Capsule Review: 2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
This is a test of TTAC’s Corvette ZR1 purchased with 0% financing. Better late than never, as I’ve marinated over both new and old ZR-goodness several times in my brother’s garage. No doubt, the Viper killing, LS9-FTW motivated Corvette is a worthy successor to the original, with the power-to-weight ratio to eat 458 Italias and cream GT-Rs…at least when AWD is a handicap. But almost two years later, the “King of The Hill” lacks the limelight it deserves. Does the average sports car buyer know the differences between Grand Sport, Z06, Z06 Carbon and ZR1?
To wit, the ZR1 needs more style. The original’s coachwork necessitated a wider door, but the current makes do with fender lip extensions from the Z06. Sure, there’s the carbon fiber roof/splitter and a hood window that frames…an ugly plastic skirt around the LS9’s intercooler. Perhaps clear hoods are better left to mid-engined exotics. Far worse, however, are the radioactive blue (from the “Blue Devil” days of this design) accents on the badges, brakes and engine cover: forget about playing “Little Red Corvette”, unless it’s played by The Clash. Color palette restrictions are in effect, but our Cyber Grey tester’s blue metallic flakes are a very effective complement.
At least the “3ZR” dress-up package helps the Corvette’s obvious interior flaws. Perhaps the world-class interiors promised to us so many years ago by Bob Lutz are just a C7 ‘Vette away? The asymmetrical Left-Right door panels stick out like JWOWW giving a lecture at the MoMA. And the laughably fake carbon fiber center stack keeps the Porsche crowd in stitches. Sit inside and the biggest flaw comes to light: those shitty seats.
Pardon my digression, but…
While these thrones were a downer in our Z06 review, the ZR1’s astronomical asking price adds insult to injury. After 20 minutes in the flat, unsupportive bottoms, my time in a Chevy Cobalt XFE was looking mighty desirable. But perhaps you remember the Caravaggio name from an old Lingenfelter Z06 review. After my brother befriended “John C” on the Corvette Forum, a deal was made – a prototype pair of Caravaggio’s finest seat foam, carbon fiber shells merged with the stock leather bits. Simply put, this is heaven in a C6 Corvette. Combined with Caravaggio’s upgraded (i.e. real) leather shift boot, horn pad and real carbon fiber center stack, it’s a shame that Caravaggio-worthy bits aren’t standard fare like Brembo brakes.
There are rumors that Caravaggio’s finest will appear on new Corvettes much like Recaros on the CTS-V. So consider this a sneak peek.
Speaking of Brembos, them’s some serious stoppers. Experiencing them during the mandated break-in (pun not intended) 0-60-0 x 50 burnishing procedure displayed their physical prowess. Pounding them proved unflappable, the perfect partner to the endless torque provided by the LS9, and hell, even the rims were clean when we finished! That said, the Brembo’s decreased unsprung weight must be the reason why the steering wheel gets light and loose when you mash the gas at cruising speeds. (Or it could be the 604 ft lbs of torque!) The last time I felt this was in a RUF 911 Turbo. Not necessarily a bad thing, as the ZR1 steers less like a stereotypical Corvette and more like that Porker. And with that, I’ll let my brother put his ride on the track:
Flogging the ZR1 on the bends of Spring Mountain Raceway in Pahrump and Motorsport Ranch in Angleton, TX proved that the active handling computer rarely intervenes when driven smoothly. But, with 604 ft lbs of torque, even 1/2 throttle in 3rd or 4th brings the back around promptly. Tail-out is very controllable— more so than my 2006 Z06—but it takes a few laps to get enough heat in the Michelin run-flat PS2s. When warm, their grip is not much less than the (moderately fresh) Michelin PS Cup tires I used on Corvettes at Spring Mountain, and far more predictable in breakaway. Those CC brakes, combined with the C6’s fastidious attention to weight savings, meant lap after lap of 100% fade free, yank your Oakleys off stopping ability.
The ZR1’s steering/brake/shifter/unique twin disc clutch interface is so much smoother than any other Vette! And while you can take advantage of PTM by flooring the throttle and letting the computer manage torque in a corner, that’s a bit disconcerting. And it’s the wrong way to drive from a technique perspective. In PTM level 5, intervention is imperceptible for most of us non-Baruth types, but even members of the C6R LeMans team noticed tiny improvements in lap times with it on.
So let’s get back to the street. No Super Car is ever plush, but put GM’s unquestionably awesome Magnaride suspension in mild suppression mode and things get civilized. There’s the de rigueur C5/C6 platform road noise from the 13″ wide rubber through that cavernous cargo bay, yet body motions are perfectly damped to leave the soul at complete ease. You never feel punished with Magnaride and Caravaggio at your side: the Corvette is finally growing up to its price point.
Viva Detroit, via Caravaggio!
On the streets or the track, the ZR1 does what it promised: destroy just about any car for a Chevrolet price tag. After two years to simmer and enjoy, the ZR1’s engineering prowess is timeless. The fact that you can buy a bona fide 10 second quarter mile, 20+ mpg monster with factory reliability and a 5 year/100k warranty was laughable even a decade ago. Forget the not-unique styling, interior fit and finish, and radical incentivizing that muddied the waters, for this (12 year old) platform underpins one of the best super cars on the planet.
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