M’s got his eyes fixed firmly on the road about a kilometer ahead of us, prodding at the throttle when his vision can’t extend past the next bend. I glance over at the speedo and the needle is past the golden triple tonne, the 6.2 liter supercharged LS9 bellowing mightily at the top of 5th, a gear still in hand…
It’s around 11am and the traffic is busy but not dense, the emergency lane fair game; we dart in and out of traffic like a jet fighter avoiding enemy fire, chasing down the Supra and R34 GT-R ahead of us, a Porsche GT-3 right there on our six.
This is just a sample of the Wangan 300kph club. A club that isn’t filled with fictional Brian O’Conner’s, Dom Toretto’s or Johnny Tran’s; in stories poorly told by cashed up screenwriters with nothing better to do than appeal to the masses.
Nope. We are serious about 7tune offering up the Ultimate JDM Experience and this is about as epic as it gets. When I asked M what circuits he’s visited in the Vette, he casually turned and in the coolest Hollywood style you could imagine said, “The Wangan is my racetrack…”
Eat that Toretto!
You can usually find M and his friends heading out after midnight in cars with up to and well over 600hp for a Wangan highway romp. In the past you would find him hunting Bulls and Horses using a 3 pointed ninja star as his most useful weapons. A Ferrari? Smoke ’em.
The most recent included an SL55 AMG and the lighter and even more powerful C63 AMG. Both cars were capable of easy triple numbers and neither of them ever needed NOS; something that could easily blow the welds on their intake manifolds. So you can imagine my surprise when he rolled up one day in a Corvette. But not just any Corvette; the most powerful one ever made and one that is a match for the mighty R35 GT-R and Porsche Turbo at virtually any racetrack in the world.
His reasoning was simple enough; it had to have 600hp or more, be daily driven and be reliable enough to keep his place in the 300 club. Plus, it had to stand out and he didn’t want to resort to spending 100 grand under the hood of the car.
He has achieved all this with the thundering ZR-1 Corvette. The numbers alone are staggering enough and that’s before we even get to lap times. And this is no straight line show pony, living its life a quarter mile at a time; it corners just as hard as it accelerates.
The supercharged 6.2 liter V8 LS9 Chevy is good for a thundering 638hp @ 6500 rpm with equally impressive amounts of torque; 604 lb.-ft. of twist at 3800 rpm. This equates to an almighty amount of surge between these numbers and on the road the car never feels like its tapering off. It just throws itself forward with ever intensifying speed. Scarily, there are kits available for this engine that will boost power to over 1000hp.
GM put the ZR-1 Corvette on the “Bruce Lee Weight Training” program and the result is a car bristling with tightly packaged aggression. It weighs a scant 3350 pounds ( 1520 kgs ) giving the Vette the advantage of a 0.19 power to weight ratio and the results of this speak for themselves.
The 0-60 time comes up in a blistering 3.4 seconds with the quarter mile taken care of soon after; an 11.5 to be exact with a terminal speed of 128mph ( 205 kph ). According to the manufacturer, the Vette has the potential to top out at 205mph but I can confirm first hand that it is easily capable of that speed.
The most astounding thing about this drivetrain is that all this performance is arranged with a third pedal, a traditional H pattern gearbox and twin plate clutch set up! It’s old world technology but it delivers hot like pizza hut. And boy, we hungry for some wangan specials.
I can only imagine how much quicker the car would be with a DSG box, paddles and AWD. But that’s never been the point of this car has it?
The Vette eats up road voraciously, covering ground at a speed that’s real world quick and with the brakes and suspension to match the power delivery. Amazingly, the car doesn’t brutalize the senses; sure there’s breathtaking thrust but it delivers it so placidly that even when provoked with a hot poker, it just gets up and travels that flat and gorgeously spaced power curve effortlessly. It’s such an easy car to drive quickly even with its manual configuration. You’d never have expected it.
And the brake and wheel package is above exceptional. One of Brembo’s finest carbon ceramic set ups was employed with the C6 ZR-1. Behind the 19 inch forged aluminum rims wrapped in 285mm of Michelin Sport Pilot rubber, the front rotors measure up a super sized 15.5inches ( 393mm ) in diameter and are bitten into by cyber blue 6 pot calipers.
At the rear, an equally impressive setup includes 20 inches of wheel, 335mm of rubber, 15 inches ( 381mm ) of disc and an equally impressive 4 pot set up.
The result is a car that can wash off speed as fast as it builds it. The Vette will decelerate from 70mph to 0 in just 142 feet. That’s nearly 15 feet earlier than the Porker Turbo and the German has AWD. It’s all very VERY impressive for a Corvette.
On the road only a vice could possibly have more grip than this car. You can feel it in the way it transfers its weight laterally, stubbornly refusing to give even when provoked as if the car were attached to some type of flexible glue. You can feel it shifting around under hard acceleration but the traction control system has the software to keep the hardware under wraps. Switched off, I can’t imagine how much of an animal this thing would be to drive…
This leads me to the suspension which consists of rather primitive control arms and ( gasp! ) leaf springs. Sure the optional magnetic ride control dampers make up for some of the ride loss but surely a multi-link setup on a car this potent was the only way forward. The problem with that for GM was a simple one. The Corvette ZR-1 was already at a $50,000 premium over the “standard” C6 Vette and that is a significant amount of change in anyone’s language. It looks like GM compensated in areas to keep the costs down – the suspension set up clearly one of them, the interior the other.
The trade-offs for such towering performance include a slightly cumbersome gearbox and thanks to its twin clutch plate set up, a heavier clutch pedal. You begin to sense that the car lacks refinement in certain areas but these mechanical foibles pale in comparison to the interior build quality.
Compared to any German; or Japanese for that matter, the American comes up painfully short in this regard. The low rent cabin is more Escalade than Cayenne, despite the attractively raked blue stitched dashboard and copious leg and head room. A single, drab shade of gray is everywhere and the seats, while comfortable enough, are a little more like couches; not exemplary when the road ahead becomes any twistier than a straight line.
The controls are clunky, primitive things and the Navi system is light years behind what Asia and German have on offer.
It does have a nifty little HUD though…
Do any of these things matter anyway? Well, not when you’re traveling at more than 300kph they don’t but you can’t help but notice them when you really pay attention to your surroundings.
Speaking of 300kph and over, you’ll need one of these little bad boys to keep you well informed of what’s gong on around you.
And when it comes to attention, the ZR-1 continuously grabs it when you step back to admire the muscular lines and aggressive poise. It’s a beautiful, purposeful car, no doubt about it.
There’s menacing intent in the design and the carbon fiber parts installed add to the ambiance perfectly.
The hood is particularly well crafted as is the roof and B pillar but I’m not sure how I feel about this “window” in the hood. A little tacky if you ask me.
The sidesteps are a nice touch…
…as is the gorgeous Cyber Gray Metallic paint, which up close glistens digitally.
So what’s the retail on one of these? A little under 20 million yen…
Quite the premium over the $115,000 sticker in the States. I suppose that’s the price you pay when you own one of only 18 examples in the entire country. The “price” of individuality in Japan may be steep but I have to argue that with the outright performance of Vette, on track or around guerrilla territory like the Wangan, it comes across as a very reasonably priced and more than capable assassin of speed.
Words and Photos – Adam Zillin
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