decided to forgo the carbon ceramic brakes with the ZL1 1LE due to the substantial size of the current braking system, rendering it virtually fade-free in any condition and added that the addition of carbon ceramics would just make the car more difficult to live with and not offer much in the way of actual performance gains.
One of the largest changes on the ZL1 1LE, other than the spool-valve Mutlimatic absorbers, is literally where the rubber meets the road. Chevrolet tells us that they have been working with Goodyear for three years now to develop a tire that is more capable then any piece of rubber that has ever shod a Camaro. Which is impressive considering the standard ZL1’s Goodyear Supercar F1 tires are some of the best you can get your hands on. The new tires are massive Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3Rs, measuring P305/30ZR19 up front and P325/30ZR19 out back, making them the largest tires ever bolted to a Camaro. They are wrapped around new, lightweight, forged aluminum wheels, 19X10 up front and 19X11 at the rear.
Brand new aero pieces are the main visual indicator that what you’re seeing isn’t your standard ZL1. The typical flat black elements from the 1LE, such as the hood and door mirros, carry over but have been applied to as the grill, new aero pieces, and wheels as well. The large carbon fiber wing out back sits at a 10 degree down angle and provide 300 pounds of downforce at the rear of the car—more than double that of the standard ZL1 spoiler. The stanchions that attach the wing to the rear deck lid are also hollow to save weight and the wing has a subtle X marking at either end. Dive planes, more commonly referred to canards, adorn the front of the car and provide additional downforce. The brake duct intakes, as well as the entire grille, have been redesign and are much more aggressive at grabbing atmosphere to stuff through one of the nine coolers on the car or redirect to the car’s brakes.
Another big change for the 1LE is the addition, or rather subtraction, of the rear cradle bushings. The stock rubber units have been ditched in favor of solid mounting the cradle to the car’s chassis. All of these improvements combine to bring the car’s skid pad number up to an unbelievable 1.10 g. This car will literally be able to rip your face off whether it’s accelerating, braking, or turning.
“The new Camaro ZL1 1LE offers the supreme track experience,” said Mark Dickens, executive director, Chevrolet Performance Variants, Parts and Motorsports Engineering. “It’s the pinnacle of Camaro performance and advances the 1LE’s nearly 30-year legacy of uncompromising, track-tailored capability.”
Unfortunately for us, the ZL1 1LE is a 2018 model which means it won’t be available for sale until sometime this summer. However, ordering one will be pretty easy as it is just another option box to tick on the order sheet—though they wouldn’t share with us how much the 1LE option will cost as they’ve yet to put 2018 pricing together.
So, were we disappointed that the ZL1 1LE wasn’t a Z/28? Not at all! This capable performer will be thrilling us until the General sees fit to bestow a Z/28 upon us.
“We’ve always said that we’ll bring a Z/28 to market if the formula for one looks right, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility,” Oppenheiser said.
In the meantime, we’ll be bugging General Motors to send us one of these bad boys to test as soon as possible, so stay tuned.
Check out the video walk around our buddy Cleetus McFarland did of the reveal too.
Author: Chase Christensen