Be afraid, Europe: it’s the new Corvette ZR1

By topgear ,

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It’s been an eight-year wait, but the Corvette ZR1 is back. With a vengeance, it seems, as GM has turned all the dials up to eleven to produce the fastest and most powerful ‘Vette ever.

Under the bonnet is a new supercharged 6.2-litre ‘LT5’ V8 engine good for 755bhp and 969Nm of torque. Yes, you read that correctly. Seven hundred and fifty-five horsepower.

All that extra oomph from the ZR1’s new, dry-sumped pushrod V8 is largely thanks to a 52 per cent larger supercharger, the largest throttle bodies (95mm) ever fitted, as well as an upgraded crankshaft and a dual-injection system (direct injection as well as supplemental port injection) that’ll mean the ZR1 will spit flames like Spyro the Dragon.

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ZR1 enthusiasts might recall the previous generation C6 ZR1 had a transparent bonnet to expose the engine in all its glory. That’s been shelved for this one, but it doesn’t mean the engine still isn’t on display.

If you look closely at the chunky carbon strip down the centreline of the bonnet, you’ll see a dividing line. That’s because the half nearest the windscreen is actually the engine’s carbon fibre intercooler cover, meaning the block is breaching the bodywork and poking its head out in the open to try and say hello. It’s better than that, because when you start the beast up, it’ll visually kick and shudder on its engine mounts outside the bodywork. As you can see, the carbon weave has been given Pagani-like perfection so it matches seamlessly with the two cooling vents ahead of it. How un-American.

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Talking of cooling, it’s been well documented that the C7 was plagued with issues in this area. So, the ZR1 has a much more efficient intercooler system with more extracting vents. But, to go full-on boots and braces, there’s four new radiators onboard, bringing the total number to 13 – three more than a Bugatti Chiron.

You have a choice as to how you want all that power to be sent to the 335 section rear wheels via an e-diff; either a seven-speed manual with rev-match, or an eight-speed auto’. Why not the incredibly clever 10-cogger from the Camaro ZL1? Well, it doesn’t fit. We’d recommend the manual regardless.

Lets talk aero. The ZR1 is available with two wing options; either a standard wing for a top speed in excess of 338kph, or ‘high’ wing if you want the rear end to stick to the track like a sauteed Tangfastic. Thankfully, both come with two-piece carbon ceramic brakes, with six-piston aluminium calipers to bring it to a stop.

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The adjustable high wing is part of the ZTK Performance package and is bolted straight to the chassis like the Corvette Racing C7.R. Which is a brilliant bit of pub ammo. More than that, it can be manually adjusted by five degrees and gives 430kg of downforce at its top speed. That’s like driving around with a grand piano bungee corded onto the back.

Meanwhile, a deep-dish front splitter with carbon fibre end caps, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres (instead of the standard Super Sports), plus a specific Nürburgring-honed chassis and Magnetic Ride Control suspension tune, as well as bucket seats, complete the optional ZTK package. Don’t be shy about your aero if you don’t spec it: even with the smaller (but still large in the scheme of things) wing, the ZR1 generates up to 70 per cent more downforce than the boggo Z06, and all ZR1s come with a front underwing to bolster stability and increase downforce.

Visually, it’s a lot more aggressive than your standard but-already-shouty Corvette. There’s a new, sharper front end that’s enhanced thanks to the jutting chin spoiler flanked by the optional carbon endplates. There’s also plenty more carbon bits: the bonnet, fender inserts, rockers, splitters, the rear wing and the removable top. If you spec the launch Sebring Orange package, this is all contrasted with lots of – you guessed it – orange. Then there’s the four exhausts which will shout the sweet music of hell. Something that Chevy is trying to patent – so it’s got to sound good.

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Despite the liberal use of carbon both inside and out, GM’s efforts to stop the ZR1 melting and the deployment of a beefier crankshaft actually make this car 27kgs heavier: it hits the scales at 1,655kg. Which is a lot. Luckily it’s got a fair bit of horsepower to play with.

Even so, gone are the days where we can happily lampoon America for producing cars that can’t handle. The Viper ACR, Mustang 350R and Camaro ZL1 have all been nothing short of mighty and a bit of a scare to the European manufacturers. So could this Super ‘Vette be the final blow to topple Europe’s best, like the 911 GT2 RS? Well, the ZR1 has been seen doing a lot of testing at the Nürburgring…