Best Corvette— For Now
How does Chevy’s latest big-power ZR1 stack up in the pantheon of best Corvettes ever? We take to the track with what’s likely to be the last front-engine Corvette to prompt that question.
TTHE FIRST TIME Teddy Roosevelt’ s words ,“Speak softly and carry a big stick,” occurred to me as I reviewed a car was while driving a 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Now, after testing the new 2019 ZR1 on a couple of racetracks within the span of a few days, “Speak rudely and wield a really fat club” might be more appropriate.
After my first laps at the limit around Road Atlanta in the latest ZR1, the words of General Motors executive VP of global product development Mark Reuss, who was on hand, rang true. “Things haven’t changed at GM as far as stretching the technology envelope,” he said. “ZR1 has to set the upper limits of performance and be a technological beacon in chassis, design, and materials.”
Oh, and don’t forget the engine. Corvette engineers were not content with the kidney-flattening supercharged LT4 V-8 that kicks out 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque in the Z06. The new ZR1 has a supercharged LT5 V-8 spitting 755 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 715 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm. Certified top speed is 212.49 mph, which came from a two-way average (215 mph/210 mph). Chevy restricts the ZR1 to a top speed of 215 mph to be within tire-safety standards. Base price for the coupe is $122,095 when you add the $2,100 gas guzzler tax. The convertible starts at $126,095. Hey, you only need one kidney, anyway.
The ZR1 is a heavily track-focused performance car, but I did drive it for several hours on the road. Corvette critics will note nothing particularly different about the ZR1’s interior or controls compared to other C7generation models, which is no surprise because this is the end of the platform’s life cycle. However, changes to the suspension and magnetic-ride shocks are noteworthy; they provide better ride quality and compliance over road imperfections, noticeable improvements compared to a Z06. That said, new C7 Z06s now receive the same shock programming as the ZR1.
In today’s domestic automaker landscape, it would be reasonable to wonder if there was any pushback from within GM about the merits of building a 755-hp street missile. But apparently not on Reuss’ watch. “The Corvette
Red and yellow cars with optional matching interior stitching and the manual transmission also get colorsynchronized rev-match paddles.