Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 pumps up 638 hp and races to 205 mph
Bob Plunkett, Wed, 24 Nov 2010 12:21:16 PST
RASELTON, Ga. -- Put on the helmet, slip into a big-bolstered bucket and get a firm grip on the leather-bound steering wheel because we're taking the ZR1 -- quickest production Corvette ever -- on a triple-digit speed run at Road Atlanta, the 2.5-mile closed-circuit raceway cast across the hills of Georgia.
Varoom, goes the deep-throat sound spewing from ZR1's quadruple chromed pipes at the tail.
Stomping the pedal at our launch pad in Pit Row, we lurch forward in a vehicle that zips to 60 mph in less than 3.4 seconds, then climb into the hills as the speedo needle ticks to triple-digit territory with Vette's rigid aluminum chassis riding low to the asphalt in a rock-solid stance.
In swift sequence dipping through the Esses, this awesome racer claws asphalt through zig-zag-zig-zag maneuvers like a slot car locked in the groove of a serpentine track.
We note that our machine, wearing new Inferno Orange paint, runs through twisties with the poise of a Formula racer.
Rip, clip, whip -- it charges down a straight to Turn 6, then deftly handles the hard kink at 7 and zips to hold-your-breath-scary speed in the run through 8 and 9, and down to the -- brake-brake-brake -- valley chicane of 10A and 10B.
Then it's over the big hump while passing beneath the Suzuki Bridge and we're surely flying on the down-slope into Turn 12 for a speed-blurred prance along the front straightaway.
Fun on four Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires won't feel any better than this, and neither will a Corvette, as the ZR1 -- a limited-production high-performance version packing a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine -- represents the pinnacle for this series.
The ZR1 designation in Corvette history begins with an optional performance package for the C3 'Vette available from 1970 to 1972 with a 370-hp LT1 engine.
Then the 1990 "King of the Hill" ZR1 Corvette rolled out with a 5.7-liter V8 engine worth more than 400 hp.
The 2011 ZR1 traces to 2009 issues based on a C6 Corvette aluminum chassis but with unique carbon-fiber body panels and the supercharged LS9 V8 high-performance engine aboard.
The vehicle's wide front fenders, see-through hood and roof are all made from carbon fiber, along with the front splitter, rear spoiler and side rocker extensions.
Lightweight and super-strong, the carbon fiber material pares pounds from the vehicle's curb weight, and also boosts the weight distribution front-to-rear so the ZR1 -- split 51/49 percent front/rear -- turns and swerves and dances through a curvy set of road wiggles like a true exotic racer.
A long 105.7-inch wheelbase for the C6 platform enhances the smooth-ride traits for ZR1 while also adding space to the two-seat cockpit. Essential components of the remarkable chassis center on unique hydroformed rails extending from tip to tail and united by aluminum cross members to forge that incredibly firm foundation for a sports car.
Those unusual side rails -- each a single piece of steel stretched from tip to tail -- curve downward at mid-section to make room for the enlarged cockpit. Due to inherent strength and stiffness of the rails, designers were able to make significant organizational changes inside the rails, revamping the space more efficiently.
A closed driveline tunnel also enhances cockpit space, particularly since the transmission is positioned in the rear, thus helping balance the weight fore to aft.
The independent suspension front and rear consists of a short/long-arm (SLA) double wishbone with cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite lead springs and monotube shocks.
And a chassis control system employs GM's Magnetic Selective Ride Control (MSRC) device with electronically controlled variable damping to switch automatically from super-firm to comfortable touring mode.
The Brembo-brand brakes for ZR1 are awesome and made with heat-resistant carbon-ceramic material. Cross-drilled rotors measure 15.5 inches up front and 15.0 inches in back with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers painted bright blue.
The Michelin Pilot Sport 2 ZP run-flat tires -- 285/30ZR19 front and 335/25ZR20 rear -- mount on 20-spoke aluminum rims painted Sterling Silver. They're 19 x 10 inches in front and 20 x 12 inches in back.
Then there's that LS9 V8 churning massive torque to twirl the rear wheels.
The 6.2-liter plant hitches to an intercooled Eaton R2300 supercharger with four-lobe twisted rotors.
It develops 638 hp at 6500 rpm -- that's 102.9 hp per liter of displacement -- with torque of 604 lb-ft at only 3800 rpm for a car package that tips the scales at only 3,324 pounds.
The LS9 V8 links strictly with a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual gearbox through a dual-disc clutch in conjunction with a limited-slip differential.
It incorporates Performance Traction Management (PTM) technology as part of ZR1's Launch Control feature to optimize traction for greater and more consistent performance on a track. The PTM system holds a predetermined engine speed while the driver puts the throttle on the floor. Then the driver quickly releases the clutch and the system modulates engine torque 100 times a second to maximize tire traction.
Passive safety gear includes dual multi-stage frontal air bags plus seat-mounted side air bags, three-point seat belts with pretensioners.
ZR1's cockpit fits tight like Spandex but it's luxurious with the pair of bolstered bucket seats flanking the center spine clad in fine leather hides.
Standard content includes power-adjustable heated seats, a Bose premium audio system, navigation system, ZR1-specific badging on sill plates and headrests, plus the gauge cluster adding a ZR1 logo on the tachometer and a 220-mph readout on the speedometer.
Also, there's a boost gauge in the instrument cluster as well as a through-the-windshield head-up display (HUD) which adds a special track mode and g-force meter.
The estimated top speed for a ZR1 -- if you dare -- runs to 205 mph.
And the MSRP for ZR1 is equally exotic at $109,800.