“The King is returning, stronger than ever,” boldly declared Chevrolet as it announced the 2019 Corvette ZR1 at the Dubai Motor Show last month. The eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette is designed to be a supercar of legend with 755 hp and 715 ft lbs of torque, plus two wind tunnel-honed aerodynamics packages (including an available High Wing that provides an estimated 950 pounds of downforce) — “the highest power, greatest track performance and most advanced technology in its production history,” according to the iconic American car brand. Noted Mark Reuss, executive vice president, global product development, purchasing and supply chain: “Its unprecedented performance puts all other global supercars on notice that the ZR1 is back.”
Intrigued by the new supercar set to go on sale next spring 2019, we recently had an opportunity to ask Tadge Juechter, chief engineer of Cadillac XLR and Chevrolet Corvette, a few questions about the ZR1 and why he views it as so special. He told us: “After 65 years of continuous development, the ZR1 represents the best technology available. Customers will enjoy hyper-car exotic levels of performances without the usual compromises. Although this car has the highest top speed, quickest lap times and most horsepower of any Corvette ever produced, it has not lost the daily livability that makes Corvette special.”
Where European automakers have trotted out high-priced supercars year after year, Americans have had less of a dominant presence in the supercar space — although that is changing. Chevrolet naturally views itself as a confident trendsetter, and does not view the ZR1 as any sort of response to other supercar automakers
“Corvette has been in production longer than any other sports car model in the world,” says Juechter. “We are proudly American – designed in Michigan, built in Kentucky – and successfully sold and raced against the best cars from the best manufacturers in the world.”
Of course, the allure of the ZR1 lies in the details…
The LT5 6.2L V-8 engine delivers the highest output ever for a Chevrolet production vehicle, thanks in part to a new, more-efficient intercooled supercharger system that offers 52% more displacement than the Z06’s LT4 supercharger. GM’s first dual-fuel-injection system, which employs primary direct injection and supplemental port injection, helps the LT5 achieve its record output. Seven-speed manual and eight-speed paddle-shift automatic transmissions are available with the LT5. “It’s the first time an automatic transmission has been offered in a ZR1.
An all-new front fascia is designed to channel air for propulsion-system and drivetrain cooling, with four new radiators bringing the heat-exchanger total to 13. A special carbon-fiber “halo” hood is open in the middle to clear the LT5 engine’s supercharger/intercooler assembly. Additional features, including aero packages with stanchion-mounted wings, help push the ZR1 harder onto the track for more confident handling and faster lap times. Top speed of the ZR1 is over 210 mph.
Added Juechter: We’re also estimating 0-60 mph in under 3.0 seconds and a high 10-second quarter-mile time.”
The ZR1 will offer two aero packages: a standard rear Low Wing, which delivers the highest top speed, and an available two-way-adjustable High Wing that offers maximum downforce on the track for the quickest lap times — about 60 percent more downforce than the Z06 with the available Z07 Performance Package. All models also feature a Chevrolet-first, downforce-enhancing front underwing.
The adjustable High Wing is part of the new ZTK Performance Package, which also includes a front splitter with carbon-fiber end caps, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer-only tires, and specific chassis and Magnetic Ride Control tuning for greater cornering grip.
Both of the ZR1’s wings are tied into the chassis, like the Corvette Racing C7.R racecar, for strength and stability.
When we asked if the 2019 Corvette ZR1’s aggressive appearance was driven by function, Juechter said: “We pride ourselves on not accepting a binary choice: Form vs Function. Our team works together to get form and function.”
Availability and Demand
The ZR1 coupe will start at $119,995, and the ZR1 convertible starts at $123,995. The supercar is set to go on sale next spring — and is already pre-selling. “The order system opened this month and initial demand has been very strong,” according to Juechter. “The ZR1 is not intended to be a limited production model where we artificially limit volume, so we hope to build as many as our customers want. Manufacturing capacity is not infinite, however; so it is still possible demand will outpace supply.”
If the response to the ZR1 at the Dubai Auto Show was any indication, Chevrolet may be well on its way to a best seller. “People were thrilled that the ZR1 is returning to the Corvette lineup,” said Juechter.