2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Exterior, Interior, Driving on Track
The 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1’s 755 horsepower is a bit like learning to juggle with live hand grenades. But Chevy’s pinnacle of front-engine Corvette evolution is a benevolent monster on the track. Respect its power and the ZR1 doesn’t flinch under duress or nervously protest midcorner commands. With its radical aero addenda pressing the car into the pavement at speed and working in concert with sticky Michelin tires and an array of clever electronics, the mightiest of C7 Corvettes shines the brightest at the edge of its performance envelope.
Formal introductions and prototype ridealongs behind us, this is our first proper dance with the fourth-generation ZR1. Building upon the already hard-core Corvette Z06 with its optional Stage 3 performance upgrade, the ZR1 features menacing front bodywork that has been punched out and cut to ribbons to allow 40 percent more cooling air to reach the engine and drivetrain (there are 13 heat exchangers onboard in total). The ankle-chopping front splitter, including a racing-derived airfoil underneath that routes air up through the vented hood, helps the ZR1 generate more downforce than its sibling yet with less aerodynamic drag, as does a pedestal-mounted carbon-fiber rear wing mounted directly to the chassis.
good chunk of that downforce is in effect when exiting Turn 12 in excess of 100 mph. The ZR1’s dogged stability allows for rolling onto the power quickly and opening the taps on General Motors’ berserker LT5 small-block V-8. An evolution of the 650-hp LT4 found in the Z06, the Camaro ZL1, and the 640-hp Cadillac CTS-V, the ZR1’s 6.2-liter adds a 52-percent-larger Eaton TVS supercharger with more boost (14.0 versus 9.4 psi), port-injected fueling to supplement the main direct-injection system, and a host of internal upgrades to produce 755 rabid horses at 6300 rpm and 715 lb-ft of torque at 4400. With at least 600 lb-ft available from 2200 revs to the 6500-rpm redline, the ZR1’s thrust is immediate and unrelenting, rocketing it down Road Atlanta’s short front straight.
Like the Corvette Z06, the suspension calibration that lets the ZR1 bound over Turn 3’s curbing with poise also returns respectable ride comfort even in the firmest of its three driving-mode settings (Tour, Sport, and Track) on Georgia’s well-maintained roads. The electrically assisted power steering is heavily weighted yet precise, and 0.5-inch-wider front wheels help to maintain good turn-in feel while compensating for the ZR1’s slightly heavier nose versus the Z06. It’s through Road Atlanta’s famous downhill Esses and in slower corners that the Corvette’s electronic limited-slip differential and Performance Traction Management (PTM) software work their hardest, deftly managing forces across the rear axle and reining in the LT5’s power just enough if you jump on the throttle a bit too early. The PTM’s loosest track-focused modes allow for some sliding around before stepping in; while the Corvette ZR1 has the grunt to burn rubber for days, its breakaway behavior is quite benign.
Chevrolet says the ZTK-spec ZR1 is about 2.5 seconds quicker around Road Atlanta’s 2.5 miles than is the max-attack Z06, and the Corvette’s development drivers have already set a 2:37.3 stunner around Virginia International Raceway’s 4.1-mile Grand West Course—besting the $479K Ford GT in the process. We’ll see how it does in our hands at our annual Lightning Lap event later this year. But for the ZR1’s $122,095 starting price, its attraction lies with the relative ease with which drivers of all sorts can tap into its massive potential with no compromise to its entertainment or livability. It still goes down the road like other wide-body C7 Corvettes, just a stupid-quick one. Its cabin can be wrapped with leather and outfitted with luxuries such as heated and cooled seats. And there’s still a capacious hatchback cargo hold, although the ZTK’s big wing makes it a pain to stow the removable roof panel. We wish Chevy had come up with new performance seats that are more comfortable than both the standard and the optional Competition Sport seats it shares with other C7s, but, considering the ZR1’s warp-factor-per-dollar ratio, we’ll let that slide.
Engine – 6.2-liter, 8-cylinder (V8), supercharged petrol
Max output – 755 hp at 6,400 rpm
Max torque – 715 lb-ft at 3,600 rpm
Transmission – 7-speed manual / 8-speed automatic, RWD
Fuel consumption (auto) – 13/19 (12/20) mpg city/highway
Length/width/height/wheelbase – 179.8/77.4/48.5/106.7 in (4,567/1,965/1,232/2,710 mm)
Curb weight – 3,560 lb (1,615 kg)
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