JDM Heaven in a V6 Camaro?

It seems as though the automotive world has been transfixed on the latest-generation Ford Mustang as the be-all, end-all muscle car of the 21st century. On an international scale, the birth of the 6th-generation Camaro has pretty much flown under the radar. 

But not so in North America. Although it doesn't look too different from the 5th-generation, it's received rave reviews from critics. Motor Trend even named the new Camaro its "Car of the Year", an impressive feat when you consider the candidates it was up against. This victory was achieved, in no small part, thanks to the Camaro's massive weight loss and Cadillac ATS-based chassis. 

The 2016 Camaro sent the automotive world a message. The new Camaro is more than just Bumble Bee. It wants to be taken seriously.

It was little surprise, then, when it was announced that the beloved 1LE package would return to the Camaro SS for 2017. Like the last one, the new 1LE promises low-cost performance upgrades that turn the mid-life crisis special into a track-ready sportscar. Expect suspension upgrades, soft tires, and a limited-slip differential.

The surprise, however, came when Chevrolet announced that they would be giving the V6 Camaro the 1LE treatment, as well.

This announcement left me intrigued. It almost seemed superfluous for Chevrolet to make a performance version of the V6 model. Traditionally, a V6 muscle car has been a sign of shame--you only bought one because your bank account (or parents) wouldn't let you get a V8. Therefore, the V6 muscle car has had "loser" written all over it. So why would General Motors think that a performance version of their V6 Camaro is a good idea? I mean, wouldn't most people save their pennies and go for the V8?

After quite a bit of thought, I realized that GM may be on to something.

The V6 1LE is a real exercise in lateral thinking and objective analysis. First of all, let's deal with the elephant in the room--the 3.6L V6 of shame. It throws out 335 horsepower with no forced induction. Considering that, 10 years ago, you couldn't even get that kind of power out of a V8 Mustang GT, this doesn't seem so bad for the Camaro. It's also worth remembering that the 6-banger is considerably lighter than the 6.2L V8 in the SS. 

Of course, all the muscle fanboys will probably be whining about the fact that "a V6 is not a muscle car". And they're right. The V8 engine is the hallmark of American muscle. So let's accept the fact that a V6 is not going to get much street cred in the Guy Fieri-like atmosphere of muscle fans.

I really shouldn't like this interior, but I do.

I really shouldn't like this interior, but I do.

Instead, we should take the V6 1LE at face value. And dollar value, too--the 1LE package is expected to cost only $6000 CAD more than a regular V6. In other words, you can get one for around $30K USD. That's still quite a bit less than a standard SS. But, more importantly, it's a bargain for a sportscar. If you buy one of these, don't be surprised if you get indicted for grand larceny.

Yes, the V6 Camaro is a bona fide sportscar, 1LE package or not. If you want to really think creatively, you could throw the V6 1LE into a massive pool of popular, similarly-powered alternatives such as the BMW M2, the MkIV twin-turbo Toyota Supra, the base-model Porsche 718 Cayman, the Nissan 370Z, and so on. All of a sudden, the "loser" car seems to look like a hell of a deal. 

The V6 (and even the turbo-4) versions of the new Camaro have crossed my mind as a real left-wing alternative to the beloved JDM cars of the 1990s. Chevrolet has finally gotten the weight of the Camaro low enough that you could almost compare it to the RX7s, Supras, Z-cars and 3000GT VR-4s from the good ol' days of yore. 

But the 1LE takes it to the next level. Japanese manufacturers are milking the renaissance of the JDM heavyweights, and they're not exactly making them all that cheap. I can't imagine the new Supra being considered "affordable", while the new NSX certainly isn't. Will they be fast? No doubt. But I would imagine that some remapping, sports exhaust and an aftermarket turbo or two on a V6 Camaro 1LE would be enough to rustle the jimmies of the JDM old guard. 

So, all you JDM fans out there, hate me all you want for saying it, but the Chevrolet Camaro V6 1LE is officially your new wild card. And I can't wait for it.




FeatureKyle AshdownComment