2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Preview

Jeff Youngs | Dec 31, 2008
  • New top-end addition to Corvette lineup
  • Two-door hatchback body style
  • Carbon-fiber body panels
  • Supercharged LS9 V-8 engine delivers confirmed 638 hp
  • More than 1g lateral cornering grip
  • Carbon-ceramic brake rotors
  • Top speed of 205 mph
  • On sale summer 2008


The project was rumored for years: A new high-end, higher-performance Corvette, alternately known as the Blue Devil and the Corvette SS, would displace the Z06 as the fastest Corvette. Well, it's finally a reality. For the 2009 model year Chevrolet reaches back into Corvette history for a legendary name: ZR1. When it was introduced for the 1990 model year, the original Corvette ZR1 earned the nickname "King of the Hill." Its all-aluminum dual-overhead cam LT5 5.7-liter V-8 engine, designed in conjunction with Lotus and built by Mercury Marine, put out an astounding 375 hp and 370 lb.-ft. of torque. Zero to 60 mph came in a blazing 4.9 seconds and the ZR1 bested the quarter mile in 13.4 seconds.

The new ZR1, due this summer, puts those numbers to shame. Powered by a supercharged version of GM's 6.2-liter V-8 engine called LS9, the ZR1 boasts an SAE-confirmed 638 hp and approximately 604 lb.-ft. of torque. It will be capable of reaching 205 mph and cornering at better than 1 g of lateral grip. Zero to 60 mph and quarter-mile times have not yet been quoted, but they are certain to be the best ever for a Corvette, GM claims. The ZR1 will feature carbon-ceramic brake rotors, carbon-fiber body components, and GM's Magnetic Selective Ride Control (MSRC) suspension.

The current Corvette lineup includes 2-seat convertible and hatchback coupe body styles. Hatchbacks offer removable roof panels. Like the Z06, however, the 2009 Corvette ZR1 will be offered only as a hatchback coupe with a fixed top. It will go on sale in the summer of 2008. Expect pricing to approach $100,000.

Model Lineup

The ZR1 will be the new top-of-the-line Corvette. Standard equipment will include a tire-pressure monitor; anti-lock brakes; traction control; limited-slip differential; dual-zone automatic climate control; interior air filter; OnStar assistance with one year of service; tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel; cruise control; leather upholstery; 6-way power driver's seat; auto-dimming rearview and driver's side mirrors; heated power mirrors; power windows and door locks; remote keyless access and starting; AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo; XM satellite radio; automatic Xenon headlights; theft-deterrent system; fog lights, and fixed roof panel. In addition to Z06 equipment, it will have a boost gauge; carbon-ceramic brakes; Magnetic Selective Ride Control; head-up instrument display; and 19-inch front and 20-inch rear tires on alloy wheels. The base wheels will be painted silver, and chromed versions will be available. An optional luxury package will include sport seats embroidered with the ZR1 logo; a custom, leather-wrapped interior available in four colors; a navigation system; Bluetooth hands-free cell phone link; and other features to be announced.


Under the hood, the 2009 ZR1 features the LS9 6.2-liter V-8 engine. Chevrolet more than meets its goal for this supercharged, all-aluminum, overhead valve engine, as it delivers an SAE-certified 638 hp and approximately 604 lb.-ft. of torque. GM says the engine will make approximately 300 hp at 3000 rpm and 320 lb.-ft. of torque at as low as 1000 rpm. The torque peak will come at about 4000 rpm and hp will peak at about 6500 rpm.

The LS9 will have titanium connecting rods and forged aluminum pistons. It will use an Eaton Roots-type supercharger and a liquid-to-air charge intercooler. Like the Corvette Z06, the ZR1 will use a dry sump oiling system that ensures adequate oiling in high-speed corners and allows the engine to sit lower for a lower center of gravity.

The LS9 will be mated to a new Tremec 6-speed manual transmission. While the Z06 has a single-disc clutch, the ZR1's transmission will have a twin-disc clutch system that can better handle the LS9's torque output. Fuel economy numbers have not been announced.

The ZR1's suspension design will be the same as in other Corvettes, but its front and rear stabilizer bars will be thicker. By making MSRC standard, Chevrolet engineers were able to fit the ZR1 with front and rear springs that are slightly softer than those of the Z06. The wheels and tires will be larger. It will have P285/30ZR19 front and P335/25ZR20 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires on ZR1-exclusive 20-spoke alloy wheels.

The brakes will use vented and cross-drilled carbon-ceramic rotors, 15.5 inches in diameter up front and 15 inches in the rear. These are GM's first ceramic rotors, and GM says they save 11 pounds at each corner. Six-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers will be used and the front pads will be twice the size of those found on the Z06.


On the outside, carbon fiber will be used for the wider front fenders, hood, roof panel, roof bow, front fascia splitter, and rocker moldings. The top side of the hood will be painted body color, but the rest of these body parts will be exposed-weave carbon fiber protected by a clear coat. The fenders will have dual ports on each side instead of the single port design of other Corvettes. The hood will have a clear polycarbonate window to show off the intercooler that is adorned with "LS9 SUPERCHARGED" lettering. The ZR1 will be offered in seven colors: Black, Velocity Yellow Tintcoat, Victory Red, Atomic Orange Metallic, Jetstream Blue Metallic, Blade Silver Metallic, and Cyber Gray Metallic.


Magnetic Selective Ride Control is a real-time damping system that replaces conventional mechanical-valve shocks with electronically controlled shocks filled with a synthetic fluid containing minute iron particles. When hit with a magnetic charge, the iron particles align to provide damping resistance almost instantly. MSRC "reads" road conditions one thousand times per second and makes damping adjustments accordingly, says GM.
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