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The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE Is Anything but Entry-Level

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 8/30/2018 Jeff Sabatini

The racer’s maxim is immutable, unchallengeable: The faster you want to go on the track, the more you have to spend. But that doesn’t mean you have to fork over all that much to go really fast. Not when the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE starts at just $30,995.

Last year, the 1LE Track Performance package was available only on higher-spec Camaros with naturally aspirated V-6 and V-8 engines. For 2019, Chevrolet has adapted its go-fast parts to coupes fitted with the base Camaro engine, a 275-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. For the same $4500 that Chevy charges for the 1LE package on the V-6, the four-cylinder model gets a sport suspension, Brembo four-piston front brake calipers, a beefed-up cooling system, a limited-slip differential, and staggered 20-inch wheels wrapped in huge Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 RunOnFlat performance tires. This combination not only makes the lowliest of Camaros nearly as fast around a track as the 335-hp V-6 model, but also reveals just how much performance potential is baked into its Alpha platform.

A six-speed manual transmission is mandatory; the short-throw gearshift lever is wrapped in faux suede just like that on the flat-bottom steering wheel. Four-pot 1LEs look the part, with the same telltale black-wrapped hood as their higher horsepower brethren plus a black front splitter and rear spoiler, a polished black grille, and black wheels. A dual-mode exhaust system improves the flaccid sound of the turbo four, but even at full moan there’s no mistaking the Turbo 1LE for a Camaro with more cylinders.

a car driving down a busy highway: Track-Tuned Chevy Camaro Turbo 1LE Pays Big Rewards for Small Money© Car and Driver Track-Tuned Chevy Camaro Turbo 1LE Pays Big Rewards for Small Money

Truly Trackworthy

From the driver’s seat, however, things are more similar than they are different. Select the Track driving mode with the toggle on the center console and activate the stability control’s Competition mode and the 1LE becomes a true track car. Its steering is heavy, its clutch is heavy, and its brakes have endless stopping power. Turn-in is immediate, grip is immense, and the Camaro is so well balanced with such communicative steering that we can’t imagine a better beginner’s track-day tool.

Our only reservation is that the four-cylinder has a street-oriented torque curve. It makes a lot of grunt at low revs, hitting its peak of 295 lb-ft at 3000 rpm and running out of breath just above its 5600-rpm power peak, despite having a 7000-rpm redline. This means shifting earlier and more often compared with the V-6 Camaro.

The stiff, track-prioritized suspension might be a little much for someone who isn’t going to lap their Turbo 1LE, but for a car that can be driven to the track, lapped all day, and then driven home, it is perfectly acceptable. Less so the Camaro’s inherently claustrophobic cabin, although it does fortify the illusion of being strapped in behind the wheel of an IMSA race car. After a few laps, Stockholm syndrome sets in and you just forget what it was like to drive a car with a greenhouse larger than a jail cell.

a motorcycle parked on top of a car: Track-Tuned Chevy Camaro Turbo 1LE Pays Big Rewards for Small Money© Car and Driver Track-Tuned Chevy Camaro Turbo 1LE Pays Big Rewards for Small Money

Doing the Math

Chevy has reworked its Camaro model lineup with its 2019 freshening of the car’s front and rear fascias, dropping the price of the base LS coupe to $25,995. Ordering the $4500 1LE package requires stepping one rung up the ladder to the $26,495 1LT trim level. At $30,995, the Turbo 1LE really is the sweet spot, the lowest cost of entry to Chevy’s track toy. We imagine it will tempt many budget-conscious autocrossers and Ayrton Senna wannabes. They may also be enticed by General Motors’ performance warranty, which is surprisingly benevolent and applies to the Turbo 1LE as well as the hotter performance offerings. If your unmodified car breaks during a track day, your Chevrolet dealer will cover the afflicted parts. Of course, the limitations of the original warranty still apply, and as always, if you crash it, you bought it.

Additional 1LE options include the Performance Data and Video Recorder for $1300 (available only on the 3LT) and the highly recommended Recaro seats for $1595. You can spend $2000 more for the 2LT model that includes leather seats, but that puts the price above that of a base 1LE with the V-6. Indeed, the best performance upgrade you can make is spending the $1495 Chevy charges for the V-6 on a base 1LT. So, the racer’s maxim still holds: Going faster always costs more.

Track-Tuned Chevy Camaro Turbo 1LE Pays Big Rewards for Small Money: The 1LE Track Performance package makes the four-cylinder Camaro trackworthy like its pricier V-6 and V-8 stablemates.© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc The 1LE Track Performance package makes the four-cylinder Camaro trackworthy like its pricier V-6 and V-8 stablemates.
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