DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – It’s the return of the King Kong Corvette, a supercharged superstar with 755 horsepower. It’s the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1–the fastest, most powerful production Vette to ever scorch the pavement.
The C7 generation Corvette is already one of the most impressive super sports cars on the market, especially the 650 horsepower Z06. Given what we know of it thus far, it wouldn’t be hyperbole for Chevy to call its new Corvette ZR1 one of the greatest performance cars on the planet. It’s an all-American, honest-to-goodness supercar, “a beautiful beast,” as chief designer Tom Peters put it succinctly.
Unveiled halfway across the world at a special event in the glamorous and amorphous Middle Eastern capital of Dubai that’s chock full of skyscrapers and mega malls, the fourth Corvette to wear the ZR1 badge is not only a standard bearer for Chevy, but for the Corvette brand as a whole. It’s a nameplate with global appeal, and we’re sure more than a couple of sheikhs are going to snap up a few of the 2,000 to 3,000 ZR1s Chevy plans to build a year.
When it hits the streets next spring, everyone is going to see and hear it coming, and every Corvette and Chevy fan boy will be able to recite these numbers: 755 horses and 715 lb-ft of torque from its supercharged, 6.2-liter LT5 V-8 engine, with a top speed in excess of 210 mph. There are no 0-60 mph or quarter mile claims yet, but expect mid to high twos to 60 and mid 10s in the quarter.
Chevy says the ZR1 is able to make its extra power thanks to the addition of a new, intercooled 2.65-liter Eaton supercharger with 52 percent more displacement than the unit fitted to the Z06’s mill, and the brand’s first use of a dual fuel direct injection system with supplemental port injection, helping deliver a more explosive mixture at full chat. The engine also features an upgraded crankshaft, dry sump lubrication, and a new 4-inch throttle body that’s the largest ever for a Corvette. It will also be the loudest Corvette ever, thanks to a new exhaust system that has been developed to gradually ramp up the noise as you get on it harder and is “absolutely brutal in track mode,” according to Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter.
The LT5’s immense power is routed through a seven-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic – the first time an auto box has been offered for the ZR1. Juechter said they tried to get GM’s new 10-speed automatic to fit, but couldn’t make it work with the packaging. He’s confident the car’s “robust application” of the 8 speed will more than do the job.
Helping to chill everything out will be critical whether you’re driving in the brutal heat of a climate like Dubai’s or lapping your favorite circuit. To that end there are no less than 13 heat-exchanging units, including four new radiators. The ZR1’s front fascia was totally redesigned to optimize airflow and is essentially one giant intake. “We went over every square millimeter,” Peters said in the team’s quest to optimize cooling while attempting to maintain a cohesive Corvette look. The team had to work around structural changes in the front end as well to accommodate some of the additional cooling systems, and the front fenders are roughly a half-inch wider in large part to fit the wider front tires (P285/30ZR19 front, P335/25ZR20 rear).
Unlike the previous C6 ZR1, where the supercharger assembly was open for the world to see under a clear polycarbonate piece, the new, carbon fiber “halo” hood is now a complex setup with vents and a shaker piece that caps the Eaton blower and intercooler. “We said to hell with the window,” Juechter said, wryly. “The new hood is a bunch of different pieces and was an enormous craftsmanship challenge.” Primary among them was fitting a powertrain that’s three inches higher than any other Corvette under the hood all while maintaining optimal driver sightlines.
The other signature feature of the new ZR1 is its colossal rear wing. Actually, make that wings. You can go the low route with the car’s standard, fixed Low Wing, which is designed with top speed in mind. Chevy says it has 70 percent more downforce than the base Z06 aero setup. Or you can take the high road with the High Wing, a two-way adjustable unit by 5 degrees that’s optimized for the track and reportedly has 60 percent more downforce than the Z06 with the Z07 package. In addition, a downforce-enhancing front underwing is used by Chevy for the first time on the ZR1 regardless of which aero package you choose.
“We have a longstanding relationship with Pratt & Miller [the Corvette race team] and everything comes together in this package,” said Peters of the ZR1’s aero profile.
The High Wing setup is part of the ZTK performance package, which adds Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer only tires (Pilot Super Sports are standard), a front splitter finished with carbon fiber end caps and its magnetic ride setup specifically tuned for the track. We’d bet the ZR1 with the ZTK package would give the C7.R race car all it could handle, and in fact the wing assembly is tied into the chassis, just like the race car. Chevy claims the ZR1 generates a maximum 950 pounds of downforce at top speed with the High Wing affixed.
In case all that won’t say ZR1 enough, Chevy has also developed a special Sebring Orange paint scheme and appearance package for the car. It comes with orange calipers to bind to the Brembo carbon ceramic brakes (you can get your calipers in multiple colors on other ZR1s), orange rocker and splitter accents, and orange and bronze interior accents.
As for the ZR1’s interior, there are two packages available, 1ZR and 3ZR, that can dress up the cabin with a carbon fiber trimmed steering wheel, competition sport seats, Bose audio, or Napa leather seats with heating and cooling. In short, while the ZR1 is an fierce track-attacker, you can also get it with a wide array of creature comforts.
The 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 is the ultimate expression of the Corvette and Chevy’s front-engine, rear drive, overhead valve V-8 formula, one that has served the brand well and delighted customers for decades. With the impending arrival of the C8 generation, mid-engine car tentatively dubbed Zora after legendary engineer Zora-Artus Duntov, as well as the massive upheaval in the automotive market in general, things are about to change for the Corvette. If this is indeed the end of the line for the Corvette as we’ve come to know it, we couldn’t think of a better way for it to go out than with a 755 hp, supercharged bang.
2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Specifications
|ON SALE||Spring 2018|
|PRICE||$130,000 (base) (est)|
|ENGINE||6.2L supercharged OVH 16-valve V-8/755 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 715 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H||176.9 x 77.4 x 48.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||2.7 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||211 mph (est)|