Chevy set the bar pretty high with the C7 Z06. Okay, tremendously high. The 650-hp monster is the most powerful factory Corvette yet. When it came out, we were blown away, but there was one question: If the Z06, formerly the middle child of the lineup, is this nuts, what comes next? The answer is an even nuttier ZR1. Here is a roundup of everything we know about the 2018 ZR1 so far.
Update 4/17/2017: GM’s internal Ordering Workbench lists ZR1 parts and gas guzzler tax
While still short of definitive proof that the Corvette ZR1 is right around the corner (in reality, the spy photos are a better judge of that), General Motors’ internal ordering software has entries for ZR1 blue brake calipers and a separate ZR1 gas guzzler tax charge, according to a report from Corvette Action Center.
Currently, only Corvette Z06 models with the eight-speed automatic get a gas guzzler tax. And if blue brake calipers seems like a small detail, it’s worth noting that the previous ZR1 was nicknamed Blue Devil, and it boasted a set of calipers in – you guessed it – a lovely shade of blue.
Update 4/3/2017: First spy photos of the ZR1 convertible
While we’ve seen the convertible version of the ZR1 briefly in video, we now have still photos of the high-performance roadster. It appears to share the coupes enormous grilles in the front bumper, and it has the ZR1 split five-spoke wheels at the back. The convertible also has the small version of the pedestal wings we’ve seen. We’ve only seen convertibles equipped with the small wing, which leads us to believe the large version may be for the coupe only, perhaps as part of a track package.
Update 10/25/2016: Spy photos get a close up look at the ZR1’s rear wing
These spy shots are the closest photographers have gotten to the Corvette ZR1. While the pictures don’t reveal any new features on the upcoming sports car, they give us a close up look at the two types of wings Chevrolet is testing. The first prototype is wearing a massive wing that would be more at home on a racecar, with the second vehicle is sporting something a bit more subdued. At the front, the large amount of camouflage hides what appears to be a large bulge on the hood, which could be a design cue to make room for a supercharger.
Update 10/15/2016: New video shows more detailed footage of convertible top and multiple rear wings
A reader of Indian Autos Blog managed to capture additional video footage of a convoy of Corvette ZR1 prototypes testing in traffic. We clearly see one hardtop with composite body panels and that absolutely gigantic rear wing, following behind what appears to be a stock Z06. A convertible is third in line, with a midsize wing out back. The fourth Corvette on the highway appears to be another ZR1 convertible, this time with what may or may not be a third wing design – camouflage makes it difficult to tell.
This video was shot in Michigan, which, of course, is the home of General Motors. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of wind noise that obscures the sound of the ZR1’s engine. In any case, we’re more eager than ever before to find out all the details that make the monster ‘Vette tick.
Update 10/5/2016: New shots and video reveal two types of wing and a convertible version, plus we hear the exhaust note
Thanks to CorvetteBlogger and photographer David Wesel, we now know that Chevrolet is testing not just a coupe, but also a convertible body for the ZR1. This is a somewhat surprising development, considering the ZR1’s position as a pure performance machine – convertibles add weight and lose some stiffness – as well as the original ZR1’s hardtop-only body, plus we’ve only ever seen C7 ZR1 coupes undergoing tests. (Then again, Chevy added a Z06 convertible this time around, so it’s fully willing to sell you lots of power with whatever kind of roof you want.) In addition to the convertible revelation, we now see that two types of wings are being tested. One sits a bit lower and is reasonably subtle, while the other flies high and proclaims the car’s track-readiness to the world thanks to more surface area and large endplates.
As an added bonus, Wesel also caught these mules on video taking off from a gas station. They don’t sound radically different from the current Z06, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They may be a bit louder, but it is hard to clearly compare volume. The takeaway is, it still sounds like a big, mean Corvette. Be sure to watch the video, and also check out CorvetteBlogger for more images.
Update 10/3/2016: Clearest shots yet show the ZR1 from every angle
These latest spy shots don’t reveal anything we didn’t already know. Still, they offer the best look yet at the next ZR1. There’s still a ton of cladding on the hood and fascias, but not enough to cover up all the intakes and vents that must be needed to keep the engine and brakes cool. There are telltale hints of carbon fiber body panels, and, though this prototype is missing the massive rear wing we know the ZR1 will offer, two posts on the decklid prove the wing is alive and well… somewhere.
The camo at the front juts out far enough to cover a very large front splitter, though we can’t quite make out what’s lurking under there. Whatever it is, this ‘Vette is going to have a serious aero kit.
Update 8/23/16: Clear shots ZR1’s hind end.
Our latest set of spy photos shows the rear of the ZR1 more clearly than ever before. This particular development vehicle wasn’t wearing its massive rear wing, but our spy photographers went ahead and used the magic of Photoshop to show you all what it’ll look like with the big ‘ol wing out back. We haven’t gotten a close look yet of the car’s face, but we’re sure that’ll be coming in due time.
Update 8/17/16: Now we get a peek at the wing in place.
And it’s big. Like, bigger than we expected. The biggest wing on any production Corvette yet for sure. It’s also pretty darn high up, high enough that it probably won’t block rearward vision. At least not too much. Did we mention that it’s big?
Update 8/10/16: A new set of spy photos shows another ZR1 mule with new details.
The test car has blue brake calipers like those used on the C6 ZR1. (That one was nicknamed Blue Devil, remember?) There’s something fragile wrapped in bubble wrap sitting in the car, which could be the wing that rests on those perches visible on the rear end. A wing on risers gives some differentiation from the Z06’s vertical spoiler, and also suggests this one might need more downforce. We also get a better look at what now really looks like a carbon-fiber center hoop, between the roof panel and the hatch. A carbon hood is also a good bet, because why not?
Whatever is under the hood, it needs plenty of cooling, as evidenced by the air inlets for intercoolers at the front corners. This could simply mean a more-powerful supercharged LT4 V8, or possibly a rumored LT5 twin-turbo small-block. Turbos would be a good way to differentiate this new top Corvette from its more sanely powered siblings. Rumors peg ZR1 output around 700 hp, and we bet it would at least outdo the 707-hp rating of SRT’s Hellcat engine.
Update 8/2/16: We saw our first round of C7 ZR1 spy shots, above.
These shots are from farther away, but you knew that. They introduced us to what looks like a cobbled-together mega-Vette with primer doors. The thinking is that those doors could easily be made of carbon fiber, hence the lack of a production-level finish. It’s also quite possible that roof hoop is made of the lightweight stuff.
Some wingless uprights can be seen just behind the hatch opening in back. There’s probably a huge spoiler waiting somewhere, and we’d wager it’s made of carbon fiber. The front and rear camo suggest a mid-cycle refresh at the very least, and possibly a new hood design to clear the engine, let it breathe, and keep it cool.
Update 5/20/16: GM trademarked the ZR1 name again.
Someone in the company is thinking about a new ZR1, even if Tadge Juechter claimed there were no plans for one back in 2013. That sounds like something you say when you want to buy your best new product now instead of waiting for a better one later.
Related: The mid-engine Corvette that looks like it’s actually happening.
The ZR1 may well be the last insane-performance Corvette with a front-engine layout. We also have an alternate conspiracy theory that this could be a Cadillac model, or that Cadillac could get a version of the mid-engine Vette. It’s reportedly code-named Emperor and will arrive in 2019. Once a mid-engine Corvette arrives, the whole lineup will transition to mid-engine only over a few years. That’s a lot of Corvette neatness to chew on.