The Corvette can hardly contain this much performance. Just look at how major the exterior modifications are: The front splitter hangs from a fascia that is effectively one huge grille, the two-position rear wing forces you to load cargo from the side of the car, and the hood has been hole-punched to make 755 horsepower fit. Five years into production, the C7 Corvette is so saturated with speed that the engineers have run out of room under the hood and in the wheel wells to make it quicker.
For a car that is literally overflowing with juice, the ZR1 drives remarkably like the Corvette Stingray that makes 300 less horsepower. You’ll recognize the ZR1 as a Vette by its steady front-end grip, its faithful steering, and the ease with which it attacks the road. Seated relatively far back in the car, you feel rotation at the rear end instantly, long before the yaw can gather any tree-bashing momentum.
The LT5 V-8 idles with an offshore-speedboat burble that erupts at the slightest poke of the throttle. In full fury, the ZR1’s pyrotechnic thunder so completely fills the atmosphere that there’s no air left to carry the supercharger’s whine. The blower is unmistakable, though, in the way the ZR1 marries the instant response of a naturally aspirated engine with the fat torque band of forced induction. It’s a forgiving personality that will yank hard in any gear at any speed, which is that much more useful because the ZR1’s lazy eight-speed automatic wouldn’t earn a passing grade in a minivan. You can count a whole Mississippi between pulling a shift paddle and powering toward the horizon on the next gear. Another reason to opt for the seven-speed manual.
The ZR1 isn’t the race-car wannabe that the GT2 RS is, then. Chevrolet coddles buyers with available luxuries such as heated and ventilated seats, a power-adjustable steering column, and a team of cameras watching over the carbon-fiber splitter. All these creature comforts do have a downside, however. The ZR1 earns the sad distinction of being the heaviest of the seventh-gen Corvettes, and at 3659 pounds, our test car weighed almost 300 pounds more than the GT2 RS.
The chassis is mostly indifferent to that additional mass, as the ZR1 delivers organ-scrambling grip even on an off day. Wearing a set of ragged Michelins that looked as if they’d done a stint at Sebring before rolling up to our office, the ZR1 lapped the skidpad at 1.16 g’s of lateral stick. It stopped from 70 mph in 127 feet. And it outpaced the Porsche in the slalom, helped by the stability of a wheelbase that’s 10.1 inches longer and the car’s nearly equal front/rear weight distribution.
This monster is made even more docile with Chevrolet’s five-mode Performance Traction Management system, which can coach drivers to track-day heroics via a progressively more permissive safety net. But the launch-control algorithm fails to make the most effective use of the supercharged V-8’s 715 pound-feet of torque for straight-line runs. For the quickest time, it’s on the driver to roll into the throttle, modulate the pedal, and time the upshifts with machinelike precision. On a 93-degree day, the ZR1 knocked out a 3.1-second zero-to-60-mph run, a half-second behind the 911 GT2 RS. Through the quarter-mile, the Corvette’s 11.0-second run was 0.7 second off the 911’s. The only human that stands a chance at beating Porsche’s effortless launch control is a Chevy engineer programming the advanced traction-control software that this ZR1 deserves.
We’ll admit that we didn’t just measure the Corvette against the 911 GT2 RS in scoring this comparo. Driving the ZR1, we couldn’t shake thoughts of the former Big Kahuna Corvette, the 650-hp Z06. We have now tested two different ZR1s on three different days in two different states with two different drivers. The top-line takeaway has been the same every time: We’ve yet to corner harder or accelerate to 60 mph quicker in the ZR1 than in the Corvette Z06 armed with the Z07 package. The ZR1 in this comparison test did nick its little brother in stopping distance by a single foot. One foot and $32,210-they’re what separate a ZR1 with the ZTK Track Performance package from a Z07-equipped Corvette Z06.
Shy of putting legitimate race rubber on the Corvette, it appears Chevy is up against the limits of the front-engine C7 chassis. The ZR1, then, is the perfect justification for why Chevrolet will soon trade 65 years of front-engine sports-car excellence to challenge the mid-engine status quo. If that next Vette is anything like this ZR1-a world-class performer on a blue-collar budget-the future rivalry might just be Corvette versus Ferrari.