2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE First Drive: Sublime Track Attack [Video]

Hitting the handling sweet spot

Chevrolet went for simplistic power and overwhelming control when they built the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE. It is, for the lack of finding a better car after driving and testing them for decades, one of the best handling track cars I’ve driven. It’s not too shabby on regular roads as well. Depending on the accessories, the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE starts at $34,995.

Chevrolet brought us out to Seattle, Washington to drive the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS and the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE. We drove on back roads, highways, though Seattle traffic and on the track in the 1LE. Our conclusion? There’s definitely more than meets the eye.Making the most of four cylinders

Its turbocharged 275 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes 295 lbs-feet of torque, the same as last year. The 1LE package, however, comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission. This vehicle is 100 lbs lighter than the V6 1LE and about 400 lbs lighter than the V8-powered SS. That decreased weight up front makes for a near 50/50 weight distribution. The car is balanced and easy to toss around. In sum, it weighs just under 3,400 pounds, and it feels well-planted – never ponderous.

Think of the Camaro SS suspension, tires and wheels added to the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE and you’ll begin to understand what they did here. It has the independent five-link rear suspension with twin-tube/track-tuned shocks and direct-acting stabilizer bar, front (and rear) roll-bars from the SS, specially tuned dampers, springs from the V6 and you begin to see how unique tuning for this 1LE package truly is.

Exterior components consist of more goodies from other Camaros and a signature black 1LE hood. It has lots of go-fast bits including dual exhaust and a spoiler from the Camaro V6’s parts bin.

How is the Camaro Turbo 1LE on the road?

It ain’t fast. No, it’s not like a Chevrolet Camaro SS or Mustang GT off the line. It’s properly quick and the turbo lag is minimal. Honestly, it’s not about the overall power, it’s about the ability to change direction rapidly and be in complete control when you do. In that way, this car delivers.

Power into a corner, snap down a gear and hit the brakes before you have to turn, bank soft and punch it when you know you can clear the corner and maximize your thrust. That’s how it’s supposed to work – for me. If I do this in a Challenger SRT Hellcat, it’s like controlling something that takes no pleasure in cornering as it shreds its rear rubber exiting the corner. In a Camaro SS or Mustang, the rear will (probably) step out a bit leaving the corner.

That same maneuver in the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE – heaven. It stiffens its shoulders, barely sways and shoots out of that same corner with no complaints. Steering feel is excellent and the gearbox is rewarding each time you shift. You can feel, in the seat of your pants and in the bright corners of your driving soul what this car is doing at all times.

I dare say, it’s one of the best handling cars south of $75,000.

Issues? Sure, there are a few. It’s not happy in traffic – the four-cylinder turbo lacks the low-end grunt to pull you along at slow speeds. Get stuck in stop-and-go traffic, and it’s a delicate balance of clutch and throttle to shuffle along smoothly. Fortunately, the clutch feels positive, so it’s not difficult once you’re used to it. And you will scrape going down all but the most gentle driveway slopes. The back seats are tiny, so is the trunk’s opening – although the cargo space is not too shabby. It’s also an attention getter, even without the V8 sound.

Speaking of “sound” the augmented engine noise does have an “off” button so to speak. That’s a good thing.

I had to think about the possibility of actually owning a car like this and I came to a surprising conclusion (for me): Yes, if I still lived in Southern California and I didn’t have little ones… HELL YES! I love track days and this car is a logical, inexpensive and fun-as-hell vehicle to drive. Yes, under those circumstances, I would own one.

Can’t WAIT until we get one up to our test track. I am sure it will impress the whole TFL team.