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2018 Chevy Camaro SS 1LE Drivers' Notes Review | Smiles for miles

A track-focused missile

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Chevy's pony car is a divisive one. It’s fast on the track, but makes sacrifices as a daily driver. One thing’s for sure: it ain’t boring.

  • Trim
    1SS 1LE
  • Engine
    6.2L V8
  • Power
    455 HP / 455 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Manual
  • 0-60 Time
    4.2 Seconds
  • Drivetrain
    Rear-Wheel Drive
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    3,747 LBS
  • Seating
  • MPG
    16 City / 25 Highway
  • Warranty
    3 Years / 36,000 Miles
  • Base Price
  • As Tested Price
Few things are as honestly and distinctly American as the 2018 Chevy Camaro SS 1LE. It's big, loud and very, very fast. But, unlike Camaros from two or three decades ago, it's also a world-class performance car. The Camaro just as good through a corner as it is in a straight, especially when equipped with the 1LE handling package. As it always has, competition with the Ford Mustang has kept GM's engineers on their toes and helped deliver the wonderful red and black car you see here.

On the SS, the 1LE package will run you $7,000. It's not cheap, but it is transformative. The package comes with 20-inch wheels with Goodyear summer tires, Magnetic Ride Control, an electronic limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, a front splitter, a spoiler a dual-mode exhaust system, Recaro seats and a heads up display. The only other option on our test car is the $1,300 performance data recorder.

Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: The current Camaro is hands-down, my favorite of the Big Three's pony cars to drive. It seems to get everything right. It has a torquey V8 that sounds amazing. It has a short-throw shifter that's surprisingly flickable. The steering is quick with impressive precision and sensitivity. The smallest inputs translate right to the road, and it's easy to place the car. The seating position is nice and low. The chassis is rock solid, keeping creaks and rattles at bay, and the suspension is well balanced between handling and comfort, especially the magnetic suspension in the 1LE. Oh, and those Recaro seats are superb. They hold you in without squeezing the life out of larger drivers.

Now that I've got my gushing out of the way, I should address some issues I have with the Camaro. First, and as always, is the visibility. Now forward visibility isn't too much of an issue once you get rolling. You get absorbed into the driving experience and moving forward is natural and easy. Merging and backing up, though, that's a major pain. The rear blind spots are appalling, and I'm stunned Chevy doesn't include blind spot monitoring as a standard feature on every version of the Camaro. The interior is also disappointingly cheap. It's hard plastics everywhere, along with poor fitting parts such as the door handles. Only higher trims getting some stitched vinyl or faux suede on parts of the interior. At least the design itself is reasonably pleasant, especially those groovy and easy-to-use climate controls around the vents.

But at least for me, I can forgive all my gripes about the interior because the Camaro is just so good to drive. Those issues melt away as I slam the gas, shuffle the gears, and steer it through corners. It's just that good.

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: This thing is sharp, and driving the Chevy Camaro SS 1LE literally kept me on my toes. With a heavy hair-trigger clutch and tight shifts, this track-bred demon is the opposite of autonomous driving. That's a good thing. It's interactive and enjoyable. I drove it barefoot, because it's summer and a manually shifted V8 Camaro — red no less — makes for an exuberant experience. The 6.2-liter engine pumping out 455 hp is strong, raw and nicely calibrated. Chevy made it so the driver knows the engine can rip your head off, but only if you want it to do so.

Like the powertrain, the suspension is taut and tuned for performance. I drove it almost exclusively in Sport mode, even on surface streets. The steering is tight and the suspension is definitely track-intended; manhole covers and road imperfections really send this coupe off-kilter. That's cool. You buy the 1LE if you are a track rat. Go with more basic Camaro coupes for a more compliant ride.

The interior is just ok. I never really like the materials in any trim of the Camaro, this one included. The vents, which twist to adjust output, are clever. The touchscreen works well, is colorful and is intuitive to use.

Outside, this SS 1LE looks lean and mean. Done up in bright blood red with a black hood and black wheels, it's imposing, alluring and only slightly cartoonish. The '19 redesign gets more extreme, but for now I generally like the more conventional look of this year's front end. Overall, I enjoy the Camaro, and this one was hoot to have the first weekend of summer.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: It had been a while since I had been in a Camaro, but I had freshly been in V8-powered Mustangs. As I watched Reese's live drive on Facebook, I — in addition to asking dumb questions about snakes in the comments – took notice of his gleeful reaction to the car's acceleration. It made me excited to drive it.

Getting in and firing it up, it seemed promising, especially with the manual transmission. It had plenty of punch, that's for sure, but I immediately missed the buttery smoothness of the Mustang's V8. The stick shift was easy to use, if not quite as tactile as Ford's. I did like the drive modes, the inclusion of a custom mode and the ease of selecting them.

Two little things about the Camaro that bugged me: first, the touchscreen is angled downward, which is more of a design gripe than a functional one. It was still pretty easy to see and use. The other thing is visibility. It almost feels like you're driving a coffin around. I'd like bigger windows.

Associate Editor Reese Counts: It's been three years since the current Camaro debuted and nearly two years since I've been behind the wheel of one. I forgot just how good this car is. I really like the Mustang — see any of our recent long-term posts — but the Camaro just feels a little bit better. The steering is more direct, the chassis is better balanced and the shifter — in my opinion — is a little more precise. I'm not in love with the clutch (the catch point is too high and the pedal is too springy), but it's a minor thing that I could grow into. The overall pedal spacing is fine and makes heel/toe downshifts easy. There's even rev matching for those that don't want to deal with the extra footwork.

Everyone knows the GM small-block V8 is a wonderful piece of machinery. It doesn't rev out quite like the Mustang's 5.0-liter DOHC V8, but it's no slouch. I do like it better than the naturally-aspirated versions of the Hemi. There's gobs of torque everywhere in the rev range and makes some absolutely fantastic noises. It doesn't sing or rip like some German or Japanese V8s, but that's what makes it so good. It's wholly and distinctly American, and I absolutely love it.

I'm still not sold on the styling, but it has grown on me quite a bit. There are just some really dumb choices that I can't understand. Why is the truck opening so small? Why do the air vents aim at your knuckles and not at your face or chest? Why does the infotainment screen appear to be tilted forward? I don't have those issues with the Mustang, which is frustrating. The Ford is better to live with, but the Camaro is better to drive. Then there's always the Shelby GT350 and Corvette Stingray looming on the horizon. Oh, and the BMW M2. And a base Porsche 718 Cayman. My point is, there are a lot of really great cars in the $50,000 to $60,000 range. It's hard to go wrong.

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