Unless you've been on planet Nader for the last few years, you knew Chevrolet was brewing up an uber-Vette. Amid all the hype, spy photos, leaked photos (and subsequent prosecutions), rumors, and names (Blue Devil, SS, Sting Ray, Z07), any dolt could discern that this new Corvette had the potential to be amazing.
During its annual press preview for the Detroit auto show, GM showed journalists what we've all been waiting for; the official, almost-ready-for-production 2009 Corvette ZR1 destined to hit showrooms next September.
Tom Wallace, Corvette Chief Engineer, began the presentation by talking about what started the ZR1 program. To our group of gathered reporters, he recounted a meeting that took place more than six years ago when GM Chairman Rick Wagoner asked what a $100,000 Corvette would look and perform like. On cue but out of sight of our pack of writers, a sinister-sounding V-8 fired up. Bob Lutz, GM Vice Chairman, then drove the ZR1 out into the meeting area.
After Lutz slid out from behind the wheel, he gave his driving impressions of the ZR1, "What's so terrific about this car is that it is very docile and easy to drive, but then when you step into it, the power just never stops." Subsequent presentations explained why.
Final specifications are not yet available because the development team is still fine-tuning powertrain and chassis calibrations, but this is what GM told us. The new LS9 engine is a 6.2-liter supercharged and intercooled V-8 that shares key dimensions and some features with the current Z06's LS7. The "9" uses a fifth-generation low-profile Eaton supercharger that itself incorporates plenty of new technology. Its impellers sport four veins instead of three, greatly improving volumetric efficiencies while reducing parasitic losses. Compared to the previous generation blower that required approximately 120 horsepower at maximum boost, the new unit draws only 80. Final horsepower numbers will exceed 620 and torque should come in around 600 lb-ft. The rumor mill pegs the target horsepower figure at 650.