Corvette engineers, who orchestrated the ZR1 to entertain a driver, a passenger, and neighboring counties with the big-block, side-pipe sounds of the 1960s, describe the usual reaction to any indulgence of this car's throttle as "shock and awe."
Yes, that's exactly what we experienced flat-footing an early-production ZR1 around General Motors' Milford Road Course and on public roads surrounding the company's proving ground. The car is noisy-fast and armed with enough decibels and speed to startle and spank the target Aston Martins, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Porsches, as intended. But the real shocker is that a throttled-back ZR1 is well-mannered, highly endearing, comfortable, and composed. This benign beast ventures-at whatever velocity you'd prefer-where no Chevrolet Corvette has gone before.
Like each Corvette leap forward, the new ZR1 is powered by a breakthrough engine. The noise generator living beneath the picture-frame hood pumps out a hearty 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque thanks, in part, to the Eaton supercharger that spins up to 15,000 rpm, singing just the right amount of blower whine as it works. This 6.2-liter small-block pulls like a Peterbilt at low rpm, provides sufficient oomph to visit the dark side of the 200-mph barrier (205 mph, actually), and is smart enough to give the blower a break while cruising to save fuel. Throttling back to 60 mph in sixth gear, we registered 30 mpg on the dash's instantaneous-mileage display. Loafing along in conservation mode, the new mighty mouse makes no more ruckus than the standard Corvette's 430-hp V-8.
So what took GM so long to bless its immortal small-block with a blower? The answer: operating efficiency. Recent advancements in supercharger-rotor design have diminished parasitic losses to the point that the Corvette ZR1 is the first sports car able to pair more than 600 hp with 20 mpg in EPA highway mileage tests.