Travel & Adventure

Corvette ZR1 Is Supercharged Hellfire

I can feel their eyes boring holes into me. Every time I get onto the gas. Each time the monstrous V8 bellows upon downshift. Whenever I’m idling at a set of lights. The Prius, Leaf, Bolt and Tesla drivers. Environmentalists. Those who live and breath the second coming that is koala-hugging electric propulsion. They have judged me and I’ve been deemed the Antichrist in the bewinged, pentagram-wheeled, koala-guzzling, batshit-insane Corvette ZR1, the most powerful Corvette ever. The beast’s number is no longer 666, it’s 755.

Still asleep under a cool, foggy comforter, Los Angeles lies restfully around me. My Sunday morning is still and quiet, a peaceful moment that for many is embraced to center the spirit and focus the mind. There are few more calming places than a city asleep. But a push of the Corvette ZR1’s starter stokes the 755-horsepower, supercharged hellfire and perforates the calm with all the tact of a pitchfork to the chest. With everyone’s alarms now rendered all but pointless, and earning the wicked grin across my face, I aim the ZR1’s snorting nostrils toward the heaven-kissing Angeles National Forest and lay into the throttle leaving a plume of tire smoke in my wake. Let’s see who’s ready to sell their soul.

Garage to the Nurburgring-shaming Angeles Crest Highway is but a handful of motorway miles. Along the boring portion of my commute, before my brow furrows and sweats and eyes widen, Bowling Green’s Angel of Darkness adopts the sort of personality Lucifer likely had before the fall. In the suede-lined cabin, with the more dulcet tones of Anderson .Paak streaming through the speakers, it’s easy to be lulled into a dreamy stupor. Rolling down the highway, the supercharged V8 is barely working. Its rumble tamed by a sonic “Stealth Mode.” Driver and passenger alike could even be fooled into believing the Corvette had gone electric if it weren’t for the brightly lit supercharger gauge in your face, and indeed the supercharger itself sticking out of the hood.

And though the seats are decidedly of a sporting nature—with carbon backing and light padding—where the Corvette’s engineers did inject cushioning makes the idea of a trans-continental drive not out of the realm of possibility. Even the most powerful Corvette on Earth still has to be a usable daily driver. But then again, daily driving, commuting, poking around town, and running to get the groceries, or a Sunday night scoop of gelato just aren’t what this howitzer was built for.

It is a vicious sociopath looking to enact a koala-draining blood ritual that’s worthy of its $130,000 sticker.

At the base of—in our local slang—“The Crest”, I quickly pull over. With the Corvette parked, I twist the mode selector to Track, dial the steering weight up, and unburden the exhaust with its freest flowing exhalation. Quiet becomes growl and the ZR1 tenses. It’s ready, but I’m not sure I am as I dip my right big toe into the throttle and begin our 50-mile assault on the alpine tarmac.

The first three miles come and go in a violent riot. I barely breathe or blink as the ZR1’s exhaust through each turn threatens to rupture my already tinnitus-ridden eardrums. This car, hand on heart, seems to be the loudest I’ve ever come across. The Corvette ZR1 is also the angriest, most ill-tempered, grab-by-the-scruff-and-hold-on supercar. Unlike its 700-horsepower, mid-engine competitors, the Corvette’s engine sits at the front, and with all that mechanical fanaticism sent solely to the rear tires, the ZR1 is more than happy to make you work as if your immortal soul depends on it. And, honestly, it does as this is a Corvette meant for a select few who don’t want their supercars watered down, laden with ass-saving technology, or existing solely for abstaining from life’s more notorious pleasures. It’s a proper driver’s car and excising this devil isn’t in the cards.

While its engine remains its most hysterical attribute, the Corvette ZR1’s chassis and mechanical grip could be all but lifted from Corvette Racing’s C7.R race car. Under steering lock, every pebble, stone, twig and pavement undulation sends feedback to your fingers along the slender diameter of the suede steering wheel. The Michelin Cup 2 tires are barely street-worthy, but monumental in their tarmac-adhesion—rain, these were not made for. Yet, throttling up the mountain’s facade, the rear end could be charged with attempted murder. With the tires cold, the asphalt mildly cool, and my heavy right foot willfully delivering the ZR1’s 715 lb-ft of torque, its sashays are reminiscent of RuPaul’s Drag Race finales. Left and right, right and left, the ZR1 doesn’t immediately deliver the grip you’re hoping for.

But when temperatures climb in both the tires and the road, and you begin to trust that the ZR1’s massive rear wing is going to suck you to the road like a succubus to an adulterous man, then the only things slowing you down are the resolve that “hell can't be that bad,” and the fantastically frenetic carbon ceramic brakes.

Into a tunnel, with the windows down, I’m nearly fully deafened. Out of the arc’s blackness, I’m left with only the throbbing pulses of my heart beating through my temples. Racing through a set of full-concentration corners, I realize I’ve been smiling since I first dipped into the supercharged V8’s demonic fire and my grin has only become wider and more frenzied as the Corvette’s fuel shape-shifts into its apocalyptic overture. Then, the pavement begins to follow a more arrow-like path as I edge closer to the desert valley’s floor on the opposite side of the range. The road ahead is long, straight, flat and without a soul for as far as my eye can see. Perdition, I am yours.

Chevrolet states that the most powerful Corvette ever has a top speed of 212 miles per hour. I will leave it as I could not confirm that figure, though, after my run, I have little doubt the ZR1 can do what Chevrolet says.

My bowels now tightened, my eyes plastered open and the fuel gauge reading perilously close to the empty marker, I pop the Corvette ZR1 back into Tour Mode, slack the steering and eliminate its carnal exhaust. I let out a fully blasphemous exclamation. I’ve been lucky enough to drive some of the most powerful cars on the planet, including the 1,500-horsepower Bugatti Chiron. None has been as savage as the Corvette ZR1. A car worthy of its pentagram wheels. The ZR1 isn’t a car for the Prince of Darkness’s casual acolytes and their butt-saving technology. It is a vicious sociopath looking to enact a koala-draining blood ritual that’s worthy of its $130,000 sticker. A perfect tool to ensure one’s always ready to praise the beast.

I’m sorry, but to those EV evangelists, Hail Satan.

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