Even though just two domestics were on hand for this year’s All-Stars event, we figured the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 was possibly the safest bet in the entire field. Not so fast.
On paper, the mightiest C7 Corvette has plenty of admirable qualities, most notably its big (6.2-liter, supercharged) and powerful (755 hp) V-8, and it had one of the few manual transmissions in the field, a seven-speed with rev matching. The Michelin Super Sport Cup 2 summer tires on our test vehicle appeared a bit worn, and when a freak storm dumped on us, the car proved a handful. But its massively capable ceramic Brembo brakes drew plenty of praise. Also, with a $122,095 starting price, it was by far the cheapest of the “supercars” represented. And if history repeats, resale value should be solid.
But although the ZR1 could be made to go fast on the Streets of Willow, it took a substantial amount of work to do so. “I never felt entirely comfortable—especially through the quick back-straight kink,” editor-at-large Arthur St. Antoine observed of its on-track personality. “Might not have been so conspicuous an issue, except that the Europeans on hand managed their laps with real poise.”
Contributor Jethro Bovingdon found the ZR1 a mixed bag. “Love the noise, enjoyed the manual box, hugely impressed by the brakes,” he said. “Tires generate huge lateral grip, but on track the thing really struggles for traction, and it feels so intimidating. Try going for a clean lap, and the lines of communication just aren’t there. Have a bit of fun and slide it around, and things improve, but it’s still a fine line between wrestling the ZR1 to submission and it spinning you into the middle of next week. On the road the theater of it makes it more enjoyable, but you’re enjoying the noise and the ridiculous view rather than actually being involved and encouraged to drive quickly.”
The super Corvette did find more than its share of fans among the judges. “I loved it,” senior editor Aaron Gold said. “It’s everything the Ferrari isn’t. As long as you’re not at the edge of traction, it feels like you can poke and prod it and it refuses to do anything even remotely dangerous. I made mistakes that it just seemed to swallow up and make disappear.”
Contributor Ronald Ahrens agreed. “Avid, hugely capable, direct, snug, awe-inspiring—like a rocket in 1920 from Flint to the Rouge Works,” he said. “I thought it was easy to drive on track and knew just what to expect from it.”
But the interior was a letdown—we know, we’re playing a broken record—and the Batmobile exterior of the dark gray demon was polarizing. The consensus: A base model probably would have done better in our rankings, as the ZR1 seems to have taken the car’s front-engine, rear-drive chassis as far as it can go, and beyond.
Detroit editor Todd Lassa summed up our thoughts: “I’m looking forward to the new mid-engine Corvette more than ever.”
2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Specifications
|PRICE||$122,095/$138,870 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||6.2L supercharged OHV 16-valve V-8; 755 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 715 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||13/19 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||179.8 x 77.4 x 48.5 in|
|0–60 MPH||3.0 sec (auto)|
|TOP SPEED||215 mph|