I knew it was going to be scary; I really did. I have a reasonable enough amount of track time in the already absurd, 650-horsepower Corvette Z06, that I knew, with reasonable certainty, that whatever the 2018 Corvette ZR1 could do around Road Atlanta, my driving ability would not be enough to keep up.
The fastest, most powerful, and (yes) loudest Corvette ever built is, shamelessly, the opposite end of a pendulum swung into motion by the pileup of complaints by owners and journalists when warm track days led to limping “trackday special” Corvette Z06s. As it turned out, the Z06’s undersized, undercooled and overspun 1.74L Eaton supercharger couldn’t take the heat and got out of the kitchen on a pretty regular basis. One of the Corvette’s best calling cards, the lowest cowl height in the business, came into direct conflict with the needs of forced induction: packaging.
This led, at first, to the glorious Grand Sport, still one of our favorite Corvettes, which combines the naturally-aspirated LT1 engine from the standard car with the Z06’s bodywork and chassis improvements, resulting in a wonderfully balanced, fun, and playful road and track machine. It also led to several tuners, most prominently Callaway Cars, developing new supercharger packages which utilize Eaton’s larger 2.3L supercharger, which, under less stress than the stock unit, can make an effortless, and terrifying, 775-horsepower with fewer cooling issues, as I experienced in their Aerowagen test unit – to date probably the most unhinged lunatic of a sports car I’ve experienced in the last 12 months.
The heart of the beast is a monstrous, supercharged, handbuilt 6.2L V8 called the LT5, Corvette historians will note the name is shared with the C4 ZR1’s “Speedboat” four-cam V8. GM had the LT5 and its hulking 2.65L blower on a stand next to the current Z06’s LT4 in the media room. The engine is 50 percent bigger, physically, than the LT4.
As usual, for the segment, there is nothing like it. From the 1990 ZR1 that ran with 911 Turbo’s and Testarossa’s for $61,000, to the C6 ZR1 that I took to the Mojave Mile and ran 177 mph for $110,000 with no prep work whatsoever, to the new one, which handily embarrassed the $450,000, “we’ll sue you if you sell it” Ford GT by accident, for $140,000 (as tested), the ZR1 is everything you want out of the ultimate Corvette to compete with the world, at a price nobody can compete with, though at perhaps a lower quality of interior and finish than more expensive competition.