2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Chevrolet hasn’t revealed the price of its 2009 Corvette ZR1, but most of the technical details are being released less than a month before the supercar’s formal launch in mid-January at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show.

The numbers are staggering, to say the least: 620 horsepower and 595 pound-feet of torque from the all-new LS9 engine — a 6.2-liter version of the familiar Chevy small-block V8, fitted with an intercooled Roots-type supercharger from Eaton and mated to a new close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox with dual-disc clutch.

A low curb weight of 3,350 pounds gives the new ZR1 a better power-to-weight ratio than such high-priced, 12-cylinder Italian exotics as the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and the Lamborghini Murciélago LP640. Chevy boss Ed Peper claims the ZR1 will be “the first production Corvette to achieve a top speed of at least 200 mph.”

Built on the same basic chassis as the Corvette Z06, the ZR1 gets standard magnetic selective ride control with track-level suspension and is capable of pulling better than 1g on the skid pad. The torque tube and half-shafts have been beefed up to handle the additional power, and Chevy has fitted carbon-ceramic brake rotors and larger calipers.

The ZR1 rides on Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires — 285/30ZR-19s in front and 335/25ZR-20s in the rear — mounted on 20-spoke alloy rims painted in bright sterling silver. Chrome wheels are one of only two options on the car.

Chevy designers did a good job of providing the ZR1 with a distinctive exterior look, with loads of carbon fiber, including wide front fenders, a hood with a raised polycarbonate window (so you can see the intercooler below), roof, front-fascia splitter and rocker moldings. A full-width rear spoiler features raised outboard sections and is specific to the ZR1.

The cockpit is surprisingly low-key, considering the car’s target price of just under $100,000. There are a number of pieces from the Z06, accented with a specific ZR1 gauge cluster, including a 220-mph speedo and a boost gauge, plus logo sill plates and embroidered headrests.

In addition to the chrome wheels, the only other option when the car goes on sale next summer will be a luxury interior package, with power sport bucket seats, leather trim, navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity.

Chevy isn’t saying yet just how many ZR1s it will build, but does note that each car will carry a sequential build number and a special VIN that will identify it as a ZR1. As if anyone would have to look….

In anticipation of the ZR1’s introduction at the 2008 Detroit auto show in January, Chevrolet at last has opened the proverbial hood on this, the most powerful, most expensive and most highly anticipated Corvette in the model’s half-century history.

Stop, I Say
There should be no dispute about the effectiveness of the ZR1’s brakes. The rotors are as large as or larger than most wheels were just a decade ago.

In what must be a very sweet moment for a longtime Corvette engineer, Juechter notes that the monster 15-inch Brembo carbon-ceramic rotors fitted as standard to the ZR1’s rear wheels are the brakes originally designed for the front of Ferrari’s 650-hp Enzo supercar. In the front of the ZR1, you’ll find even larger 15.5-inch carbon-ceramic units.

Juechter says, “The only vehicle I know of that has these brakes as standard equipment is the 1,000-hp Bugatti Veyron.” Then he adds with a grin, “Although I think you can get them as a $20,000 option on the Ferrari 599.” We get the sense Juechter will be using these laugh lines many, many times in the near future.

The Price of Production
Chevrolet isn’t about to tell us the price it intends to charge for the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. But it tells us that the prime motivator for the project has been GM honcho Rick Wagoner, who asked, “What would a $100,000 Corvette look like?” The ZR1 is apparently the answer and we expect the car’s list price will be near enough to the $100,000 mark.

Chevy says it is constrained by production of the carbon-fiber bits to only 2,000 ZR1s per year, and since it seems to us as if we’ve met almost as many Corvette nuts in our career with the funds to bid up the price significantly, we think the list price might be strictly academic in the first year’s production.

So that’s it. There’s no more mystery Corvette. We’ll have to just go ahead and go through the arduous task of driving the thing and testing it.

Shortly thereafter we’ll begin speculating on the C7 Corvette and the circle of life will continue.

Scribbled on June 28th 2008 in Chevrolet, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
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