Thanks to the look-at-me hood, the new LS9 V-8 is a prime candidate for becoming the next American idol. But hold your applause until we introduce the support heroes of the ZR1 project: a well-behaved cast of chassis items (steering, brakes, tires, and dampers) along with the brain trust (headed by Tom Wallace and Tadge Juechter) who shaped the ZR1's dynamic character.
Their strategy was to tune the ZR1 to complement, rather than confront, the Z06. The $72,125 (2008 price), 505-hp, high-strung Z06 will continue its boy-racer role. The ZR1's mission is to demonstrate that an astonishingly fast Corvette can also be fastidious in every move it makes. Moving from a standstill, the ZR1 will reach 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds and whiz past the quarter-mile mark in 11.3 seconds at 131 mph, according to Chevrolet.
The ZR1 is a track master without resorting to the steely suspension settings or the nervous limit behavior tuned into the Z06. Steering effort builds in direct proportion to cornering forces, with a decent amount of feel as part of the deal. Huge Brembo carbon-ceramic rotors take the fear out of late-braking into every bend. New aero aids keep axle loads balanced at high speeds.
Trail-brake the ZR1 too quickly into a tight corner, and it will slide its front Michelins, but a momentary relaxation of the center pedal neatly recaptures the desired line. Likewise, drifting the tail wide in a fast bend is certainly possible, especially with the throttle locked down and the stability system minimized, but the ZR1's suspension metabolism is so friendly and forgiving that delicate steering and throttle adjustments keep the rotation within the fruitful range.
Over the distressed Michigan roads near GM's proving ground, the ZR1 took bumps and grooves in stride, capably filtering the worst of the road rash while strictly controlling bob, pitch, and lean.