New Corvette ZR1: supercar bargain

Supercharged 620bhp ZR1 bound for UK – but still left-hand drive only

19th February 2008
evo News Magazine

You can’t accuse Gerard Jansen of not trying, but his pleas to General Motors for a right-hand-drive Corvette have fallen on resolutely deaf ears.

It’s not surprising that, as chief executive of the Kroymans Corporation, the Dutch group charged by GM with flogging Cadillacs and Corvettes in Europe, Jansen should want one. The UK, he reckons, could be Europe’s best market for the Corvette if it wasn’t for the left-hand-drive-only issue. After all, what other 200mph-nudging supercar can you buy in Britain for anything like the Z06 ’Vette’s £62,695 asking price?

Jansen’s frustration must have doubled when he saw the new flagship Corvette, the supercharged ZR1, unveiled in Detroit. In power output alone – just over 620bhp, with a massive 595lb ft of torque – the ZR1 catapults the ’Vette into the top ranks of the global supercar club. And as Corvette general manager Ed Peper points out, its power-to-weight ratio easily trumps those of the Ferrari 599 and Lamborghini LP640, for it tips the scales at a mere 1519kg – nearly 150kg less than the Lambo and 170kg lighter than the Ferrari.

That’s because the ZR1 is about much more than an engine with an extra 115bhp. The Z06 is already far more sophisticated technically than the vast majority credit. At its core is a very rigid hydroformed aluminium chassis, in which the V8 is set low and far back, with the rear-mounted, six-speed, race-spec transmission helping give a 50:50 weight distribution. To this the ZR1 adds bonnet, wings, roof panels, splitter, side air intakes and full-width rear spoiler all made from carbonfibre, carbon-ceramic brakes and ‘Magnetic Selective Ride Control’, which includes settings said to be suitable for racing. It is, quite simply, the fastest car ever built by GM.

In the US it will cost just $27K more than the Z06, which itself has a laughably low price of $73K. Call it $100K – or £51,000 thanks to the badly weakened dollar! – though in the UK we’d expect to pay £80K-plus.

Bob Lutz, GM vice-chairman, raved about the ZR1 as GM’s ultimate flagship and expressed not a moment’s doubt that the planned 3000 a year – less than a tenth of annual Corvette output – will be snapped up.

As a flagship, however, its role is to go, for the first time, truly global, leading a determined new drive by GM to establish Chevrolet as its first truly ‘world’ brand.

The Chevrolet name was quietly dropped from the Corvette as part of GM’s agreement with Kroymans, amid unease that Korean-built, bargain-basement Chevrolets already flooding into Europe from the Daewoo plants taken over by GM might tarnish the Corvette’s image. Now, however, with the image of all Chevrolets climbing as the old Daewoo designs are replaced, the expectation of one million Chevy sales a year in Europe by 2012, and with the much-hailed new US-built Camaro also set to go on sale in Europe in left- and right-hand drive forms, the Corvette name is to be reunited with Chevrolet in Europe as part of the brand building.