Car of the Year 2009: No. 6: Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

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American Beauty

Perhaps General Motors could have avoided its current financial predicament if all of its products had been as stellar as the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. This car can lay rubber in third gear, at 100 mph, using nothing more sophisticated than a supercharger affixed to an old-technology pushrod engine. Performance aside, the ZR1’s low-rent interior is a painful reminder of Detroit’s decline. But slap some Pininfarina body cladding onto this model, add a shiny yellow horse to the steering wheel, and you would swear you were driving a Ferrari. So by all means, buy American; it may be your last chance. —Gregory Anderson

 

Euro-Vette

Chevrolet has built a Corvette with all the muscle, but without all the mindless machismo. Despite a stupendous top speed and crazy quickness from a supercharged 638 hp engine, the ZR1 actually drives smoothly, handles precisely, and stops securely. The interior looks like it was sourced to the lowest bidder, but there is a much higher level of cabin room and comfort. Conversely, the external lines and carbon-fiber accents and diffusers would be at home in an art gallery. Overall, the ZR1 may very well be the best European car built in America today. —Paul Dean

 

The Magic Dragon

The Corvette looms large in the history of the American automobile industry. For nearly six decades, motorists have seen it as more of a fire-breathing dragon than a mere machine that rolls off an assembly line.

The new ZR1 does not offer much in terms of looks; its design is a mild massaging of the basic shape Chevrolet has served up for a few decades now. Yet some drivers—particularly those who worship go over show—will find this Corvette distinct from its more down-market brethren. The comically powerful 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 delivers the instant the accelerator goes down. In fact, hitting the gas and going in anything but a straight line is an occasion for prayer. The dragon, it seems, is as ferocious as ever. —Marco R. della Cava

SPECIFICATIONS:

Configuration Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe

Engine 6.2-liter supercharged V-8

Transmission 6-speed manual

Power 638 hp at 6,500 rpm

Torque 604 ft lbs at 3,800 rpm

Zero to 60 3.4 seconds

Top Speed 205 mph

Base Price $105,000

Price as Tested $115,000

Robb Report Rating 90

Chevrolet, www.chevrolet.com

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