Here’s a short list of the best cars I drove last year: Dodge Viper ACR, Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, Acura NSX, and most importantly, a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro V-6 Convertible. Is this the first time a V-6 Camaro was mentioned in the same breath as an ACR? Probably, but I had such a perplexing amount of fun in the drop-top V-6 Camaro, I couldn’t help but to sing its praises.
For 2017, Chevy offers the junior Camaro with the track-focused 1LE package, so imagine my peculiar elation when a Krypton Green Camaro V-6 1LE arrived on our paved doorstep.
Like the SS 1LE, it is best viewed as a trim rather than an entirely different model. Visually, both 1LEs ramp up the aggression by incorporating a new black front splitter, signature blacked-out hood, and new 20-inch wheels unique to the package.
To prep the V-6 for trackwork, the coupe receives a whole wardrobe of hand-me-down performance components from the SS, including auxiliary cooling systems, limited slip differential, fuel management, differential cooler, and most notably, the SS’ FE3 suspension system that adds upgraded front struts and a stronger multilink rear suspension.
Not pilfered from the SS are those new 20-inch wheels, wrapped in 245/40ZR-20 front and 275/35ZR-20 rear Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric run-flats. These new shoes hide four-piston Brembo calipers in the front, a slight downgrade from the six-pots on the SS 1LE.
On-road, these SS components add up. The Camaro’s Alpha platform remains the sharpest in the segment; with the 1LE’s bits bolted on, the confidence it inspires is refreshing. Steering is excellent and very communicative through the 1LE’s microsuede steering wheel.
Brakes aren’t as grabby as the six-piston calipers on the SS 1LE, but the Brembo system was still more than capable of hauling the coupe down from speed. The 1LE’s composure and predictability all feel like hallmarks of something much more expensive, belying the Camaro badge on the horn button.
Under the distinctive satin black hood idles the same 3.6-liter V-6 we loved in the regular V-6 Camaro. Output remains at 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque, routed to the rear wheels through a short-throw six-speed manual transmission. This is more-or-less the same engine we find in Cadillac, GMC, and Buick applications, but in the Camaro, it feels right at home.
Just like we discovered in the convertible, the GM V-6 has never sounded better. Even on the standard V-6 Camaro, it wails not unlike the F-Type S. It’s a very distinctive war cry, hitting a raucous tonality more in line with classic six-cylinder sports cars of yore than modern V-6s. In the 1LE, the 3.6-liter adds a selectable setting to the exhaust, wedging the active exhaust flaps open, allowing the LGX V-6 to sing freely.
On tight California canyon roads, I hardly missed the relentless grunt of the 6.2-liter V-8. The V-6 1LE will still hit 0-60 mph in a respectable 5.2 seconds, so there’s still some speed to match the sound. Still, a lack of low-end grunt stymies any plans for bravado-laced light-to-light sprints, considering peak power arrives toward the top of the rev range.
As tempting as it is, the V-6 1LE occupies an interesting and unenviable position in the marketplace. With an affordable base price of around $32,000, it’s competing directly with the slow-selling 370Z, a stripped-out BMW 228i, and a loaded Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86. Buyers of these cars tend to be tribal in nature – someone interested in purchasing a 370Z is most likely not going to consider a V-6 Camaro, no matter the performance, and a BMW buyer is going to stick within the confines of his/her entry luxury segment.
In this regard, the V-6 1LE is in a class of its own. For the money, you won’t find a more capable, track-ready rear-wheel-drive coupe. I know, it might be hard to swallow, but for the first time, the V-6 Camaro is a viable alternative to the big-boy V-8 SS for enthusiasts on a budget. Instead of feeling like a performance compromise, it’s a different experience altogether.
I guess it’s time to update my list for 2017.
2017 Chevrolet Camaro V-6 1LE Specifications
|ENGINE||3.6L DOHC 24-valve V-6/335 hp @ 6,800 rpm, 284 lb-ft @ 5,300 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/27 mpg|
|L x W x H||188.3 x 74.7 x 53.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.2 sec|