Corvette ZR1

Most potent version of US legend seeks to blow away Euro opposition

When it comes to supercars, America and Europe have been conducting a one-way relationship over the years. While the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and Maserati have done good business in the States, their US counterparts have sold in tiny numbers to a loyal but dwindling band of enthusiasts on this side of the Atlantic.

Yet are we missing a trick? Has our love of European brands clouded our judgement about what makes a great supercar? The ZR1 is out to prove that the likes of Audi and Aston still have a lot to learn. It is the most powerful production Corvette ever made. Boasting a 638bhp supercharged V8, it’s just hit the UK with the biggest price tag ever attached to a ’Vette – a cool £106,605.

In terms of design, the car ticks all the supercar boxes. Gloriously retro, it features every trademark design touch: from the sunken quad tail-lamps to the Coke-bottle waistline, it manages to be old-fashioned and contemporary at the same time. Put simply, you could never confuse the Corvette with anything else on the road.

Sadly, the Eighties’ timewarp approach isn’t quite so successful on the inside. While the driving position is decent enough and Corvette has tried hard to improve things with some snazzy trim, its two rivals are in a different league – both for their material quality and their high-end ambience.

But although the interior design is off the pace, that’s not a criticism you can level at the Corvette’s engine. One of the most potent motors on the market, this V8 is an incredible performer. It sends an avalanche of raw power to the back wheels with the merest flex of your right ankle. And while

it’s far from being the most refined or sophisticated unit ever made, it catapults the ZR1 from 0-60mph in only 4.5 seconds, and on to 100mph in 8.4 seconds.

To cope with all that firepower, Corvette has upgraded the chassis with Magnetic Ride Control that allows drivers to switch between Sport and Tour settings. Carbon ceramic brakes and Michelin run-flat tyres wrapped around 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels complete the dynamic package.

These enhancements go a long way to making the ZR1 feel more surefooted and focused than lesser Corvettes, but in this test it comes up short. Sport mode does tighten up the car’s reactions, yet it seems much less composed than its rivals, especially when the blower kicks in and threatens to snap the car in two. Traction, unsurprisingly, is the ’Vette’s biggest weakness. Combine a greasy roundabout with sledgehammer power delivery and darty steering, and you need the reactions of a fighter pilot to keep it all in line. Fortunately, the ZR1’s overworked traction control system does a decent job of pointing you in the right direction.

The Corvette has to be admired for its raw pace and single-minded approach to high-performance motoring. But £106,605 is an awful lot of money considering the car’s failings in other key departments.

Details

Chart position: 3WHY: Wildest and most exclusive Corvette ever looks to teach European rivals a lesson in sports car engineering.

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