2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 First Test: Out With A Bang

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

This is it. The zenith. The top dog. The 755-horsepower ne plus ultra Chevrolet Corvette C7. The most powerful and likely the last variant of the front-engine Corvette. While waiting for the arrival of the mid-engine C8 somewhere in the not-distant future, for the 2019 model year, there are now 28 iterations of the seventh-generation Corvette (C7), including coupe/convertible versions of Stingray, Grand Sport, Z06, and now the ZR1. Is this as good as it gets? Is the ZR1 the greatest Corvette ever?

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

LT5 > LT4

Let’s start with what makes the ZR1 the ZR1, namely its mighty LT5 motor. If you like comparisons, this C7 ZR1’s supercharged V-8 makes more than double the horsepower of the V-8 in the 1990 C3 ZR1 and 117 more horsepower than the C6 ZR1. Based on the venerable LT4 found in the Corvette Z06, Camaro ZL1, and Cadillac CTS-V, the 6.2-liter LT5 features a new 95mm throttle body, both port- and direct-injection fuel delivery, an upgraded crankshaft, a new oiling system, and a new Eaton supercharger. At 2.6 liters, the supercharger is 52 percent larger than the LT4’s, yet cruising at 80 mph, it draws only 1 horsepower while providing virtually no boost. On the other hand, it needs 110 horsepower to spin its roots-type helix rotors up to 15,860 rpm to make peak boost pressure of 13.96 psi near redline.

Lighting the Candle

Bolted to that all-American pushrod motor (which prefers to gulp fuel we can’t pump in 91-octane California) is an optional eight-speed automatic transmission ($1,725). In Track mode, enter the Performance Traction Management (PTM) program, select Sport 1, press the brake pedal to the floorboard, whack the throttle similarly, wait for the revs to stabilize (at about 1,400 rpm), then release the brakes. Doing this will produce a wisp of wheelspin that will be monitored/managed all the way through first gear. The best launch-control results made 0-60 times of 3.2 to 3.3 seconds and steady quarter miles of 11.2 to 11.4 seconds at 130 mph—and anybody could do that, repeatedly. The launch control is that good.

Our best efforts resulted in a 0-60 time of 3.0 seconds on the way to a 10.8-second 133.1-mph quarter mile. Probably owing to our 91- not 93-octane fuel, we were slightly behind GM’s claims of a 2.9-second 0-60 time and 10.6-second/134-mph quarter mile. Our best results came from the ZR1 with its optional ZTK Track Performance package ($2,995), which replaces Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP (run-flats) with grippier Pilot Sport Cup 2 ZP tires.

It Goes Around Corners, Too

When asked about how the ZR1 handled the duress of making three or four hot laps in succession, Pobst said, “Happily, greatly improved cooling keeps both intake temps—as a result of the larger supercharger and intercoolers—and engine coolant and oil temps to more survivable numbers. I saw stable readings under 220 for water and under 275 for oil. Still rather high, but much better than the pegged readings of the poor Z06.”

Back to Reality

Around town, the ZR1 draws a crowd when parked, unsolicited questions from grocery store employees retrieving shopping carts, and even more thumbs-up reactions on the road. It is as over-the-top as they come, as it should be. On the road, the non-ZTK-equipped ZR1 rides as smoothly as every other C7 Corvette I’ve ever driven. The ZTK is harsher, like the RS versions of the Porsche 911 GT2/GT3 are.