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Corvette ZR1 (2008) review

Published:11 September 2008

Corvette ZR1 (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

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The new Corvette ZR1 is the world’s quickest and rawest sports car – only mad supercars and insane track cars can best it. This is a bright yellow bullet, with 638bhp (making it the most powerful ‘Vette of all time), carbonfibre bodywork and Brembo’s biggest ceramic brakes. Just 1800 ZR1s will be built each year at GM’s plant in Kentucky, with production ending in 2012.

I think a deep breath is needed… 638bhp? I guess you’d better give me the figures for the Corvette ZR1 first…

The engine is derived from the new LS3 6.2-litre V8, but in the ZR1 it’s mated to an Eaton supercharger. Thus designated LS9, it produces 638bhp, 38 ponies up on GM's original target.

Along with a lot of horsepower the LS9 engine also produces 604lb ft. Propelling a mere 1508kg – kept low thanks to that carbonfibre bonnet, roof and wings – the ZR1 will hit 60mph in 3.4 seconds, without the need to change out of first gear. About half a minute later the tiny digital speedo will indicate 200mph and those bold GM engineers claim the ZR1 will also beat a Nissan GT-R around the Nurburgring.

The ZR1 is quite a fast car then!


All this is yours for $105,000 (£60k), althought the Euro price of €135,900 works out at £108,000 in the UK. Which is less of a bargain, isn't it?

 

Is the Corvette ZR1 worth that much money?

Well, to sweeten the deal the Euro-spec ZR1 does come with the $10k Option pack. That means heavily bolstered two-tone electric leather seats, sat-nav and a Bose sound system. But what you care about is the drive...

Click 'Next' below to read how the Corvette ZR1 handles

   

I presume the ZR1 is good, but just how good is it?

GM let us loose on its Milford Road proving ground, known as the Lutzring – it was GM car chief Bob Lutz who suggested combining some of the world’s famous corners with some horrible stomach-churning crests and crazy camber changes. And we’re here to try and put 319bhp through each rear tyre…

But while the Corvette can be lairy, when you're braking heavily into the first chicane the huge ceramic brakes (394mm front, 380mm rear) haul the ZR1 down easily. Their discs are 20kg lighter than the equivalent steel items; full of feel and easy to modulate, too.

Then the ‘Vette is zig-zagging through the corners and away, the tail only running a touch wide before it charges down the straights. At this point nothing short of all-out supercars will be able to keep up with the Corvette ZR1, let alone get away. The noise is deafening, and added to by substantial wind and tyre noise at over 100mph. The six-speed ‘box is not the slickest though, but somehow you always slot the right gear.

And how is the latest Corvette's chassis?

The ZR1 is actually more compliant that the black-or-white ZO6. The magnetorheological dampers also do a fine job of taming the shock absorbers, with none of the harshness of the Z06. And when the ZR1 grips and goes it will generate 1.05g of lateral force in the corners.

Just bear in mind that once the huge rear 335/25 ZR20 Michelin black boots let go, you’ll be moving very fast, very sideways and very full of adrenaline.

The only real negative points are inside the cabin – in here the 'Vette just doesn't feel like it's been built for track work. If you’re above average height then a helmet will mean no headroom. The big leather seats aren't particularly supportive, and the inertia reel belt needs to be replaced by a harness, considering the thrust on tap.

Verdict

The slogan adorned across the t-shirts of the ZR1 team reads: 'Life begins at 200mph'. But this 'Vette is about much more than top speed – it's about how this ZR1 gets there. Match it up against a Ferrari 599, Lamborghini LP560-4 or Porsche 911 GT2, and the ZR1 will eat them all.

The grip and traction off the line are mind-boggling and nothing at all prepares you for the boost when the baddest Corvette of all time nails past 150mph and storms through 175mph. Only a Bugatti Veyron can go faster. Which makes that £108k price tag a little easier to swallow.

But the Corvette ZR1 will surely remain a niche interest sports car. Some will get the whole 'Vette vibe and be smitten by probably the best Z car to date. Many others will prefer to stick with the Establishment choices, and who could argue with that?

Would you take a Corvette ZR1 over a Bugatti, and pocket £900,000? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

Specs

Price when new: £108,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 6162cc 16v V8, 638bhp @ 6500rpm, 604lb ft @ 3800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 3.4sec 0-60, 205mph, 20mpg
Weight / material: 1508kg/aluminium, composites and carbonfibre
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): na

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  • Corvette ZR1 (2008) CAR review
  • Corvette ZR1 (2008) CAR review
  • Corvette ZR1 (2008) CAR review
  • Corvette ZR1 (2008) CAR review
  • Corvette ZR1 (2008) CAR review
  • Corvette ZR1 (2008) CAR review
  • Corvette ZR1 (2008) CAR review
  • Corvette ZR1 (2008) CAR review

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

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