2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Photos courtesy Chevrolet.
Based upon Chevrolet’s C6 Corvette, the last ZR1 model thundered off into the sunset in 2013. Since then, boost-loving Corvette fans have gotten by with the C7 Corvette Z06, which uses a supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V-8, rated at 650 horsepower, to convert rear tires to white smoke. Next spring, Chevy dealers will begin taking orders for an all-new 2019 ZR1 Corvette with 755 horsepower on tap, making it the most powerful Chevrolet model ever produced.
Throughout Corvette history, the ZR1 moniker has always been reserved for special high-performance models. From 1970 to ’72, the ZR1 package was targeted to road racers, and included the LT1 V-8, aluminum radiator, transistor ignition, an M22 four-speed transmission, power brakes, and a heavy-duty suspension. Not available with the ZR1 package were luxuries like power windows, power steering, air conditioning, or a radio, and over three production years just 53 examples were produced.
From 1990 to ’95 the ZR-1 (hyphen intentional) was a halo model for Corvette, equipped with a double-overhead camshaft, four-valve-per-cylinder LT5 V-8, designed in cooperation with Lotus and built for GM by Mercury Marine. With an output of 375 horsepower, performance was stunning for the day, matched in part by the car’s price of $58,995, over $27,000 more than a base Corvette coupe.
The next ZR1 (no hyphen) appeared in 2009, once again as a halo model in the Corvette lineup. This time, Chevrolet added forced induction in the form of supercharging, delivering a C6 Corvette that produced 638 horsepower and was reportedly capable of running from 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 205 mph. Around the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the litmus test used by performance automakers the world over, the C6 ZR1 Corvette lapped the course in 7:19.63, besting cars like the Ferrari Enzo (7:25.21) and the Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 (7:25). When the C6 went out of production at the end of 2013, the ZR1 went with it.
There’s been no ZR1 since Chevrolet launched the C7 Corvette as a 2014 model, though aforementioned Corvette Z06, with its 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, did debut in 2015. With rumors (backed up by ample spy photography) of a mid-engine Corvette in the works, Chevrolet may have been forgiven for passing over the ZR1 in this generation, but last weekend the automaker dropped details of the 2019 model at the opening of the 2017 Dubai Auto Show.
The 2019 Corvette ZR1, slated to go on sale early next year, comes powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter LT5 V-8, similar to the LT4 in the Z06 but equipped with a larger blower and throttle body. Output climbs to 755 horsepower and 715 pound-feet of torque, thanks in part to a dual fuel-injection system that uses direct injection plus supplemental port injection for the first time in a Chevrolet model. Also in a first for the ZR1 model, Chevrolet will offer buyers the choice between a seven-speed manual transmission and an eight-speed, paddle shifted automatic; previous versions came exclusively with manual transmissions.
Chevrolet will offer the ZR1 with two aero packages, known as “Low Wing” and “High Wing.” The Low Wing package will be aimed at those who favor top speed over lap times, with the automaker claiming that “over 210 mph” will be possible–under controlled conditions, of course. Those more concerned with circuit times will want to check the option box for the High Wing ZTK package, which reportedly generates 950 pounds of downforce (transferred to the chassis, not the bodywork) at speed.
Past ZR1 models, despite their performance potential, have never been one-trick ponies, and have proven equally adept on road or track. Expect the same from this latest generation, which ups the bar considerably in terms of output and, reportedly, handling.
Look for details on pricing and availability to be released closer to the ZR1’s on sale date.