[cars name="Corvette"] ZR1 rage is spreading with viral intensity. Montana collector Dave Ressler bid a million bucks at a charity auction to own the first production ZR1. A Chevrolet dealer in Texas allegedly charged $400,000 apiece for two such Corvettes. After British journalists blitzed the Bonneville Salt Flats in one ZR1, German writers raced another press car around a 7.8-mile circular track near Nardo, Italy.
My neighbor Barry Grussner never dreamed his luck and liquidity would add up to owning a ZR1. But last summer, his Metra Tool business in Wayne, Michigan, prospered beyond expectation. Then the schmoozing that he had invested in Kevin Will, a Corvette salesman at Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, Michigan, paid off. Will called to say that the ZR1 Grussner had ordered – only the second production car to leave the assembly line – was ready to be picked up.
Our negotiations began in earnest shortly after Grussner’s BEAST license plate was transferred from his previous Z06 to his jet-stream blue ZR1. In exchange for mere moments of Beast seat time, we offered Grussner the chance to drive at velocities usually reserved for car testers. He became putty in our hands.
The Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport we selected for Grussner’s grand adventure is located near the index finger of lower Michigan’s geographical mitten. After the cold war ended and the Strategic Air Command’s nuclear-armed B-52s vacated the premises, this facility began hosting airfreight operations.
The sound of a ZR1 charging down an 11,800-foot runway is an intoxicating mix of supercharger whine, exhaust wail, and hurricane-like wind whoosh. At about 100 mph, the shrill whistle begins. Michelin radials biting into cross-grooved asphalt sing like a Stuka dive-bomber on final approach. But no ruckus registers inside the cockpit when the throttle is mashed and the tach needle crowds 6000 rpm in sixth gear. The only things that matter are the four red digits silently counting up from 190.0 mph.
All the king’s horsepower couldn’t hump Grussner’s ZR1 over 200 mph in the space at our disposal. Using two miles for acceleration and a quarter of a mile for braking, we coaxed our Vbox digital speedometer to 195 mph, but no higher. Extrapolating the ZR1’s acceleration curve reveals that it needs at least 2.5 miles of level road to reach 200 mph from a standing start and 3.3 miles to reach its 205-mph terminal speed.
Grussner registered minor pangs of disappointment, until we urged him to nail the center pedal at speed. “The blood rushing to my head after engaging the brakes at 160 mph made me dizzy,” he revealed, just before he turned around to give his Brembo carbon-ceramic brake system a second spanking.
Boiling down our data revealed that the ZR1 is the true Corvette acceleration king based on its ability to sprint to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds during an 11.9-second blast through the quarter-mile traps at 126 mph. Tighter third-through-sixth gear-ratio spacing and the 3800-rpm torque peak (versus 4800 rpm in a Z06) also make the ZR1 more enjoyable to stitch through traffic without incessantly flogging the shifter.
In both braking and cornering performance, the ZR1 can’t touch the Z06, most likely because the more expensive Corvette carries two-thirds of its 273-pound weight gain on its front wheels. Nevertheless, the ZR1 earns style points for its more benign behavior at the limit and its more compliant highway ride.
Blemishes we noticed during our 500-mile round trip in the ZR1 include a loud, unfiltered roar from the rear tires over textured pavement and an annoying amount of exhaust heat wafting off the floor. Third and fifth gears sometimes go hiding when the driver attempts expeditious upshifts. And, amazingly, there’s no iPod or MP3 connectivity when you opt for a navigation system in this $100,000-plus Corvette.
Those are venial sins. The Corvette ZR1 surely will be one of the last great blessings we receive from Chevy before our Volt penance comes due, so we plan on enjoying it wherever and whenever we can. Next on our agenda is finding five or so miles of open road and inviting Grussner along to explore the remaining 10 mph in the ZR1’s portfolio.
- 3.7 sec
- 0-100 mph 8.0
- 0-150 mph 17.6
- 0-190 mph 38.9
- 11.9 sec @ 126 mph
- 70-0 MPH braking 157 ft
- Speed In Gears 1) 64 mph
- 2) 91
- 3) 121
- 4) 146
- 5) 180
- 6) 205
- Cornering (L/R) 1.04/1.04 g
- Weight 3420 lb
- weight dist. f/r 52.0/48.0 %
See our top-speed blast down a rural Michigan runway with the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1.