2021 CAMARO TURBO 1LE— Throughout the Camaro’s sixty-year run, one thing has been a mainstay during all that time. Generally speaking, if you had the smallest engine in the lineup, you were looked down on by those who opted for the bigger, badder engines. Call it sibling rivalry, or Chevy on Chevy crime, it is a fact that has been not only part of the Camaro’s history but almost every muscle car in history.
But over the years, it seems that there might in fact be a replacement for displacement, and that is forced induction. BMW, Mercedes, and even high-end Italian supercars have been employing turbochargers and superchargers in place of the formerly undisputed natural aspiration of yesteryear. Even Chevy has begun to turn their eyes toward this new way of thinking, and the 2021 Camaro Turbo 1LE is proof positive they’re on their way.
Starting life with a 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4 that produces a very impressive 275-horsepower and equally impressive 295 lb-ft of torque. That power is then routed through a tried-and-true 6-speed manual. Thankfully, the Camaro has not completely abandoned its roots and still retains its rear-wheel-drive only setup. In the world of modern cars, the fact that the Turbo checks in at 3,414 pounds can be considered svelte these days, and with a weight distribution of 52/48%, it makes the Camaro Turbo a very well balanced machine.
When it comes to performance, the 2021 CAMARO TURBO 1LE is anything but the runt of the littler. It essentially matches what the legendary 4th Gen versions’ SuperSport model was able to accomplish. Sure, that was two decades ago now, but still, it just shows what a little technology and sometimes can do. The Turbo runs from 0-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds, through the quarter-mile in just 14.2 seconds at 96.7 mph. The 1LE suspension, plus the aforementioned near-perfect weight balance combine to help the Turbo post a legit 1.01g around the skidpad, and that Mighty Mouse motor sips on fuel to the tune of 19/29/22 city/highway/combined mpg, where its big brother would be guzzling at a much faster rate. Even braking from 60-0 mph takes only 104 feet.
While the Turbo Camaro has the hustle of its bigger-engined siblings, the one thing that it gets dinged on is its sound. There is something special about hearing a small block V8 snarl through its gears. Even some of the hot hatches around the world have been tuned to sound like Rice Krispies — snap, crackling, and popping with high-revving alacrity. But, the sound is one of those intangible elements that make driving exciting. Generally, one of the first mods any new hot rod owner makes is changing up the exhaust to be freer flowing, not so much for the power gains, but for the aural excitement. The Turbo has to be wrung out to near redline to get anything resembling exciting, and around town, it is the auditory equivalent of a sedative. Part of the problem is that the gearing seems to be a bit too tall, at least on the higher end of the gearbox as the car tends to lug itself around in top gear even at highway speeds. Perhaps with a shorter final drive, it might wake up a bit, but that will have to be something done aftermarket.
With a base price of just $31,195, the 2021 Camaro Turbo is a good deal in terms of sporty looks and performance value, both straight line and around the twisties. Plus, as with any new turbo car, it seems that boosting these bad boys is almost a guarantee to any new owner under the age of 35. But, the problem is that Chevy has announced that it will be discontinuing the 1LE package in conjunction with the four and six-cylinder models as of the 2022 model year. So this car just went from questionable to possibly collectible. In any case, you might still be able to get your hands on one if you look hard enough. It is more than just another four-cylinder muscle car, which is no longer an oxymoron, it represents a big step towards the idea that there might just be a replacement for displacement after all.