As of now, it’s no secret that the C7 Corvette ZR1 is on the way. After what seemed like an eternity of speculation, leaked spy shots during testing, and video footage, the 2019 ZR1 is almost here. It takes the aggressive styling of the Z06 and turns it up a notch, looking like a proper GT racer. The high-mounted wing option looks like it belongs on a small aircraft, and the front splitter can do double duty as a snow plow, but it’s all done for a reason. The 755-horsepower engine makes for such a tall package that it sticks out from the hood. This truly is the pinnacle of anything that has worn a bowtie badge.
Powerplant and Driveline
A Corvette simply wouldn’t be a Corvette without a powerful V8 under the hood, and the new LT5 engine delivers in a big way. Taking its designation from the 1990 ZR-1’s engine, the LT5 sticks to the single cam, pushrod configuration that dates back to the C5 Corvette. Mounted to the intake manifold is an Eaton supercharger that is over 50 percent larger in displacement than the unit on the Z06. Combined with a throttle body nearly 100mm in diameter, the LT5 turns out 755 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 715 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm – a 300-horsepower increase from the base Corvette.
Though it retains the tried and true pushrod configuration, the LT5 uses both direct and port fuel injection, which helps fuel flow and helps to reduce carbon buildup that direct injection is prone to creating. The supercharger is coupled with a more efficient intercooler, helping to prevent heat-soak. The large supercharger and intercooler combination results in an overall engine height that requires the hood to be open in the middle just to create enough room.
Power is of course sent to the rear wheels, via a seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission – the same exact units available in the Z06. Though automatic transmission technology has reached the point where it will reliably shift faster than a human can row through an H-pattern, chief Corvette executive engineer Tadge Juechter states that the manual is stronger and is preferred for track use.
Supercar power figures require supercar levels of grip, and the ZR1 delivers that through heavy use of aerodynamic trickery. The aggressive aero is immediately apparent upon seeing the massive front splitter and rear wing, and there are multiple packages available to suit different tastes. The standard ZR1 low-mounted wing delivers 70 percent more downforce than a base Z06, and gives the ZR1 an attainable top speed of 210 mph.
The high-mount wing option increases downforce and lowers the car’s top speed, giving it 60 percent more downforce than the most aerodynamically aggressive Z06 (the Z07 package). The wing’s angle of attack (AOA) is adjustable up to five degrees, and is mounted directly to the chassis to prevent cracking the rear hatch under load.
Beyond what is easily visible, new underbody aero was developed in conjunction with the Corvette Racing team, and an inverted airfoil aids front downforce to balance out the massive rear wing.
Suspension and Mechanical Grip
The high-wing is a part of the ZTK Performance Package, which includes a front splitter, sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and different tuning for the chassis and Magnetic Ride Control. Suspension geometry is created via a short-long arm double wishbone configuration, with composite, transverse-mounted leaf springs front and rear. Would it really be a Corvette without leaf springs, after all?
The base ZR1 will be delivered with Pilot Super Sport tires, and the staggered 285/30ZR19 355/25ZR20 sizes cover massive carbon-ceramic brakes that are capable of bringing the car from 60-0 in under 90 feet with sticky tires – true supercar figures.
Expect pricing to start in the $120,000 range when the ZR1 finally hits showrooms in the spring. While objectively that’s a hefty price tag for a Corvette, it is the bargain of the century when compared to the cars it aims to compete with.
This may be the final front-engine Corvette, and we don’t see a better way to send off such a motorsport icon.