Capsule Review: 2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Sajeev and Sanjay Mehta
by Sajeev and Sanjay Mehta
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:

Sanjay writes:

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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  • NMGOM NMGOM on May 22, 2012

    Doctorv8.. Thank you for your rapid response. I realize that you will not be replying, but for the sake of clarity for others: 1) Panamera does have 4 seats; Porsche 911 Carrera has 4 seats; Nissan GT-R has 4 seats; BMW M3 (which I failed to include on the Curb-Weight List) has 4 seats. Yes, they are all sports cars or intensely sports-oriented cars; and yes, each will blow your socks off on a mountain road, as will a Corvette. The Panamera in particular has been a surprise to everyone who has driven it (I have). Even in its base version, how can a 4000-lb, sedan handle and corner like a 3000-lb sports coupe? The Turbo version is even more amazing ( Drag Coefficient: 0.30 0- 60 mph (97 km/h): 3.3 seconds 0- 100 mph (160 km/h) : 8.2 seconds 1/4 mile: 11.7 seconds @ 119 mph (192 km/h) Top Speed: 188 mph (303 km/h) Braking 70 mph (110 km/h) to 0 mph (0 km/h): 159 feet (48 m) 2) You are right: I do see Miata's, Gumpert's, Bugatti's, and Corvette's all in the same universe as a simply continuum (multi-dimensional response surface, as it were) of price, weight, power, and performance. They may all be subject to a unified field theory of sports cars some day! (^_^). You apparently see Corvettes as set aside in some special, non-continuous way, but the "world" does not. 3) The "inadequacy" of Corvettes' performance centers around its suspension, and therefore its handling in adverse situations during inclement weather at high speed. We just completed the "24 Hours of The Nurburgring" this past weekend. Nary a Corvette to be found. They just can't handle it (no pun). 4) The question of number of Corvettes sold in Germany ("the other guy's country") is THE major test of a Corvette, NOT how many sell here in America. It is THE issue that should not go unresolved. If Corvettes can sell substantially there, they can sell anywhere. Just like Zuffenhausen knew that Porsches would have to be good enough to sell in America, this is the same issue in reverse. Again, best regards to you, "doctorv8". I appreciated your discussion. Oh, and sometime when you have time, stop by a Porsche dealer and take a 2013 Boxster S out for spin. You might enjoy it (^_^). -------------

    • See 1 previous
    • NMGOM NMGOM on May 22, 2012

      @doctorv8 Yeah, that does sound kind of silly, doesn't it! Other than the fact that even Porsche admits that the new Boxster/Cayman chassis has a better weight distribution and lighter handling character than even the new 911 (991 series). The 911 is a serious, task-oriented performance car; the Boxster is just plain fun and "toss-able"--- a different feeling entirely. Driving one is just a good thing to experience. But then again, driving the new McLaren MP4-12C might be VERY good to experience too. And just think, it's only $230K. Gotta save my pennies...(^_^).... See Ya'..... -------------

  • Ctongier Ctongier on May 23, 2012

    I'm a C6 corvette owner, and these guys nailed it. The interior is amazingly shitty. The engine, transmission, suspension are all there.. then slap a plastic body on it and a cobalt interior, and you have yourself a street racer! Seriously, I love the car.. so fun to drive.. but holy shit Chevy, I know we're all used to Walmart quality, but you're trying to compete with German and Italian cars.. the quality counts here.

  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )