Super-hot Corvette ZR1 tops General Motors’ auto smorgasbord
Phoenix – As someone who spends most of his time scaring the living daylights out of those who’ve had the poor judgment to share a ride with me, being on the receiving end is indeed a different experience.
So, late last month, when I donned a helmet and climbed into the cabin of the new 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 with none other than General Motors’ most famous test driver and engineer, Jim Mero, I guess I should have seen what was coming.
Mero was the star attraction at the General Motors Collection, a day-long ride-and-drive event for journalists held at the Bondurant Racing School. And while GM had the good foresight not to let a bunch of writers out on the track with the new $105,000 super-‘Vette, Mero ” who set a record earlier this year piloting the ZR1 around Germany’s famous Nürburgring race track ” was more than willing to scare the hell out of all us.
From the get-go, the ZR1’s offerings are definitely above and beyond the already frightening reality of modern-era Corvettes. In this case, it takes the 6.2 liter V8 and supercharges it, producing 638 horsepower of deafening, tire-liquifying power.
So a hot lap that begins with a stock car-worthy scream to 60 in 3.4 seconds will only get more and more wonderfully brutal, and Mero was more than willing to take the ‘Vette to its very limits.
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My helmeted head spent most of its time virtually nailed to the window or the headrest, my hands locked in a death-grip around the door handle. The Corvette itself capable of feats of acceleration, braking and cornering like I’d never felt before, especially under my own (by comparison) unskilled control.
On the straights, Mero cracked about 140 mph (he says he touched 205 mph while cavorting on the Autobahn, and that the fuel shut-off kicks in at 210); in the corners, the ZR1 weighs you down with the kind of G-forces you’d feel during a Space Shuttle launch.
Nonchalantly lollygagging around the track on a cool-down lap, Mero noted the most wonderful irony is that the ZR1 is also a totally comfortable summertime daily driver, capable of 20 mpg, with more than a bit of psychotic power at the ready.
The enhanced price of the super-Corvette doesn’t translate into massive styling changes or finishings – slightly gaudy wheels, more aggressive airflow measures and a clear visor plate inside the hood to show off the supercharger are new ” and the rest is pretty much the same interior as can be found on the $47,000 base machine.
The remainder of the day at Bondurant was spent approximating what I guess most civilians undertake when shopping for a car: heading off on 10-minute test drives in a dozen or so different vehicles, trips that give only the vaguest of notion of what an automobile will be like when you integrate it into your regular life and driving style.
To that end, I really hope to eventually spend a full week driving the new Cadillac CTS-V, the $60,000-ish, high-performance upgraded version of the CTS which has just established itself as the world’s fastest sedan.
Sharing a Corvette-derived 6.2 liter V8 of its own, the CTS-V puts out 556 horsepower and will reach a top speed of just over 190 mph; the litany of suspension tunes and ride upgrades make it a still very luxurious, five-passenger track monster beyond compare.
I’d also like to get a little more in-depth seat time with vehicles including the surprisingly speedy Sky Redline, Saturn’s version of General Motors’ two-door convertible, as well as the jolty Cobalt SS.
I really wanted to drive the new 2009 Chevy Aveo, but time did not allow this to happen. A 2010 Camaro was on display but was not available for rides; ditto for the newly fast-tracked 2011 Volt, which will be capable of traveling 40 miles on electricity only (and packs an interior that looks like a giant iPod).
It would also be great to enjoy a mid-winter, real-world test time with GM’s new full-size, dual-mode hybrid SUVs, including the glamorous Cadillac Escalade; we’ll cross our fingers for that at a future juncture.