Given the wide range of parameters that Chevy must meet when it designs a new car, it's no surprise that a ton of performance gets left on the table. As hot rodders, we don't care if the ride is a little jerky, if the exhaust leaves you with a permanent ringing in your ears or if you have to fill the gas tank every 120 miles. That's the price we're usually willing to pay for maximum performance.
That's not how most of the general population views their cars, though. They want them to do everything well and don't generally care if there is a way to go around a corner pulling an extra 0.05 g--just make it comfortable and reliable. Add into account that GM sells millions of cars that have to do a multitude of different things in completely different climates and geographic regions, from Death Valley in the summer to Alaska in the winter. The tune that may net you an extra tenth at the local sea-level dragstrip might very well damage your engine if you're pulling a trailer through the Rockies. It's all about compromises, and those trade-offs typically result in very good rather than ultimate grip and go.
LSR Performance of Pompano Beach, Florida (and Valdosta, Georgia), makes and sells parts that narrow this gap between stock and all-out competition for the fifth-gen Camaro. Its goal is to offer components that improve acceleration, shifting, looks and handling without turning your expensive new car into a rough-riding, bucking beast that guzzles fuel while fouling plugs.
We spent no less than a month with an LSR-prepped Camaro SS (LS3/six-speed manual) that carried virtually every bolt-on it offers. We drove it to work and play, we throttled it at the strip and tossed it around the road course at Gainesville Raceway. We loved almost everything about it, save for the finicky aftermarket clutch and having to endure hundreds of mind-numbing Bumble Bee comments because of the eyeball-popping Transformers yellow paint. Ultimately, we discovered that LSR does an excellent job of moving the needle way closer to stellar without sacrificing comfort or drivability.
To improve its handling, our test SS had LSR's lowering springs (1-inch drop front, 1.25-inch drop rear), adjustable front and rear sway bars, lowering springs, CNC-machined billet trailing arms, CNC billet toe links, chromoly subframe brake and billet floorpan brace. The car retains the factory dampers. Completing the suspension are front and rear bushing kits from Energy Suspension. The trailing arms are stronger and lighter than stock and also include firmer bushings to improve suspension response (by reducing compliance) and help drop your 60-ft times at the track.
The LSR toe links are said to be 40-percent lighter than stock and thanks to their stiffer bushings prevent excessive toe deflection upon cornering and braking. Helping to fortify the chassis further are its billet floorpan brace and chromoly subframe brace.
As far as acceleration goes, the LSR Camaro had basic but effective modifications. Its cold-air kit, Kooks axle-back exhaust system and LSR-specific computer calibration put up some impressive numbers on the Dynojet in Super Chevy's Snap On Tech Center in Tampa. How does 415 rear-wheel horsepower and 415 lb-ft torque sound (SAE corrected)? That's quite an improvement over the 365-380 owners typically see stock in these cars.
To complete the mechanical package there are those gorgeous BBS wheels (20x9.5-inch front, 20x10 rear) and fat Nitto Invo tires (275/35 and 315/35) and LSR's slotted rotor upgrade. These wheels add a lot of money to the price ($2,350 sans tires), but it's definitely money well spent. The wheel/tire combo is slightly heavier than stock, but the tires are much larger. Plus, the BBS rollers absolutely transform the look of the SS. This was our first time on track with Nitto's Invo tires and we were curious to see how they'd do when pushed to the limit and beyond.