The Chevrolet Camaro has spent its half-century on the market positioning itself somewhere between an iconic American pony and muscle car. The former put emphasis on its sporty good looks and affordability, the latter with V8 power laid on with a heavy hand. The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro 2.0L Turbo 1LE looks to split the difference with turbo 4-cylinder power, great balance and a suspension that won’t shy away from a long day at the track.
This is somewhat new ground for the Camaro and given execution of its package, this sporty coupe and convertible not only has the chops and the sticker to take on similarly equipped Ford Mustangs, but also could be of interest to shoppers considering such hot hatches as the Honda Civic Type R and Subaru WRX STI.
1LE: More concept than package
The 1LE designation is part of Chevrolet’s track package, but it’s more of a concept than specific hardware. As it’s applied to various models in the range, the 1LE option incorporates distinctive features. On the 2.0-liter turbo model, which is rated at 275-horsepower and 205 lb-ft of torque, the 1LE consists of the FE3 performance setup from the V8-powered SS. Equipped with a short throw 6-speed manual transmission only, the 2.0L Turbo 1LE also sports lightweight 20-inch alloy wheels shod with Goodyear Eagle F1 tires measuring 245/40R20 up front and 275/35R20 in the rear.
The handling is further enhanced by using a mechanical limited slip differential, stiffer front and rear stabilizer bars, shock absorbers and bushings. Chevrolet boasts that the Turbo 1LE can deliver 0.97g in cornering forces. Rounding out the 1LE track package are Brembo brakes with four-piston front and single piston rear calipers. Also included in the package are coolers for engine oil, the differential and the manual transmission. As you move up the Camaro model hierarchy, the 1LE incorporates more sophisticated hardware like an electronic limited slip differential and magnetic ride shocks on the SS as well as even more advanced DSSV suspension and a dedicated aero kit on the ZL1. The key here on the 2.0L Turbo is to provide maximum handling for minimum dollars.
The Turbo 1LE trim makes its debut on the facelifted 2019 Camaro, which sports a more open and aggressive grille treatment along with revamped LED headlamps. Further distinguishing the 1LE package is the satin black hood wrap, front splitter and three-piece rear spoiler.
In the cabin, buyers can opt for suede-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel and Recaro sport seats above the standard bucket seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The 1LE also features a drive mode selector with a track setting. Also, when the competition mode is turned on within the sport and track selections, launch control, shift lights and performance instrument readouts are activated.
The stiffer suspension on the 1LE package is evident during our drive from Seattle to The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton. Over that 90-minute drive, it becomes clear that if you want this car to be your daily driver, you’re going to have to put up with a bit of punishment in ordered to be rewarded by its tenacious grip as a weekend warrior. We’d also like a bit throatier exhaust—the turbo motor still has more grind than growl in its note. Still, it’s relatively easy to drive in traffic, has plenty of power from the turbo 4-cylinder (Chevy says it’s good for 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds) and the smooth shifting 6-speed manual has a firm, yet linear take-up to the clutch.
Once at the circuit with the track mode engaged, stability control is dialed back to allow the rear end to step out slightly and we are ready to go. The Ridge’s 16 corners feature a 300-foot elevation gain and a nice flow to its nearly 2.5-mile layout. The first impression from the car is how well it is balanced. The lack of a V8 takes some mass off the front axle and contributes to the car’s 50/50 weight distribution. The torque, most of which is available from 2,000 rpm, provides ample pulling power for the uphill portions, while the Brembo brakes add to the surefooted feel by being able to haul the car down from speed effortlessly. Another side benefit of a lighter nose is less brake fade.
The steering is quick and accurate and the Turbo 1LE was able to hold its own chasing after a V8-equipped SS, although that model tended to disappear on the front straight. Speaking of the front straight, it was a perfect venue to test the no-lift shift capabilities that backs off the revs slightly when the clutch is depressed, allowing you to keep your accelerator foot glued to the floor. Overall, the Camaro 2.0L Turbo 1LE has what it takes to make you feel like track day or autocross hero without putting a serious dent in your wallet.
When added to the base $26,495 1LT, the 1LE carries a $30,995 sticker price plus $995 delivery, it’s also available on the $28,495 2LT and $31,995 3LT trim levels at a $4,500 premium. So even if you opt for a more fully equipped 3LT with its standard 323 horsepower 3.6-liter V6, you’ll still clock in $36,465. Both the 2LT (which offers the V6 as an option) and the 3LT can be equipped with an 8-speed automatic in lieu of the 6-speed manual. All of which represents a pretty good bargain in the realm of performance cars.