Apparently a 505-horsepower Z06 was just not enough for the Corvette team. No, they needed something outrageous. They needed something with a supercharger for massive power, race ready ceramic brakes, tons of carbon fiber, a name-plate with some history, and a six-figure price tag. They call it the ZR1; we call it a fire breathing dragon of speed.
Model Year: 2011
Model: Corvette ZR1
Supercharged 6.2L V8 (LS9) / 638 hp at 6500 rpm and 604 lb.- ft. of torque at 3800 rpm
EPA Fuel Economy:
14mpg city / 16mpg combined / 20mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 17.8mpg
carbon-fiber hood/fenders/roof/floor panels , carbon fiber splitters/rockers, aluminum frame, 6-piston front/4-piston rear ceramic Brembo brakes, keyless start, 19″ front / 20″ rear wheels, dry-sump oil system, magnetic ride control, heads-up display, OnStar, XM Radio
3ZR Premium Equipment Package [$10,000] — Includes: Leather wrapped interior, Bose 7-speaker premium sound system w/navigation, heated seats, USB and AUX port for audio
As with any car sporting a house sized price, the engine is an important part of the package. With the ZR1, on-lookers are not left to guess what engine lies under its carbon fiber hood. A unique clear window on the top of the hood allows the plenum of the LS9’s supercharger to be visible.
The story of the LS9, however, is not how good it looks, but how much power it produces. With 638-horsepower and 604 lb ft of torque, the LS9 bestows the C6 ZR1 as the fastest and most powerful Corvette ever sold to the public. The LS9 is based off the Corvette’s standard LS3 engine, not the 7.0L LS7 engine from the Z06. Enabling that hefty output from 6.2 liters is a four-lobe Eaton Twin-Vortices Series intercooled supercharger. The LS9 also features titanium intake vales, titanium connecting rods, and a high performance pressurized dry sump oil system.
A high-tech hydroformed aluminum frame lifted directly from the C6.R race car saves the ZR1 138 lbs of weight over a traditional steel Corvette frame. The car runs the scales at an impressive 3,352lbs, allowing for a weight-to-horsepower ratio of 5.2 lbs per horsepower. This high-power and low-weight combination drives the Corvette ZR1 0-60 in 3.3 seconds and will complete a quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds at 135mph. Top speed is a blistering 205mph.
The ZR1 can stop just as fast as it can accelerate thanks to a race ready cross-drilled carbon-ceramic brake system. A testament to how serious Team Corvette was about performance, the rear brake rotors were lifted straight out of the front brakes of the Enzo Ferrari. The ZR1’s front brake rotors are very similar to the Ferrari FXX’s front rotors and only differ in size. Besides weighing half as much as a comparable steel brake rotor, ceramic rotors can withstand temperatures as hot as 1,800 degrees without warping. A 6-piston front / 4-piston rear Brembo brake system has been spec’d to complement the ceramic rotors. The ZR1 can stop from 60mph in only 96-feet; a current production car record.
While the brakes do feel fantastic, they do take some getting used to. Far touchier than a ”normal” car, the ZR1 can slow down considerably from just a light brush of the brake pedal.
You’d expect the ZR1 to be uncomfortable, harsh, and loud, right? Well, not so. In fact the ZR1 is nearly as quiet and unassuming as it’s base counterpart. Part of this is is due to the electronically actuated exhaust baffle, similar to what you’d find on other current sixth-generation Corvettes.
Under idle and most acceleration circumstances, the ZR1 diverts exhaust gas through a sound reducing chamber. At wide open throttle, twin butterfly valves automatically open, allowing for straight-through exhaust and a monster sound.
On the road we found the ZR1 to handle just like you’d expect out of a car with this sort of resume. Standard magnetic select ride control allows for two ride modes (tour/sport) and is fully integrated with the traction control and stability control system to further enhance performance driving. You can select one of a handful of stability/traction control programs to compensate for wet or dry track conditions. Chevy has even provided a launch control system to aid in full power starts at the drag-strip. All this technology ensures almost telepathic response from any input on the road or track.
On the street you’ll never even come close to exploring the potential of the ZR1. Fortunately, GM has made sure you can come as close as you dare without risking your life. Last year we drove a 610-horsepower Dodge Viper and found the massive V-10 was always on the verge of biting back. Without traction control the Viper had to be handled with care. Even with 28 more horsepower, not so with the ZR1. Staying composed in every situation is one of the ZR1’s strong points.
The entire car allows you to get close to chaos but seamlessly prevents you from going over the edge. No harsh reactions, no overly aggressive throttle changes, and never the feeling that the car has more control than you. This is one of the best stability systems we’ve ever tested.
Even with the safety net, it takes some time behind the wheel before you feel safe letting things rip. This is 638-horsepower we’re talking about here and rumors peg the output at around 700-horsepower in near freezing temperatures. Despite massive 335/20 rear wheels, the ZR1 is a very effective smoke machine if you’re not careful. But rest assured, once those wheels lock up you’re in for the ride of your life.
Official performance numbers for the ZR1 confirm it’s maximum cornering acceleration at 1.11G. That means the ZR1 has so much lateral grip, it can corner at a force greater than that of the gravity holding it to the road. This statistic was not shocking to us after the ZR1 chewed up and spit out every road we threw at it. Even the most intense section of switchback pavement we use to evaluate cars was a yawner in the ZR1.