The LS9 will send all this urgency to the rear wheels via an LUK dual-plate clutch (versus a big single plate in the LS7), a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual gearbox beefed up to handle the extra power, and a Getrag 626 rear axle with a shot-peened ring and pinion. The gearbox will have closer ratios than the Z06's, with a taller first gear to optimize acceleration. Bob Puri, performance-car-engineering group manager, says the "modulation we have with this clutch makes it easy to launch the car. You won't have to use your brain at all." The ratios also mean that top speed occurs in sixth gear, unlike the Z06, which gets there in fifth, then falls off in sixth.
Another element that's going to help launches as well as handling, according to Juechter, is Delphi's second-gen magnetorheological (MR) variable-damping shocks. Like the first generation, their operation is based on iron-infused damping fluid whose viscosity can be changed instantly by a magnetic field generated in an electric coil on the shock-absorber piston. Delphi has conquered the overheating problems that limited usefulness for extreme-use applications, such as in the Z06. The instant reaction of the MR shocks helps reduce rear-end squat, and asymmetrical half-shafts help to combat axle tramp during full-tilt launches.
The new shocks also allow softer spring rates than those on the Z06, part of the everyday-comfort goal. Other distinctions are Speedline forged aluminum-alloy wheels -- 10.0-by-19-inch fronts, 12.0-by-20 rears -- wearing Michelin PS2 tires sized 285/30 in front and 335/25 in back. And if the ZR1's engine performance qualifies as omigawd, the Brembo carbon-ceramic brake package promises to be even more so. The vented, cross-drilled rotors are vast: 15.5 by 1.6 inches in front and 15.0 by 1.4 in back. They're squeezed by six-piston calipers up front, four-piston in the rear, and the pad size is about twice the Z06's. The same brakes stop the Bugatti Veyron and the Ferrari FXX.
We mentioned the ZR1's peekaboo carbon-fiber hood. The same material will be used for the aggressive front splitter, front fenders, rocker-panel extensions, and roof. There's no carbon fiber at the rear, part of an effort to keep fore-and-aft weight balance close to 50/50. Due to the extra mass associated with the supercharger, though, Juechter anticipates a 52/48 front-to-rear distribution and a curb weight "between 3300 and 3400 pounds." The last Z06 we tested weighed 3198 pounds.
Some of the carbon-fiber panels (splitter, rocker extensions, roof) will actually look like carbon fiber, with a clear-coat finish over the weave. Chevy has a new ingredient for the finish that resists the ultraviolet breakdown that's been a problem. We don't know the chemical ingredient, or who makes it -- Juechter won't say -- but we do know it costs $60,000 a gallon. It's used sparingly.
Besides the natural-finish carbon fiber, visual distinctions between ZR1 and Z06 include a slightly taller hood (by about an inch), an extra fender vent to extract engine-bay heat, and a subtle full-width decklid spoiler for added high-speed downforce.
This raises the subject of aerodynamics. Chevrolet has been doing intensive computational fluid-dynamic development with the Pratt & Miller Corvette racing team, but Juechter still anticipates modest front and rear lift at extreme speeds. How much lift? We don't know. But we do know it doesn't take much to make life more exciting when the speedo creeps north of 200 mph.
How far north? We don't know that, either. Nor do we know the price tag. But keep in mind Rick Wagoner's original question. So at the least, you're probably looking at the first Corvette to cost more than $100,000.
It's probably worth it.
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 3-door hatchback
Estimated Base Price: $100,000
Engine Type: Supercharged and intercooled pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement 376 cu in, 6162cc
Power (C/D est) 625 bhp @ 5800 rpm
Torque (C/D est) 625 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 105.7 in Length: 175.6 in
Width: 76.5 in Height: 49.0 in
Curb weight: 3350 lb
Performance (C/D Est.):
Zero to 60 mph 3.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile 11.0 sec
Top speed (drag limited) more than 200 mph
Projected Fuel Economy (C/D Est.):
EPA city driving 14 mpg
EPA highway driving 23 mpg