The Chevrolet Camaro is definitely not the easiest car to live with. Killer looks are one thing, but visibility is simply atrocious. At least when you’re talking about the coupe. The Camaro Convertible obviously doesn’t have this problem.
It’s an entirely different story as far as performance and dynamic driving are concerned. The Camaro is one of the best sports cars out there, all segments considered. This is especially true with the optional 1LE Track Performance Package ($8,495 of money well spent), available on the more powerful SS and ZL1 models.
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The naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 engine, which delivers 455 horsepower, sends the Camaro SS from 0-100 km/h in 4.66 seconds and completes the quarter-mile in 12.76 seconds (at 184.7 km/h) with the six-speed manual gearbox – ample power and speed to a have a blast on a track. At just over $55,000 in 1SS trim with the 1LE package, pricing is reasonable, too. And remember that these cars basically don’t lose any value in today’s market.
Obviously, the ZL1 is spectacular with a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 cranking out 650 horsepower, but it’s also heavier, less efficient and much more expensive at over $82,000—again with the 1LE package included. What’s more, maintenance proves costly and time-consuming as the complexity and demands of the supercharged engine for track use are not to be taken lightly.
A Buffet of Performance Goodies
So, what exactly does the 1LE package bring to the mix? The most striking upgrades include a Satin Black hood wrap, black front splitter, black mirror caps and black rear spoiler. The 20-inch forged aluminum wheels are also black and wrapped in beefy Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar 3 tires (285/30R20 front, 305/30R20 rear). Behind them are powerful Brembo brakes with six-piston callipers and 370mm discs up front and four-piston callipers in the rear.
The stiffer, performance-tuned suspension makes good use of the latest version of GM’s excellent Magnetic Ride Control damping technology. The electronic locking differential benefits from an additional oil cooler designed for track driving. Ditto for the engine and transmission. Meanwhile, the dual-mode exhaust system lets out a deep growl through four stainless steel tips. All of the above is built on the exceptional Alpha architecture that’s been underpinning the sixth-gen Camaro since 2016, not to mention the current Cadillac CT4 and CT5.
The Recaro sports seats, also part of the 1LE package, achieve a perfect blend of comfort and support, while the Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel is just thick enough for a pleasant grip. The centre console houses a small shifter with a solid feel and short, precise throws. The shift knob is clad in Alcantara and the badge at the top is a reminder that Chevy engineers failed to put reverse to the left of the first gear.
The paddle shifters on the steering wheel control the transmission’s rev-matching function—a nifty addition first seen on the C7 Corvette that proves quite simple to use. Completing the package is a head-up display to support the two large and four small gauges in the instrument cluster.
Perfect Time, Perfect Place
To make the most of our time with the 2022 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE, our best option was the safe and controlled environment of Sanair, a renowned superspeedway about 75 minutes west of Montreal.
We happened to be there for a Sanair Track Day, one of 15 such events held during the season. Online registration costs $100 more than two days before the event, or else you must pay $140 for seven sessions of 15 minutes each. Participants are split among four groups—green (beginners), yellow (intermediate), red (advanced) and black (expert).
On that sunny Saturday, there were all kinds of cars on hand, from a bunch of modified Civics to a couple of Mazda RX-8s, Honda S2000s and Toyota MR-2 Spyders to a pair of black Camaro SS 1LE models. Also a few Porsche Cayman and Subaru BRZ coupes, several Miatas and a Porsche 911 GT3 waiting in line behind a Micra Cup car and a Tesla Model Y. Heck, we even saw an old Ford Pinto with a 427ci V8 tuned to more than 600 horsepower.
The Sanair Track Day program was created by Kévin Leduc back when he was only 18. He’s been in charge for about a decade now, with the help of relatives and friends. His focus has always been safety, which is why you’ll find three flagmen at strategic points along the 1.98 km track.
On the Track at Sanair
The first session behind the wheel of the Camaro had us trailing Leduc’s heavily modified Civic, just so we could get familiar with the car and the track. Even though the big Chevy had twice the power, we resisted the urge to overtake the Civic. Handling felt good and predictable despite the massive weight difference between the two cars. We noticed the brake pedal lost some strength after two or three laps, but things returned to normal soon after.
Our second time out on the track was a solo, pedal-to-the-metal affair, with the Camaro reaching nearly 210 km/h in fourth gear before having to slam the brakes. The seemingly endless first corner was easy to go around in Competition mode, despite stability control being turned off. Attacking the sharper corners next to the speedway was just as fun and rewarding, with the sweet V8 soundtrack adding to the experience.
As we discovered yet again, the Camaro SS 1LE has a ton of skills and big-time potential on a track. This latest test, like the previous ones, sadly felt way too short. But guess what? Kévin Leduc is thinking about an endurance racing program. Sign us up!
Sanair Track Day