Chevrolet created the new Camaro ZL1 1LE to lop whole seconds, not mere fractions, off the Camaro ZL1’s already stellar track times. And it does so without changes to the ZL1’s supercharged 6.2-liter V8. No more power was necessary – 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque is more than sufficient. Engineers instead concentrated, with Puritanical single-mindedness, on the details.
For example, the six-speed manual gets a shorter sixth-gear ratio than the regular ZL1, because it proved quicker around the Nürburgring. At the Ring, the 1LE only shifts into sixth gear once. Once. The 10-speed automatic isn’t available, because it’s 50 pounds heavier than the manual, and the 200-mph top speed provided by the automatic’s extra gears isn’t useful on road courses.
The hardware exclusive to the 1LE reads like a race engineer’s letter to Santa and more than justifies the $7500 surcharge over a ZL1. As in the last Camaro Z/28, spool-valve dampers are used at every corner. Here, they’re housed in stiffer, lighter, and smaller aluminum housings. To precisely locate the front struts and improve transient responses, the rubber usually sandwiched between the struts and the strut towers is removed. The upper strut mount also features a rotating assembly that allows for camber adjustments, and the threaded body provides a 0.79-inch height adjustment. At the rear axle, the suspension’s subframe is hard mounted to the unibody to eliminate unwanted play.
Compared with the standard ZL1, the 1LE’s tires are 20 millimeters wider all around. They’re mounted on wider wheels, possible in front only because the struts are slimmer. To counteract the weight that comes with the added width, diameter shrinks to 19 inches, compared with the ZL1’s 20s. The wheels are just large enough to fit over the 15.4-inch steel rotors and six-piston calipers up front. Clearance between the caliper and the inside of the wheel is tight; just try slipping…