GM Unveils 2009 Corvette ZR1

The King of the Hill Returns!

By Chris Haak


One of the worst-kept secrets in the auto industry for the past year or two was that GM was working on a super Corvette with 600 plus horsepower, forced induction, and performance up to par with the world’s elite supercars. After years of denying the program’s very existence, GM trotted out a lightly-disguised version of this car (without confirming its name) for a few hot laps at Laguna Seca in October, but still didn’t confirm the name or reveal its final shape.

Last night, GM pulled the wraps off of the ZR1 (previously referred to as “Blue Devil,” “Corvette SS” or “Z07”) as an early Christmas present to the Corvette faithful. Nearly every rumor about the car, except for its likely horsepower figure (the rumors were a little optimistic) and the transmission choice (it’s a standard manual transaxle and not a DSG) turned out to be pretty accurate.

The biggest change for the ZR1 over the standard and Z06 Corvettes is the all-new supercharged LS9 small block V8 with at least 620 horsepower and 595 lb.-ft. of torque (final SAE certification has not yet been completed on this engine). The engine will be hand built at GM’s performance build center, which also assembles the LS7 engine found in the Corvette Z06 and the supercharged 4.4 liter Northstar V8 engines found in the Cadillac XLR-V and STS-V.

Other go-fast goodies featured on the ZR1 include a beefed-up rear axle, stronger transmission, a new twin-disc clutch, and large carbon-ceramic brake rotors. The front brakes have a 15.5 inch diameter and the rear brakes have a 15 inch diameter, and are accompanied by six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers on the rear. The car rides on 20 inch wheels in the rear and 19 inch wheels in the front, fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires developed specifically for the ZR1.

The ZR1 is built on an aluminum-intensive chassis that the Z06 uses, and also has several weight saving features such as a carbon fiber hood, roof, roof bow, rocker molding, and front splitter. In spite of the exotic weight saving materials used, the ZR1 tips the scales at approximately 3,350 pounds, which is about 200 pounds heavier than the Z06. The weight gain can be primarily attributed to the ZR1’s wider fenders, larger wheels, the addition of magnetic selective ride control, and the supercharger and related hardware.

As a Corvette enthusiast, I think the styling changes for the ZR1 are aggressive and attractive. You won’t mistake this car for any other Corvette if you spot it cruising down the road. On the interior, I’m a little disappointed that it’s no better than the base Corvette with the 4LT leather wrap package, except for the ZR1 logos on the seats. I wish the car came with a twin clutch automated manual transmission, at least as an option, for ultimate performance, and I wish the curb weight were closer to the ZR1’s. Finally, as thrilled as I am to see this car without any disguises, I’m disappointed that GM chose to reveal it now rather than waiting three weeks to unveil it in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show. The only suspense around this car in Detroit will be its final horsepower and torque numbers, but I don’t expect them to deviate much from the “at least” numbers.

Pricing has not been revealed for the ZR1, but expect it to be around $100,000. It sounds like a lot of money for a Corvette (or for a GM vehicle, for that matter), until you consider all of the expensive, exotic technology packed into this car and how superlative its performance will be.

COPYRIGHT – All Rights Reserved

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. Yeah, it’s a lot of money for a Vette, but if you compare to other cars with the same performance it is an incredible bargain. There’s really nothing that even comes close in terms of value. It’s like an exotic car that you can drive to work every day and get serviced at the Chevy dealer. You gotta like that!

  2. I agree, timmons. GM has said that thanks to the new twin-disc clutch and magnetic selective ride control, the ZR1 will be easier and more comfortable to drive on a daily basis than the Z06. They were actually able to dial back the Z06’s spring rates for the ZR1, in spite of its higher performance potential.

    Visually, the splitter is what makes this car look badass to me.

  3. The interior is not up to Ferrari or Maserati standards, though.

  4. You’re right, anonymous. As big of a Corvette fan as I am, I’ll happily tip my hat to those two – particularly Maserati (or Aston Martin, for that matter) when it comes to interior design and materials. People who have seen the leather wrap Corvette in person have been pretty impressed by it, though.

  5. While it’s true that the Maserati looks better than the Corvette inside, it’s more expensive and a lot slower. Dollar-fordollar, the Corvette ZR1 wins hands-down.

  6. I love it. I really love it. I was going to buy a Corvette in a couple of months, but I think I’ll wait another month after that when I get my bonus and buy the ZR1. It’s a lot of money but it’s going to be a lot of fun too.

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