The Corvette ZR1 is one of those cars that just screams “America can do it”. America can build a world quality sports car. Yes, you read that correctly. America can build a car that competes with and can beat Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and more. While in development, the ZR1 was code named the Blue Devil with the reasoning behind that the current CEO at the time, Rick Wagoner, went to Duke and the mascot is the Blue Devil.
Let’s start with the specs. The hand built, supercharged LS9 V8 pumps out 638 hp and 604 ft-lb going to the rear wheels. The power is put down through a Tremec six-speed manual. The power goes to the rear wheels via two half shafts which are each different diameters to minimize wheel hop under hard launches. The driver’s side half shaft is larger to offset the weight of the battery being on the passenger’s side in the rear. Ride control features Delphi’s Magnetic Selective Ride Control system. The shocks in this set up provide real time dampening and change instantly with road conditions. There is a sport and touring mode which is controlled by a round knob on the center console. To save weight, the frame of the ZR1 is aluminum and many body panels including the fenders, roof, hood, front splitter and rocker extensions are all made of carbon fiber. The hood has a polycarbonate window that allows visibility of the intercooler and the polycarbonate window is visible on the hood while driving.
Driving the ZR1 is both surreal and yet also familiar. The experience is familiar in the sense that everything feels like a normal Corvette. The interior is, for the most part, the same. The seats have ZR1 embroidered on the headrests but other then that, they are stock. The seats are comfortable, just like any other Corvette, but this is not just any Corvette. The ZR1 is capable of 1.1 g’s of force and these stock seats are fine for the road but on a track, more bolstering is needed. The recaros from the CTS-V would be terrific, but unfortunately they will not fit in the current C6 interior.
The clutch is light and easy to modulate. The supercharger whine is noticeable whenever you are on the gas, more than when just cruising. The gauge cluster is stock Corvette other than a boost gauge and the 200 mph speedometer with ZR1 screen printed on it.
As I mentioned the experience is surreal as it is familiar. The experience is surreal in the sense that the car just launches like a rocket with 0-60 coming in 3.3 seconds under ideal conditions. You can hit 66 mph in first gear. Bringing you back to reality are the brakes which are carbon ceramic rotors originally developed for the Ferrari Enzo and FXX. Driving is difficult to explain. The speed builds fast yet the car always feels planted. Wind noise is surprisingly in check. The steering is easy and not over boosted and yet, is lighter then some of the competitors. The dual mode exhaust opens the butterfly valves above 3000 rpm’s and then it just sounds like a symphony. The redline comes quickly under acceleration, reaching the maximum 6800 rpm with 10.5 psi of boost. The ZR1 is the every day super car because the suspension does not beat you up on city streets and highway expansion joints.
The interesting thing about driving a ZR1 on the street is the way people react. You could almost venture that it is a sleeper car in some ways because Corvettes are commonplace. They are not as uncommon as Ferrari and Lamborghini (depending on where you live) and when you are on the road, most people do not even notice the car. In fact, the only time the car was noticed was under hard acceleration when the dual mode exhaust opened up and the exhaust turned devilish. When cruising next to any other car, it never received a second glance. If you are looking for some serious attention from what you drive, you will either have tell everyone how much power this thing really has, or shop elsewhere.
The ZR1 I drove was loaded with the $10,000 premium package which includes the leather wrapped dash, heated seats, memory seats, navigation, Bluetooth, premium Bose sound system and much more. Also optioned on this particular ZR1 was the chrome wheel package. You do get slapped with a $1,300 gas guzzler tax on all ZR1’s. All said and done, the total sticker price came to $121,465.00 which is a lot of money for a Corvette, though this is not just any Corvette.
The ZR1 is a testament that General Motors really can build a world class super car. Taking on the world’s best, both on the road and the track, for a fraction of the price. The value proposition is insane. When looking at the competition, the ZR1 falls short in the interior but this car is all about the powertrain and, more specifically, that supercharged LS9 with an intoxicating exhaust note that is like music to your ears. The question comes down to if would you buy this over the competition. An Audi R8 starts at $114,200, is not as fast and while having a distinct look and a much nicer interior along with that premium brand name, has less power. When looking at the competition, you have to ask yourself what is most important: the best bang for your buck and one of the fastest cars on the road or a brand name that costs more and delivers less. If more power for less money sounds better then you should really take a look at the ZR1.
Full Disclosure- Vehicle was provided for a first drive by Classic Chevrolet