When you think of taking a Chevrolet Camaro to the track, you probably think of eight rambunctious cylinders arranged in a V pattern. You might think about a car that’s fast and loud, and fun in the straights, but not so great when the track gets curvy. It’s hard to suppress what we know from more than a half-century of this car’s history, but we now live in a world where Chevrolet sells a version of its iconic coupe with just four cylinders that’s specifically designed for track performance.
I’m talking about the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE. It’s not the first turbocharged 4-cylinder Camaro, but it is the first one equipped with the 1LE package. The 1LE package includes such upgrades as suspension borrowed from the (non-1LE) Camaro SS, an improved cooling system for the engine, transmission and differential, Brembo brakes and Goodyear Eagle F1 summer run-flat tires. Another fun mechanical perk for the driving purist is a 6-speed manual as the only transmission choice. There are also a few visual upgrades, including a black hood, a black rear spoiler and black mirrors, a different front bumper with a bigger splitter, a flat-bottom steering wheel on the inside and available Recaro seats.
So, what’s the point of this car? If you’re getting a Camaro for the track, why not just get the SS 1LE or even the V6 1LE? It’s simple: the Turbo 1LE is an affordable performance car that you can buy with track-ready modifications right from the factory — all with a nice, comforting warranty. That makes it a great, sporty coupe for a car you want to mostly use on the street, but also occasionally want to bring to the track without having to worry about making your own out-of-warranty modifications.
As for that turbocharged 4-banger under the hood, it does a nice job striking a balance between fun and efficiency. Its performance is more than adequate on the street, and it can get more than 30 mpg on the highway — though, admittedly, it does sometimes feel underpowered on the track. I’d be lying if I said I was satisfied with just four cylinders the whole time I was lapping the Ridge Motorsports Park in this Camaro. There were a few times when I longed for a V6 or a V8 in front of me, especially when the track straightened out.
This isn’t a comparison test, but it’s worth noting that the Ecotec engine under the hood of this Camaro isn’t as satisfying as the base engine in its direct competitor, the Ford Mustang EcoBoost, which is available with Performance Package options similar to the 1LE package on the Camaro, making it more of a track toy. The EcoBoost beats the Camaro’s Ecotec engine both on paper and in practice with the Ford engine having an advantage of 35 horsepower and 55 lb-ft of torque over the Chevy, which is noticeable from behind the wheel while getting almost identical fuel economy.
Still, the turbo Camaro 1LE is a fun car on the road and a perfectly competent car on the track — and it comes in at an attainable price point. Nonetheless, if you’re in the market for a Camaro 1LE, I recommend you buy one with as many cylinders under the hood as you can afford. That said, a track car this good straight from the factory that just barely crosses the $30k mark is a strong value.