As if the 650hp Camaro ZL1 wasn’t enough, Chevrolet just upped the ante with a gonzo track version that they debuted at Daytona International Speedway. Like the 1LE package that’s available for 6th-generation V6 and V8 Camaros, the 2018 ZL1 1LE is focused on handling and lower lap times and is available only with a 6-speed manual. Unlike the naturally-aspirated 1LEs, the ZL1 is powered by the supercharged 6.2L LT4 that’s shared with the Z06 Corvette and carries over a bit of 5th-gen Z/28 by using Multimatic Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve (DSSV) shock absorbers front and rear. The front suspension features an adjustable ride height and camber plates for track-day tuning, while the rear anti-sway bar has three settings to dial in to the track and quickly return to street duty.
The 2018 ZL1 1LE uses the widest tire package offered on a Camaro, with 305/30ZR19 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R tires up front, matching the size used on all four corners of the fifth-generation Z/28. In the rear, 325/30ZR19s are tucked into the fenderwells, just shy of the 335mm-wide tires used on the Z06. The tires are mounted to unique, forged aluminum wheels and deliver a maximum lateral grip of 1.10g. To maintain cornering power at speed, new front dive planes and a carbon fiber rear wing provide additional downforce.
Despite the wheels and tires giving the ZL1 1LE 10-percent larger footprint, they’re each about 1.5 pounds lighter per corner in part because the wheels are one inch shorter in diameter compared to the ZL1. Weight savings on the ZL1 1LE continue through the use of a non-folding rear seat, thinner rear window glass, and the move to DSSV shocks. The total is approximately 60 pounds compared to a standard ZL1.
When this car was seen in camouflage, many concluded that it would be the next Z/28. The name fits the track-oriented nature of the car and it does have a nice ring to it, while ZL1 1LE doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but the lack of a high-revving naturally aspirated V8 would have no doubt caused Z/28 purists to flock to their keyboards and voice their displeasure. With the LS7 gone and nothing in the current powertrain stable to fill its shoes, we’d been hoping that the rumored LT5 would be the go-to for the next super Camaro. In the standard ZL1 trim, the LT4 does a fantastic job and even sounds the part.
Aside from the name, the big surprise about the ZL1 1LE has to be the transmission. With the gap in performance between automatics and their human-shifted counterparts growing, we applaud Chevrolet for offering the manual, but are surprised by the lack of availability of the ZL1’s fantastically integrated 10-speed automatic transmission.