Brawn Meets Brain: 2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE

The Camaro SS 1LE brings the meat while still giving you the vegetables you need.

(The following review was ghostwritten for our technical editor, Geoff Lo)

What happens when you continue to improve a product? Apple’s iPhone gets more speed and more features, building design becomes more environmental friendly, trees grow bigger. What happens, then, when you take a very good car and make it better? Perhaps, the Camaro SS 1LE?

The 1LE is a car that is good. Well, what the hell does good mean? I mean that it is a no-nonsense car in many ways. All of the things you would expect from a sporting car are there: big 455 hp V8 engine, big tires, big brakes, good steering, great primary controls, great seats. Everything else in a car like this is, well, window trimming. Sure, it could be way lighter, but this is a muscle car. Sure, it could be way more practical, but this is a Camaro. These are all things a 1LE owner is willing to sacrifice in the name of bad-assery at its finest. But why?

In 2011, Ford brought back the Boss 302 nameplate by taking an ordinary (albeit rather new) 5.0L Mustang GT and making it just… a bit… better. They gave the engine a slight power boost, gnarly side-dump exhausts, and tightened up the bendy bits. This is what the 1LE is to the Camaro, a simply better driver’s version of the standard Camaro. Except, the 1LE doesn’t command a huge premium such like the Boss 302 did. Not even close. For only $6,500, you get 6-pot Brembo brakes, RECARO front buckets, super-duper graphics, a mind-blowingly awesome head-up display, suede shifter and steering wheel, adjustable exhaust, 20″ wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, and Chevy’s now-infamous magnetic ride suspension. This is definitely the package to get if you drive your car hard, winter climates be damned.

…This is the Boss 302 that Ford does not make anymore.

And, while Ford has made strides with its latest S550 Mustang, the Camaro still has the latest-and-greatest going for it; features that you find in much more expensive German and even Japanese brands. The 1LE comes with an auto rev-matching function (that can be disabled) that is cool in concept and likely more idiot-proof for daily driving downshifts (triple D?). Awesome tech, but like in the 370Z that debuted auto rev-matching to the masses, the 1LE’s system is a bit of a slap in the face to seasoned drivers whom would prefer to truly row their own. With the exception of BMW, most manufacturers are tuning their cars with very artificial rev-hang to “facilitate” shifting, but the more aggressive it is, the worse. In the Camaro, it is quite aggressive indeed requiring heavy applications of throttle to get an organic downshift in. Besides that, the transmission and shifter are a no-bullshit affair.

At 3,685 lb (1,671 kg), the 1LE is quite porky on paper and in real life. But the car handles its weight so well and changes directions quicker than you would expect. This is a true highway-to-the-B-roads bomber… and then a B-road bomber once you get there. Visibility, like the 5th generation car before it, is still shit, but you will likely not care given that everything will be behind you at one point or another. I mean, what are parking cameras for anyway, right? The 6.2L LT engine is also well-suited for all of your G-force producing, mayhem-inducing propulsion needs with a flush powerband down low that continues all the way to the top. No replacement for displacement indeed. ‘Murica, yadda yadda.

As a 2017 car, the Camaro also feels like a 2017 car. Updated LED lighting all around, great headlights, and sharp taillights give the Camaro the new-school “don’t mess with me” look that it deserves. However, the cargo and rear passenger areas do suffer from design decisions on the exterior. While the Mustang may be more practical, the Camaro is definitely the driver of the muscle car group and compromise is an unfortunate reality in this segment. That said, the availability of magnetic ride, Carplay/Android Auto, a cool-status HUD, and killer looks make the 1LE a compelling buy nonetheless.

The Camaro 1SS 1LE package starts at $44,000, which is good value considering a Mustang GT Premium is $1000 more expensive and doesn’t even have a track package.


[Images: Chevrolet]

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Alex is an automotive journalist from Montreal, Canada since 2008. He is certifiably addicted and doesn’t think of anything but cars. Driving is his drug. He also occasionally suffers from bouts of afro hair.
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