2015 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE Review: A Fond Farewell to a Legend
Over the past 5 years, I have driven a handful of new Chevrolet Camaro models at dealerships or small company drive events, but due to schedule issues and the basic headaches of my job, I have been unable to spend quality time with the 5th generation Camaro. I have had the luxury of pushing the 2010-2014 Camaro in V6 and SS to the limit on a small road course in addition to taking the ZL1 for a quick spin, but I haven’t been able to offer a full review of the 5th gen Camaro over the past few years. Fortunately, with the 2016 Camaro quickly approaching, the folks from GM found me a Camaro to spend a week with and much to my pleasure, it was a 2SS 1LE package – allowing me to really experience the mainstream Camaro at its absolute best.
Not surprisingly, I loved every minute of my time behind the wheel of the 2015 Camaro 1LE, and while it wasn’t as much fun to toss around as some of the other muscle cars on the market today, I believe that it is the stickiest modern muscle car I’ve driven when excluding the high priced, high performance models. When it comes to your standard, affordable muscle car – the 2015 Camaro 1LE handles as well as anything, including the 2013 Boss 302 Mustang that is one of my favorite modern muscle cars.
If you are somehow unfamiliar with the 1LE package for the 2015 Camaro, here is a quick rundown. Basically, when the Ford Mustang came out with the Boss 302 package that was a high performance handling package based on the Mustang GT, General Motors countered with the Camaro SS 1LE. The 1LE package adds the lightweight 20 inch rims from the Camaro ZL1 wrapped in the same high performance Goodyear Eagle Supercar Gen 2 tires, a high performance suspension setup that includes larger monotube dampers, a larger anti-roll bar up front, a front strut tower brace, heavy duty rear shock mounts and other bits, unique body upgrades front to rear and some minor interior upgrades.
This all comes in addition to the basic standard features of the Camaro 2SS on which my 1LE test car was built, which includes a proper 6-speed manual transmission mated to the 432hp LS3 V8 along with all of the interior niceties. The 2SS is the premium package for the Camaro SS, so my 1LE test car was the most expensive build possible for the Camaro SS coupe, and when you add in the Recaro Performance seats, the RS package, the dual mode exhaust system (a must-have) and the navigation system, the price as tested sits at $46,595. This is a big chunk of change, but keep in mind that this is for a fully loaded Camaro SS with handling and aerodynamic items borrowed from the ZL1 – making this the most well-appointed and best-performing of the high volume Camaro packages.
While the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE is the best-handling of the sub-50k muscle cars, I would also argue that it is the best-looking of the 5th generation Camaro packages. The 1LE package adds the ZL1 front splitter, the ZL1 rear spoiler and the split-spoke ZL1 wheels and tires, along with a matte black vented SS hood which - when paired with the stunning bright red paint of my test car – makes for one beautiful muscle car. When I had this stunning red and black beauty parked in front of my house for a week, I found myself frequently admiring it from my office window and that admiration was noticed on the roads as well, as the 1LE package is remarkably eye-catching. I live in an area where there are Camaros everywhere, but the red and black 1LE still draw looks all over town.
My Camaro 1LE test car also had the RS package, which adds HID headlights with LED trim rings, and this is another aspect of the exterior design that I love. Not only does the 1LE look incredibly sporty with the ZL1 body bits and wheels, but the high tech headlights give this Camaro a menacing look day and night.
Honestly, I like the 1LE package on the 2015 Camaro so much – regardless of the exterior color chosen – that I wouldn’t think twice about getting this package were I to order a new Camaro today. For $3,500, the appearance upgrades of the 1LE package almost justify the cost…and the look is only the tip of this very cool iceberg.
On the inside, the 1LE package has very minimal input, but the 2SS package made my 2015 Camaro test car very well appointed, especially when the optional navigation and Recaro performance seats were added in. In addition to the suede and leather Recaro racing inspired seats, the 2SS packages adds a color driver information center, a color heads up display (which I love), a 4-pack of gauges in front of the shifter, a Boston Acoustics sound system and a backup camera that displays on the navigation screen. In other words, there really isn’t much that you don’t get when you buy a fully loaded Camaro 2SS.
While I have driven a few 5th gen Camaros, I’ve never spent more than an hour at a time in one, so when people who had tested the Camaro complained about the interior, I was inclined to believe their gripes. However, having spent 7 days and 600 miles behind the wheel of the Camaro 1LE, I really don’t see the problem with the interior. To hear some critics complain about the current (5h gen) Camaro, you would think that it was designed in the 1980s, with cardboard door panels and a bare metal dash, but in reality, there isn’t anything wrong with the Camaro cockpit.
The way that the dashboard meets the door panels creates a very fluid form around the driver and passenger, with the large tach and speedometer jutting up from the otherwise linear dash. Between these big gauge pods is a small driver information center that includes navigation, vehicle and sound system information, all of which are controlled from the steering wheel mounted buttons. The heads-up display is one of my favorite I’ve seen, with a colorful tachometer allowing you to nail your shift points without looking away from the road.
The touchscreen navigation system is mounted a little lower on the dash than many models, but the system works just as well as any other system I’ve tested, giving you quick and easy access to the navigation, vehicle settings and sound system with the touchscreen, the buttons and knobs around the screen, the steering wheel buttons or voice control. If you like simple temperature controls, the Camaro is ideal, as it uses a very traditional set of buttons and knobs to adjust the interior climate control.
Soft padded armrests on the doors and on the center console work with the suede Recaro seats to provide a comfortable, inviting environment and while the roofline does give the illusion of a tighter cabin, I know plenty of very tall Camaro owners who have no problem fitting into the driver’s seat. The back seat is really a little too tight in terms of leg room for anyone but small children and while I had a hard time driving comfortably with an adult seated behind me, I was able to put my kid behind me and drive with both of us being comfortable. In other words – plenty of seating space for tall adults up front, but not so much in the back. Also, in addition to looking great, the Recaro performance seats have deep bolsters to keep you soundly in place during stints of hard cornering, while being comfortable for daily driving.
Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with the interior of the 2015 Camaro 1LE, as it looks great, it is comfortable and it has all of the bells and buzzers that I could want in a modern muscle car. The 6th generation Camaro touts a totally refined cabin, but as the hundreds of thousands of Camaro buyers from the past 6 years will tell you – the interior of the Camaro 2SS leaves very little to dislike.
Now, onto the good stuff. The 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE is powered by the same LS3 V8 that the rest of the SS lineup relies on, with a 6-speed close ratio manual transmission and 3.91 rear gears putting the power to the sticky ZL1 tires. This engine delivers 426 horsepower and 420lb-ft of torque in normal form, but this particular 1LE test car was fitted with the dual mode performance exhaust system, which adds 6 horsepower for a total output of 432hp. If you are buying any Camaro SS, the dual mode exhaust system is worth every single cent of the $895 upcharge, as it gives the LS3 the proper voice that a muscle car deserves. The extra 6 horsepower is nice and all, but the roar of this exhaust system, the grumble when cruising and the overall wicked tone of this setup is really an awesome option that everyone should get.
As you might expect, the 432hp LS3 paired with the 3.91 gears allows the 1LE Camaro to get away from a stop in a serious hurry and the Goodyear Eagle Supercar tires do a great job of gripping the road on a hard launch. Even if you let the clutch out a little too hard, these tires minimize wheel spin and get you moving out in a hurry, so those buyers looking to go drag racing will love the feel of the 1LE package from a dig. The video below offers an interesting perspective of the Camaro 1LE, allowing us to hear the dual mode exhaust roar as I launch from a stop and run through a few gears before lifting. The latter part of the video provides a great example of the exhaust tone and grumble under normal driving conditions after letting us first hear the exhaust scream at wide open throttle.
As sticky as the 2015 Camaro 1LE is from a stop, it is even better when you are accelerating hard from a roll or accelerating out of a corner. The 1LE suspension package paired with these Eagle Supercar tires allows you to power through corners with very minimal oversteer and precision steering accuracy on turn-on. This is truly a car that you can throw around with extreme levels of confidence, as it clings to the road so well that you have to really push hard to get the back end to walk out. There is almost no body roll under the most extreme cornering situations and when blasting out on the open road, the Camaro 1LE powers through the long sweeping corners with a feel that is more like a supercar than a muscle car.
Most importantly, while the Camaro 1LE handles remarkably well in every situation, it maintains this level of stability without compromising ride quality. Mind you, the Camaro 1LE is predictably stiff – more so than other Camaros – but it isn’t so extreme that it can’t serve as a comfortable daily driver. It doesn’t float like a Caddy, but it doesn’t beat you up when rumbling over the rough Detroit highways at 70 miles per hour. Also, while the dual mode exhaust screams under hard throttle, it is nice and quiet when crawling around at low speeds, so you won’t wake up your neighbors when coming or going in the middle of the night. This whole package is ideal for someone who wants a car that will brake and corner as well as any muscle car under $50k, offering the ability to be right at home on a track day while still maintaining the ride quality needed for a daily driver.
While the 2015 Camaro 1LE is a great car for the experienced driver who wants a car that they can drive every day to work and enjoy on the race track, the clutch and shifter setup of the 1LE package is a nice, user-friendly setup for someone who is not so experienced with the third pedal. The clutch offers plenty of movement for someone to work the throttle without grabbing, but once you get the hang of the clutch feel, an experienced driver can get through the gears quickly with the 1LE’s short throw shifter.
Whether you spend your time blasting down the highway, rushing down the quarter mile, hustling around a road course or carving canyon roads, the 2015 Camaro 1LE handles and brakes as well as it accelerates, making it one of the best-handling high volume muscle cars I have driven. The ride is as stiff, but it is a good stiff, with cornering abilities that will go toe to toe with just about any non-Shelby Mustang coupled with the straight line and high speed capabilities that you would expect from a 432 horsepower muscle car.
This car was a total blast to drive whether I was pushing it through tight turns, launching from stop lights or just cruising Woodward. If you are considering a Camaro SS, you should make sure to check out the 1LE package, as it combines the straight line performance that you expect with unexpected handling that I promise you will love.
The Final Word
There are a great many prospective Camaro buyers who are now holding off for the 2016 model year to ring in the next generation of the GM muscle car, but for those folks shopping for a Camaro right now with a price limit below that of the supercharged Camaro ZL1 – the 2SS 1LE is an awesome option for the money. This Camaro is, in my opinion, the best-looking of the modern Camaro packages while the ZL1 parts applied as part of the 1LE package make this Camaro one of the stickiest muscle cars I’ve ever driven. Finally, with the tried and true LS3 V8 delivering 432 horsepower and 420lb-ft of torque, this Camaro offers all of the bone-crushing power that you would expect from one of the bestselling muscle cars in the last decade.
The Camaro has led the muscle car segment sales in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, making for a legendary comeback from the 2003-2009 model years where there were no Camaros offered. The 5th gen Camaro is a legend in its own right, dominating the market at a time when fuel prices were at record highs and of the high volume sales models, the 1LE is best looking and best performing of the group.
If you want a muscle car that hustles hard in a straight line while also making short work of the corners – all in an awesome looking exterior package – the 2015 Camaro 1LE is the muscle car for you. Best of all, with the 2016 models on their way, the 2015 Camaro SS with the 1LE package should be available for a lower price point when the new models arrive, making this super handling package an even more impressive deal.
This was likely my last seat time in the 5th gen Camaro and I am happy that it was spent in the 1LE, as it provided me with a fitting way to say goodbye to the Camaro that rule its class for 5 straight years. Here’s looking forward to the next generation of the Chevrolet Camaro after having enjoyed a summer crush on the outgoing generation’s value handling superstar.