LAS VEGAS, Nevada — You’ll never guess which cars Chevrolet is targeting as competitors for its new 2019 Camaro Turbo 1LE. No, not the Ford Mustang EcoBoost with the Performance Package, but the Ford Focus ST and RS, as well as the Honda Civic Type-R, Toyota 86, Subarus BRZ, WRX, and STI and the like.
This makes some sort of sense in that the 2019 Chevy Camaro Turbo 1LE is the Code 130R concept that we never got. That rear-wheel-drive design exercise was introduced at the 2012 North American International Auto Show, alongside the front-wheel-drive True 140S, as a sort of poor enthusiast’s BMW 2 Series coupe. But the Obama administration-era Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for 2025, assuming the Trump administration doesn’t dismantle it, favor larger vehicles by setting a specific fuel economy number by vehicle “footprint.” The Chevy Camaro is about two feet longer overall than the RWD Subaru BRZ coupe, arguably the most direct competitor along with the Toyota 86 of those mentioned above, and yet it gets competitive fuel mileage; 20/30 mpg EPA, versus 21/29 for a BRZ, and 20/27 mpg for a BRZ ts (each car when equipped with a six-speed manual).
The ’19 Chevy Camaro Turbo 1LE was convincing on a short Gymkhana-like road circuit set up in a parking lot just outside Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Its responsive steering gives good feedback and there’s minimal body roll and understeer, and its tail will step out slightly and controllably as you power out of a tight corner, all of this with the traction and stability control off.
In short, it handles like the smaller, lighter cars that are intended competitors, except, of course, that you’re inside this cavernous, large coupe.
“That’s the nearly 50/50 weight balance,” Camaro engineering chief Al Oppenheiser says after my three laps.
Thankfully, lapping a road course never involves deliberately backing up. It did involve “lead-follow,” with my Camaro behind a professional driver in a Corvette, who cautions it’s best to get into third gear in the Camaro Turbo 1LE, and stay there to avoid bumping the redline. That’s fine for the turns, though a couple of corners beg for a 3-2 downshift (the six-speed manual has a nice, positive linkage, by the way, and though not the absolute best gearbox, shouldn’t dissuade you even if you’re cross-shopping it with the Civic Type-R). Exiting tight turns onto the couple of long sweepers on this short course, the 2.0-liter turbo four’s 275 hp @ 5,600 rpm and 295 lb-ft @ 3,000-4,500 rpm is far from enough to keep up with the lead-follow C7. Plus, a higher redline would have invited more second-gear corners.
Like the Camaro V-6 and SS 1LE, the Turbo 1LE is designed for “extreme track focus” by adding the Camaro ZL1’s suspension, brakes and tires, and comes with a track warranty, Oppenheiser says. That means the I-4 turbo 1LE coupe (no convertibles with the package) get the FE3 suspension, thicker front and rear anti-roll bars, specifically tuned dampers, stiffer rear-cradle bushings, and cross-axis ball joints in the rear tow linkage for better lateral stiffness, plus asymmetric summer-only Goodyear Eagle F1s, P245/40R-20 front and P275/35R-20 rear. Brakes are six-piston Brembos, and the car has a manual limited-slip differential, with 3.27:1 final gearing.
The track-test car was covered with camouflage to hide a mid-cycle refresh for the Gen V Camaro, about to enter its fourth year.
The full ’19 Camaro line benefits from the “new face” of Chevrolet. On the 2.0 Turbo and V-6 models, that means a reshaped, more prominent upper fascia, though still separated from the lower front fascia by the body-colored bumper, while the V-8-powered SS gets a blacked-out center bar that blends the upper and lower fascias together, which opens up the look of the front grille.
The SS grille also gets the “flowtie” from the Z/28, the bow tie emblem with an opening that Oppenheiser says brings in an additional 2.5 cubic meters of airflow per minute. The ’19 SS also comes with two functional air extractors in the hood, plus aero-enhancing air curtains and distinct headlamps with a new LED “signature,” and the automatic transmission is General Motors’ new 10-speed, with paddle shifters and custom launch control.
The RS Appearance Package for the ’19 Camaro LT adds LED headlamps with an LED signature light bar, a distinct rear fascia with a rear diffuser, and 20-inch wheels. The ’19 Camaro’s dual taillamps are now LED as well, with red lenses on LS and LT, and dark-tinted neutral-density lenses on RS, SS, and ZL1. A new paint color, Riverside Blue, celebrates the 1969 Penske Racing Mark Donohue Camaro.
The ’19 Camaro 2SS and ZL1 trim models come with a standard rear camera mirror, and there’s a higher definition rear-vision camera standard on all models, plus optional Forward Collision Alert. It wouldn’t be a mid-cycle refresh without connectivity and information/entertainment upgrades. The ‘19 Camaro benefits from the brand’s next-generation Infotainment 3, featuring a standard seven-inch color touchscreen, and an available upgrade to navigation and an eight-inch color touchscreen. The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro goes on sale late this summer.
2018 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE Specifications
|ON SALE||Late summer 2018|
|ENGINE||2.0L DOHC 16-valve turbocharged I-4/275 hp @ 5,600 rpm/295 lb-ft. @ 3,000-4,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine RWD 2-door, 4-passenger coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||20/30 mpg|
|L x W x H||188.3 x 74.7 x 53.1 in|