The rumors are true. The speculation ends. And the UFO sightings on desert highways were not of extraterrestrial craft â€" but they were of a low-flying object capable of seemingly otherworldly performance. Chevrolet officially announced the 2009 Corvette ZR1 â€" an American supercar that not only establishes new benchmarks for production-based power and performance, but challenges global competitors with a world-beating driving experience that also comes with a world-beating price of entry.
â€śThe king has returned,â€ť said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. â€śThe new ZR1 upends the notion of what an American supercar can deliver, with performance that trumps exotics that cost two, three or four times as much â€" and does so with the driving ease of a daily commuter.â€ť
The specialized components of the new ZR1 work harmoniously to deliver the most powerful and fastest automobile ever produced by General Motors. Performance estimates will be announced closer to vehicleâ€™s summer 2008 launch.
â€śPreliminary testing shows the ZR1 bests the highly respected Corvette Z06 in every performance category, from acceleration and braking, to cornering grip and top speed,â€ť said Peper. â€śIt all boils down to the power-to-weight ratio and the ZR1â€™s is exceptional â€" better than the Porsche 911 GT2, the Ferrari 599 and even the Lamborghini LP640. In fact, the ZR1 is expected to be the first production Corvette to achieve a top speed of at least 200 mph.â€ť
Transmission and axle
The LS9 engine is backed by a new, stronger six-speed manual transmission and a twin-disc clutch that provides exceptional clamping power, while maintaining an easy clutch effort. ZR1-specific gearing in the transmission provides a steep first-gear ratio that helps launch the car and top speed is achieved in sixth gear â€" a change from the fifth-gear top-speed run-outs in the manual-transmission Corvette and Corvette Z06.
As the term implies, the twin-disc clutch system employs a pair of discs, which spreads out the engineâ€™s torque load over a wider area. This enables tremendous clamping power when the clutch is engaged. It also dissipates heat better and extends the clutch life (in normal driving).
The twin-disc clutch system also contributes to the ZR1â€™s exceptional driving quality, with smooth and easy shifting. The twin-disc systemâ€™s design enables a 25-percent reduction in inertia, thanks to smaller, 260-mm plates, corresponding to a pedal effort that is similar to the Corvette Z06â€™s 290-mm single-disc system.
The rear axle also is stronger in the ZR1 and features asymmetrical axle-shaft diameters that were developed after careful testing to provide optimal torque management. The axles are also mounted on a more horizontal plane that correlates with the wider width of the rear wheels and tires.
Ride and handling
The ZR1 is built on the same aluminum-intensive chassis as the Corvette Z06 and features similar independent SLA front and rear suspensions, with aluminum upper and lower control arms. Where the ZR1 differs is the suspension tuning, which was optimized for the carâ€™s steamroller-wide front and rear tires.
Magnetic Selective Ride Control is standard and tuned specifically for the ZR1. The systemâ€™s ability to deliver a compliant ride with nearly instantaneous damping adjustments enabled engineers to develop a surprisingly supple ride quality in a supercar that still delivers cornering grip of more than 1g.
From a high-performance perspective, Magnetic Selective Ride Control helps the rear axle remain planted during launch for smooth, hop-free acceleration. It also helps suppress axle movement when cornering on broken or uneven pavement.
Brakes, wheels and tires
Commensurate with the ZR1â€™s engine output is the braking system, which is headlined by carbon-ceramic brake rotors. Found on only a few exotics and more expensive supercars, carbon-ceramic brake rotors are made of a carbon-fiber-reinforced ceramic silicon carbide material . Their advantage comes in low mass and resistance to wear and heat. In fact, the rotors should never show any corrosion or require replacement for the life of the vehicle, when used in normal driving.
The vented and cross-drilled rotors on the ZR1 measure 15.5 inches (394 mm) in diameter in the front and 15 inches (380 mm) in diameter in the rear â€" making them among the largest carbon-ceramic rotors available on any production vehicle.
Clamping down on the high-tech rotors are six-piston front calipers and four-piston rear calipers, each painted a ZR1-exclusive blue. The front pads are equivalent in size to the largest on any production car with a single-pad design â€" double that of the Corvette Z06â€™s 70-sq.-cm. front pads.
The brakes are visible through the ZR1â€™s exclusive wheels: 20-spoke alloy rims that measure 19 inches in diameter in the front and 20 inches in the rear. They come standard with a bright, Sterling Silver paint finish and chrome versions are optional. The wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires developed specifically for the ZR1, measuring P285/30ZR19 in front and P335/25ZR20 in the rear.
By the numbers
In addition to the exterior cues and powertrain, ZR1 models will be distinguished from other Corvette models by their VIN. Each will carry a unique, identifying VIN digit, as well as a sequential build number. This makes it easy to determine the build number of a specific car â€" information treasured by enthusiasts and collectors. For example, a ZR1 with a VIN ending in â€ś0150â€ť would indicate it is the 150 th ZR1 built for the model year.
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