Chevrolet's 2009 Corvette ZR1 is the best thing to come out of Detroit since Dearborn-style pistachio baklawa. I don't say that lightly; pistachio baklawa is spectacular.
Leading with a headline-grabbing horsepower figure, the ZR1 delivers sharp, predictable handling, unjarring road feel and performance as barmy on pavement as on paper, all without artifice or intimidation. Yes, it’s a Corvette, and while that may confound anyone who assumes the badge signifies rough trade, the ZR1’s excellence won’t surprise anyone whose watched GM’s Corvette program evolve over the past decade.
It isn't the first Corvette to wear the ZR1 badge. The name also applied to a rare racing package in 1970 and the better-known “King of the Hill” Corvette in the early 1990s, powered by a Lotus-designed V8. The '09 is nonetheless a Corvette of firsts. With a base price of $105,000, it is the most costly Corvette in the model's history (and the first over six figures). It's also the first to break 200 mph right out of the factory, and the first boosted by a supercharger, or for that matter, artificial aspiration of any kind.
The ZR1 produces momentous car-geek numbers: zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds, a 205-mph top speed, 7.26 seconds around Germany’s Nürburgring, 638 horsepower, and 604 pounds-feet of torque. To put it in context, there’s only a factor of 0.001 between the ZR1 and being punched in the face by Kimbo Slice.
Certainly, the ZR1 surpasses the previous flagship Corvette Z06, which since 2004 has occupied a stratum of high-performance cars costing twice its $72,000 price. But whereas the edgy Z06 can be riotous, the ZR1 embodies Theodore Roosevelt’s principle of speaking softly and carrying a 600-horsepower supercharged V8 in your pants. Plus, you just know the world has gone a bit flatsided when the 505-horsepower Z06 feels underpowered.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.