The Corvette Z06 is comfortably one of the fastest cars on sale, but apparently that's not good enough for Chevy. It's cooking up a new Corvette ZR1 that looks like a track-ready monster. As ever with future cars like this, Chevy hasn't confirmed anything about the ZR1 (or even that it exists, for that matter), but thanks to lots of spy photos and rumors, we have a good idea of what to expect.
It Could Get a Supercharged DOHC V8
A document leaked late last year revealed that the Corvette would get some sort of dual-overhead-cam V8 next year, code-named LT5. That document didn't say specifically that the ZR1 would get this motor, but we've got a hunch. Why? For starters, check out the ZR1's super tall hood. It's way taller than those used on other Corvette models, which have cam-in-block V8s. An engine with overhead cams is physically much taller than a cam-in-block motor, so the Corvette so equipped would need a taller hood for clearance.
discovered a photo posted by Ohio Corvette salesman Rick Conti that . Unfortunately, almost no other details are shown in the image.
There's also the matter of the name—Chevrolet first used the LT5 designation for the original ZR1's motor, a DOHC V8. The first LT5 was a 32-valve, 380-hp powerhouse designed by Lotus Engineering, which GM owned at the time, and built by Mercury Marine. We can't imagine Chevy passing up the opportunity to reference the original ZR1 with this new engine.
And why are we certain it's supercharged? Just listen to it. That supercharger whine is unmistakable.
It's Actually Called the ZR1
Sometimes people refer to an upcoming model by a prior name, even if that name isn't confirmed. Thanks to some Nürburgring spy photos, though, we know that the 2018 ZR1 will actually be called the ZR1. The "ZR1" logo molded into the rim of the wheel pictured above. Plus, its calipers are painted in the same exact color as .
It'll Be Offered as a Convertible
Just like the Z06, Chevy is giving customers a choice in body styles for the ZR1. The previous two ZR1s, the C4 and C6, were only offered as coupes, so this is a break from the past for the Corvette. Purists may scoff at the idea of a drop-top ZR1, but there's no doubt it'll be good for broadening the car's appeal, and the current Corvette convertible is respectably stiff.
It'll Get an Optional Automatic Too
Again, purists might want to look away. Based on the audio from various spy videos of ZR1s we've seen, it sounds a lot like Chevrolet is testing an automatic ZR1. Just listen to its quick, smooth upshifts—no human could replicate that.
Presumably, that means an automatic transmission will be an option, just as it is on the Z06. There's a question about what automatic transmission the ZR1 will get, however. Currently, the Corvette Stingray, Grand Sport, and Z06 are all offered with optional eight-speed automatics, but Chevy just launched a newer 10-speed auto for the Camaro ZL1. It wouldn't be a surprise to see this gearbox offered in the ZR1.
Chevy Is Testing Two Different Aero Packages
It's almost impossible not to notice the ZR1's big rear wing, but interestingly, it looks like two different-sized wings will be offered. We've only seen coupes testing with the bigger of the two wings, so perhaps Chevy is cooking up a 1LE-esque package for the hardtop ZR1.
It appears that the ZR1 will get some other aerodynamic changes too. Prototypes with both small and large rear wings have a big, aggressive front splitter, and surely the camouflage is hiding other aero bits too.
It's Been Tested at the Nürburgring and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Chevy is clearly serious about making sure the ZR1 offers impressive race-track performance. We've seen ZR1s testing extensively at Germany's Nürburgring, one of the toughest proving grounds for any car, and we've spotted some at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California.
If you've watched any videos of ZR1 prototypes testing at the Nürburgring, you probably noticed that the cars used odd, left-facing exhaust pipes that stuck way out past the body. Apparently, this helps the Corvette skirt the Nürburgring's 100-db noise limits by aiming the sound away from the track's noise-testing equipment, which is on the right-hand side.
Don't expect to see these strange exhaust pipes reach production, but do expect the ZR1 to be gloriously noisy.
While there is a lot we know about the ZR1, there are still plenty of unknowns. We don't even know when it'll make its debut. Initially, we heard that we'll see the ZR1 at an IMSA race this summer, but the leaves are already starting to change outside of R&T's New York office. Plus, there's only one IMSA WeatherTech Series race left this season—Petit Le Mans held at Road Atlanta on October 7th. There's also rumors that the ZR1 will be unveiled at an event at the National Corvette Museum. It'll definitely debut soon, but we're not quite sure how soon.
In any case, it looks like it'll be worth the wait.