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Forget the King of the Hill. Meet the God of the Mountain

Rob

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Forget the King of the Hill. Meet the God of the Mountain

By Daniel Pund, Senior Editor, Detroit
Edmunds.com


You've waited long enough to hear the real deal on the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, right? The nonstop, server-frying deluge of speculation, hoaxes, misinformation, wild-ass guessing and publicity-stunt silliness has dragged on just short of three years now.

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.

Here, finally, is the real story.

"Greater Than 620 Horsepower"
All right, so there's one thing that we can't put a final figure to and that's the important one: the ZR1's power output.

But Ron Meegan, the assistant chief engineer for the new 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1's supercharged V8 (and formerly a member of the original ZR-1's engine team from 1990-'95), says he expects that once the new car's supercharged 6.2-liter V8 is certified, it will produce "greater than 620 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 595 pound-feet of torque in the 3,600-to-4,000-rpm range, depending on some last-minute tuning items."

So even GM doesn't have a final power figure yet. Although you can be sure that if Meegan's superiors allowed him to mention any figure to us, they're not worried about making those numbers. Remember, when the current-generation Z06 was unveiled, it came with a claim of 500 hp, and when the production car arrived it had a rating of 505 hp.

Whether the ZR1 is rated at 625 hp or 633 hp or whatever, it won't just be the most powerful Corvette production vehicle ever (including ones measured by the grossly overstated "SAE gross" figures of pre-1972), it won't even be close. The power produced by the ZR1's LS9 engine will be roughly the equivalent of three 1980s-era Corvette small-block V8s bolted together. It'll produce more power than the Corvette C6.R that races at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Nordschleife on Chrome Rims, Y'all
ZR1 chief engineer Tadge Juechter says, "If a buyer really wants them, he can get chrome wheels on it," although he's letting us know that he would never do such a thing and he thinks you shouldn't either. But the ZR1 isn't a racecar.

Think of the Corvette lineup in Porsche 911 terms. The base coupe and convertible Corvette are analogous to the standard Carrera and Carrera S. The Z06 is the GT3 — the loud, hard-core choice of the performance junkie. The ZR1 is the Porsche Turbo. It's devastatingly fast, but it's also intended to be civilized. It's available with a head-up instrument display, power-adjustable seats, high-end audio and Delphi's smooth-riding MagneRide suspension dampers. It's no raw-boned racer. Hell, at 3,300 to 3,400 pounds, the ZR1 is almost 300 pounds heavier than a Z06.

Juechter adds, "It's sort of like the Turbo but for less money and with performance — more like the Carrera GT."

That's big talk. But, while Chevrolet is not yet making specific performance claims, Juechter notes that the ZR1 will be faster, quicker and more responsive in every way than a Z06. "You won't see a huge difference in 0-60 mph because even the Z06 is traction-limited through most of that," he says. "But in the quarter-mile and tests from zero to 100 mph to zero, there will be big differences."

And just to up the ZR1's chest-puffing quotient, Juechter notes this car "will be able to take the production-car track record at any racetrack." Ex-squeeze me? And no, the company has not done an officially timed run at the Nürburgring yet.

As for top speed, Juechter says only that the 200-mph speedometer of the standard and Z06 Corvettes has been replaced with a 220-mph unit, because the standard one is "grossly inadequate."

Hot Wheels
By now you probably have noticed that the ZR1 looks like, well, a C6 Corvette. The silhouette is, of course, the same and the overall dimensions are essentially identical to a Z06.

But there's a goodly helping of racecar bluster applied to this vehicle. It's hard to miss the hole in the hood that measures roughly 19 by 16 inches, for example. A clear polycarbonate window lets you see the intercooler cover with its fancy script. This is the ZR1's signature styling flourish. Truth be told, it's a bit Hot Wheels for our tastes. The hood is made from carbon fiber, and while the exterior has been painted, the underside retains its carbon-fiber's undressed matte finish.

The front fenders with their ZR1-specific twin-port gills are also made from carbon fiber. The prominent aerodynamic front splitter is — you guessed it! — carbon fiber. It sticks out proud of the nose by 4 inches at the edges, making it a dandy place to rest your Hummel figurine collection. Clear-coated carbon rocker extensions make the vehicle look almost subterranean. The top and B-pillar are covered in clear-coated panels of the stuff as well. This car will look wicked in black.

According to Juechter, GM has used a special super-secret additive to the clear coat to protect the unpainted carbon from the sun's ultraviolet rays. (UV rays can break down the resin that helps give carbon fiber its stiffness.) He claims that the substance costs $60,000 per gallon. But since the clearcoat needs only 3 percent of the stuff, the resulting clearcoat costs merely an absurd $2,000 per gallon. This mystery material was originally designed to protect circuit boards from UV. Juechter acknowledges only that the substance has no chemical similarity to mayonnaise and says, "We should probably not imply that it is edible anyway."

The front aero splitter is matched in the rear by a spoiler of a relatively modest height that is taller at the edges than in the center, a measure to combine an optimum balance between a decrease in aerodynamic lift and an increase in aerodynamic drag.

The wheels are a new design produced by Speedline, measuring 20-by-12 inches in the rear and 19-by-10 inches up front. They are covered (barely) by Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires, specifically formulated for this vehicle. At 335/R2520, the rear tires resemble something you might find in a steamroller; the fronts are a not-much-more-modest 285/R3019.

The interior is essentially identical to the regular Corvette. ZR1 badging and a boost gauge in place of the voltmeter are the only changes to the cabin.

Traction Limited
Even with the gigantic meats bolted to the backside, the ZR1 will be what is euphemistically called "traction limited." In other words, all that power just goes up into expensive smoke when you try to lay the power down.

And since launching a car with so much horsepower can become a violent, axle-hopping mess, Chevrolet has come up with two novel countermeasures.

First are the rear shocks. When you're stopped and the clutch pedal is depressed and you pile on some revs, the car assumes you want to launch it hard. It automatically softens the compression damping of the rear shocks, and this allows the rear end to squat and effectively shift more weight to the rear of the car for added traction. At the same time, the rebound damping of the rear shocks goes up to 99 percent of full stiffness. This means that the rear cannot spring back up under power in the up-and-down monkey motion of axle hop.

All this is perhaps the cleverest use of adjustable shocks that we've ever heard of. Also, according to Juechter, the standard magnetic shocks allow the ZR1 chassis team to use softer springs than the Z06 for a more compliant ride. To further mitigate power hop, Chevy has also fitted the ZR1 with axle half-shafts of different diameters (33mm on the right and 40mm on the left).

We'll see how all of this works next year when we finally get to drive the thing. We might just try a hard launch or, you know, several.

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.
 
Joined
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It'll produce more power than the Corvette C6.R that races at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Mind-boggling. :beer
 

Hib Halverson

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If you took the restrictors off the C6.r engine, it'd be well north of 700hp and...that's normally aspirated not supercharged, so the idea that the LS9 makes more power than the C6.r engine is just a little exaggerated.

But....we all get the point.

Anyone who buys a 3rd Gen ZR1 needs a hefty tire budget.
 

Edmond

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With only 2,000 per year, I don't know if I'll ever see one on the streets.

I would also think that there would be some sort of trickle down technology that future GM vehicles would benefit from, right?
 

Norseman

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Hmm?

According to Road and Track the ZR1 is only about 150# heaver than the Z06, and there is no 6 way adjustable seat. The magnetic adjustable shocks are suppose to lessen wheel spin at quick start ups-they compress then stiffen on rebound. I still think a twin turbo would have been the way to go; although it probably would have weighed more.:cool
 

fvette05

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Hype machine

I love Corvettes, I have one, and I waited a long time to own one but I'm sorry, there is just way tooo much hype about the ZR1, for example...no coating costs $60k a gallon! If it did, a carbon-fiber fender would cost less than the coating that goes on it! Like other Corvettes thru history, the new ZR1 it will have a great small-block V8 that is scary fast but how this car compares (from a world-class car status viewpoint) with a high-end Porsche or anyone else is another question.

During this time Chevy and GM are just working us all over with arms-race-style hype so they can sell them at a premium at the dealerships. When it is all said and done it will fit in the same class it always has...good for the value and not what a really great car should be; just what the (now a bit more wealthy) working class will accept. Just wait til those of you who are jumping at it have to get one of these serviced! How many Chevy dealers will have a brain about these cars once they've sold it!? Let's see Jay Leno fix one with a hammer! Actually, come to think of it, Jay and Marrio Andretti'll both have a jacked-up one of these given to them with gratus factory servicing!
 
T

trs

Guest
"Hype"

Planet Earth posseses one entity, the final word that separates hype from substance: the Nordschleife track in Germany. As we all know, a car is run, a time is posted and the list is formed where less is superior. The current STANDARD PRODUCTION Z-06 turns the same time as an extinct Ford GT and a GT3 Porsche. One of the members has posted the list on another thread, check it out and see the substance of the Vette. Now we get the ZR1 with obviously higher capability, it will be run at that track and a time will be posted. I'm estimating 7min, 33sec +- 4 sec. The substance of the Vette will be demonstrated again, any hype will follow - not the other way around.
By the way, Vette racing has taken seven manufacturers championships in a row in ALMS. If that's not substance, ......
 

fvette05

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I'm certainly not saying that there is no substance to the new Vette...I'm saying there darn well better be! The hyping of it is excessive/overblown til we do see some hard *******. Those ******* include actual horsepower, the Nordschleife and other track times, drag strip times, and last but not least, the MSRP and what dealers will do to that MSRP. The fact that the first one is to be auctioned off at B-J (even if it is for charity) is just another part of the hype aimed at jacking the price up. ;squint:

There are a lot of folks who are dissappointed, given all the really great cars that have or are coming out in the next year or 2. The ZR1 is supercharged, looks like a slightly modified Z06, and that the interior is a near clone of my basic C6 interior. It just remains to be seen if the actual car will match the hype and be worth the actual asking price :eek when that day comes.
 
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The Hype is always there, there must be 1000s if not 10s of 1000s of modified Corvettes roaming the roads of America with over 600 horsepower already.

Of course getting one from the factory with a warranty is pretty nice, but 100k for a souped up C6 is kind of steep.
 
T

trs

Guest
Hyper

I have every confidence that the ZR1 will live up to world-class perfomance expectations. Even at low volume, this standard production, walk-in-to-the-dealer-and-order-one Vette will go further yet to demonstrating top capabilities without destroying a real-world budget. It's gonna be a sad day when JL Gotrocks in his megabuck Elete-machine gets smoked by our beloved small-block Chevy Vette after the dinner party at the Huete Tuete Ritz hotel:rotfl

As for B-J and dealer gouging, that has to be taken on an individual basis, but someone looking to buy has lots of information sources, like this site to start with :upthumbs

Else, what can ya say? Let's go on to the Detroit Auto show in two weeks for more info and press on from there>>>>

Cheers!
 
T

trs

Guest
Inputs

Yeah Rob, I'm supporting the Vette for a few reasons, not least of which the continuing glory of my beloved smallblock Chevy. High school days, I worked on my buddy's '61 C1 that had a 350LT1 with a couple of 650's on a tunnelram, Super T-10 trans and a Chevy 12-bolt after we destroyed a few rear ends. Then I had a '69 C3 with the mellow 390 hp 427 back in the Air Force daze :eyerole
Now I'm lookin' for the next main ride when I hook up with my next engineering job - one thing follows the next. In the meantime, I'm all into following the continuing progress of the Vette, loving the dominating presence in ALMS and how that's finding it's way to standard production. I remember the later C3's - strangled, like all the other domestic cars. Nice to see GM support the Vette, not like the early '60's when Zora and Roger Penske had to do it all on thier own against what was basically a prototype.
I hope Vette Racing continues putting top notch efforts into the ALMS operation, demonstrating to all how good the Vette really is.

All the best >>>>>>
 
B

Brett

Guest
I really couldn't care less if the ZR1 is a financial success or not.

I'm just happy to see Corvette pushing boundaries and hanging its balls out there, taking a risk.

The fact that this vehicle even exists tells me that someone in GM finally cares about the product and not just the almighty dollar. At the very least, it's a statement vehicle. Let's hope it is successful too!:upthumbs
 

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