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2019 Chevrolet Corvette Overview
With a next-generation Corvette expected to debut in 2020 on an all-new midengine platform, Chevrolet could be excused for letting the current seventh-generation quietly end its run. Instead, the automaker is unveiling the 2019 ZR1—its fastest Corvette ever. Burning up the track and out-pacing competitors, the ZR1 represents the epitome of the seventh generation, which debuted in 2014, and it just might be the last front-engined rear-wheel drive (RWD) Corvette ever built. It's a weighty responsibility and will no doubt guarantee the 2019 ZR1 a well-earned spot in automotive history.
As the fourth Corvette to carry the performance-oriented ZR1 designation, launched in the early 1970s with the Corvette’s third generation, the 2019 version both draws on a long history and is inspired by the future. Based largely on the current Corvette Z06, specifically the Z06 with the Z07 Performance Package, the new ZR1 arrives with a redesigned front fascia, an upgraded cooling system, and a sculpted carbon-fiber domed hood open in the center to allow its supercharged 8-cylinder some breathing room. Other upgrades over the Z06 include a slightly retuned suspension, high-performance Brembo brakes, an exclusive dual-mode exhaust system, and a rear wing designed to provide optimal downforce, available in two variations. In addition, Chevy offers the ZR1 in an exclusive Sebring Orange Design Package with a number of unique exterior and interior features.
Although the ZR1's stunning exterior design is initially what catches the eye—with its swooping lines and aggressive hunkered-down look—it's the supercharged small-block 6.2-liter V8 under the hood that truly sets the car apart. Equipped with an intercooled Eaton supercharger so tall it sticks out of the hoodline, exposing itself to the elements and becoming an integral part of the front-end design, the 8-cylinder pumps out a whopping 755 horsepower and 715 pound-feet of torque. That makes the ZR1 Chevrolet's most powerful production car—ever. The expected zero-to-sixty time of under 3 seconds and a top speed of 212 mph, set a record for the Corvette. Chevrolet combines the 8-cylinder with either a 7-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Match or an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters, a first for the ZR1. Along with the largest supercharger ever for a Chevrolet, a dual-fuel-injection system —another first for GM— helps the 8-cylinder achieve its stellar output. Chevrolet estimates fuel economy numbers for the V8 at 15 mpg city and 22 highway with the manual transmission and 13 and 23 for the automatic.
The ZR1's revised front fascia channels cooling air to the engine, preventing it from overheating during high-performance maneuvers. Chevrolet also packs four new radiators into the front end (bringing the total to 13) to provide optimal cooling for the powerplant and drivetrain. With its powerful 8-cylinder engine, the ZR1 requires extra downforces to keep it firmly planted to the ground, so Chevrolet equips it with a front underwing, another first for the automaker, and a choice of two new rear wings. A Low Wing comes standard and provides sufficient downforce for most driving situations, but the optional adjustable High Wing, available with the ZTK Performance Package, delivers a maximum downforce of 950 pounds for track driving. The ZTK package also includes a front splitter, upgraded Michelin tires, and chassis tweaks to improve grip around corners.
The ZR1's high-performance Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, the same offered with the Z07 package, provide optimal stopping power thanks to 15.5-inch rotors and 6-piston calipers in the front and 15.3-inch rotors with 4-piston calipers in the rear. The ZR1 also gets the Z07's double-wishbone suspension with Magnetic Selective Ride Control; although, Chevrolet retunes the suspension for the ZR1 to accommodate the additional horsepower and downforce. A performance traction management system,an electronic limited-slip differential and an upgraded performance exhaust system with four driver-selectable operating modes (Stealth, Tour, Sport, and Track to adjust engine and exhaust noise levels), are also included.
Like other Corvettes, the ZR1 comes in both coupe and convertible body styles. From the windshield back, it displays the same exterior design as the Z06, with all its unique design changes focused at the front end. HID headlights, heated side mirrors, a lightweight carbon fiber roof panel, and carbon fiber rocker panels are among the exterior features. The convertible, which is the first open-top ZR1 since the early 1970s, features a power soft-top roof that opens and closes at speeds of up to 30 mph. No extensive structural changes were necessary for the convertible, so it weighs about the same as the coupe, a difference of only about 60 pounds, and it comes with the same two rear wing variations. The ZR1 rides on 19-inch front wheels and 20-inch rear wheels with Michelin tires. The available Sebring Orange Design Package adds features like Sebring Orange Tintcoat exterior paint, orange brake calipers, distinctive accent stripes, and orange interior stitching and bronze aluminum interior trim.
Inside, the ZR1's cabin mimics the one found in the Z06, including a ZR1-badged flat-bottom steering wheel and standard leather upholstery. Chevrolet offers the ZR1 in 1ZR, 2ZR, and 3ZR trim levels. The 3ZR receives upgraded features like Nappa upholstery, heated and ventilated competition sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with a carbon-fiber rim, and a Performance Data Recorder.
Other than the introduction of the ZR1, the rest of the Corvette lineup, including the Corvette Stingray, Grand Sport, and the Z06/Z07, remains unchanged for 2019. All feature the current front-engine RWD platform, and all are available in either coupe or convertible body styles. A 6.2-liter V8 powers both the Stingray and the Grand Sport, with slight differences in horsepower and torque. In the Stingray, the 8-cylinder channels 455 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, which increase to 460 hp and 465 lb-ft for the Grand Sport. Available performance packages add 5 hp and 5 lb-ft of torque for both, with zero-to-sixty times dropping as low as 3.7 seconds for the Stingray and 3.6 seconds for the Grand Sport. In both cars, the 7-speed manual transmission comes standard, and an 8-speed automatic is available. The 8-cylinder in both cars manages fuel economy numbers of 16 mpg city and 25 highway.
The Z06 pumps up the horsepower to 650 and torque to 650 lb-ft, thanks to its supercharged 6.2-liter 8-cylinder. As a result, its zero-to-sixty time clocks in at 3.3 seconds. That figure drops to 2.95 seconds with the Z07 Performance Package. Like the ZR1, the Z06 gets a carbon fiber roof and hood. It comes with the same choice in transmissions and posts fuel economy numbers of 15 mpg city and 22 highway.
Like the ZR1, Chevy offers the other Corvettes in three trim levels (1LT, 2LT, and 3LT for the Stingray and Grand Sport, 1LZ, 2LZ, and 3LZ for the Z06). Base trims for all three versions come well-equipped inside with features such as 8-way power-adjustable GT bucket seats with leather upholstery, an 8-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, and a 9-speaker Bose audio system. Features like heated and ventilated seats, a head-up display, and a 10-speaker Bose system are added to the 2LT/2LZ trims; the top trims include upgraded leather upholstery and navigation. Beyond that, Chevrolet offers a wide range of customization options for all Corvettes, including exterior, suspension, and interior upgrades.
Reports indicate that Chevy has achieved all it can using the Corvette's current front-engine RWD platform, so the automaker is seeking a way to take the Corvette to the next level. The midengine design, which is expected, but not yet confirmed, for the eighth generation, seems a likely way to achieve that next level of performance. Thus, the 2019 ZR1 and its other current Corvette companions may be the final versions of a front-engined automotive icon.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.
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