► Ultimate C7 Corvette driven
► This is your last chance...
► ...to nab one (albeit not in the UK)
A change is gonna come to America’s favourite sports car. Almost 60 years after GM first mooted the idea of putting the horses behind the plastic cart, the Corvette is going mid-engined. But not quite yet. That arrives later in 2019, meaning there’s still time for one last monumentally unhinged Corvette built to the traditional recipe of front-mounted V8, plastic body and a price that has them fancy Yerpean manufacturers wondering how GM does it (until they see the interior).
Meet the ZR1, the fastest, most powerful production Corvette yet. Best bring a spare pair of underpants.
Is it still absurdly inexpensive?
Actually, by Corvette standards the new ZR1 isn’t that cheap: it costs $121,000 (£94,650) compared with $55,495 for a base-model C7 ’Vette. And because GM Europe isn’t officially bringing it to the UK, by the time you’ve added import duty and VAT on a privately imported example, you’re looking at sticking a £ sign in front of that $ price. And you’ll still be in a left-hand-drive car.
But then you start totting up what you’re getting for that money. And what you’ve got is a 911 GT2 RS for the price of a GT3. Or, as Chevy fans would be even keener to point out, a car that’s 1.37sec faster at Virginia International Raceway than a Ford GT for $379,000 less.
Which bits are ZR1 bits?
The pedestrian-unfriendly ankle-breaking front splitter, a major reason the ZR1 isn’t coming here, looks like it escaped from Bruce Wayne’s company car. But even that pales next to the larger of the two rear spoilers available, a towering slab of carbonfibre that’s part of the optional ZTK track package along with stiffer springs and retuned magnetic dampers.
That wing should strike fear into any sub-GT3 machinery following – and anybody who tries to put luggage into the boot. Like a Corvette racer’s, the spoiler is mounted on the bodywork behind the tailgate, rather than the hatch itself, so it’s almost impossible to get anything in or out of the luggage space.
The terror continues inside, and not just because the décor is more Lidl than Lambo. The view ahead is dominated by the cover of an Eaton supercharger that pokes so far through the donut-shaped bonnet you actually struggle to place the car in corners and every red traffic light feels like you’re staging for the NHRA Funny Car finals.
What'll it do, mister?
Still feels like that when they switch to green. What your neck muscles are failing to deal with is a blown 6.2-litre V8 developing 755bhp and 715lb ft of torque. That’s 65bhp more than a GT2 RS. And 162lb ft more torque. Carrying the same LT5 codename as the Lotus-developed four-cam engine from the ’89 ZR1 but making almost twice as much power, it punts the fastest ever ’Vette to 60mph in 2.85sec and 100mph in 6.0. Top speed? Two-twelve with the low-profile wing; slightly less with the big gun.
Not many cars can outperform the ZR1, not for this money, and not while you’re shifting your own gears. The ZR1 is unique among monster-power production cars in offering both a seven-speed manual transmission and an eight-speed auto. We only had the chance to drive the auto, which is the quicker machine, and with 755bhp you’re not exactly short of things to be getting on with. Like holding on.
How about the dynamics?
If you like tapping your own tune with the paddles you’ll be disappointed at how slow-witted this ’box feels. Leave it in auto, twiddle the rotary control to sharpen the shift map and it’s much better. But no match for a GT2’s PDK.
Dynamically the ZR1 is nearly as handy as the Porsche. The standard ceramic brakes have a more linear feel than a McLaren’s and easily cope with the performance, while the colossal tyres – 285s front, 335s back, both on 19in forged rims – aren’t easy to unstick. Good job, because things can get a little spiky beyond the limits of the optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cups. If you want to hoon about, buy a Hellcat.
Chevrolet Corvette ZR1: verdict
The ZR1 is a serious lapping machine. But it’s also a car with a wide spread of abilities. The seats are comfortable, the ergonomics fine. It’s as driveable as any other Corvette, only twice as insane, and half the price of anything comparable in Europe. About the only car that makes you question its value is the 650bhp, $79k Corvette Z06.
The buzz around the middie is understandable, but there’s plenty of life left in the old one.
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