I should preface this by stating that I love my V-8s as much as any of you, but there’s a trend brewing out there. I’ve been breathing for just over half a century, so the whole concept of “muscle cars need V-8 power!” is pretty engrained in my DNA. But, the truth is that there’s a huge segment of the driving population that is, for whatever reason, enamored with small-displacement boosted engines. Maybe they dreamed of owning a Subaru WRX STi or Mitsubishi EVO, or maybe they just see V-8s as “dad cars.” It could be they can’t afford the insurance or the higher costs an SS brings. Whatever the reason, this group is out there and Chevrolet has been trying to figure out a way to entice them into the Camaro camp.
Enter the 2019 Camaro Turbo 1LE. Now, don’t get excited thinking GM slapped a turbo on an LT1. This variant combines the proven handling prowess of the 1LE with GM’s peppy 2.0L four-banger. Yeah, to most of us the idea of a four-cylinder in a Camaro sounds loopy, but the combination offers a lot of performance for a lot less cash. And this combination might be enough to pull some drivers out of their imports and into American muscle.
I was invited up to Seattle to pilot the new, boosted 1LE at Ridge Motorsports Park near Seattle and I have to admit the car was a blast to drive. The I-4 DOHC VVT Direct Injected Turbo mill puts out 275 hp at 5,600 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque all the way from 3,000 to 4,500 rpm. Yeah, that’s a huge drop in power from an LT1-powered SS, but the Camaro weighs a bunch less—3,354 pounds—so the car doesn’t feel slow unless you screw up a shift and fall out of the powerband. Around the course it never felt underpowered, which is attributed to the torque output and gearing in the rear along with the six-speed manual transmission. On the practical side, it knocks down 30 mpg on the highway and I’m pretty sure the insurance is a ton cheaper. So, while I don’t see our beloved V-8s going away, especially in my garage, I can see a move to cater toward today’s younger enthusiast drivers and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Photos by Steven Rupp