The new Corvette ZR1 is, to paraphrase Muhammad Ali, a baaad car. It is, no exaggeration and no foolin’, a car that can flat out stomp ones that don’t have the words “Ferrari” or “Porsche” or “McLaren” applied to their trunk lids. If you are not driving one of those cars and find yourself up against a ZR1 in almost any capacity, don’t even try. The ZR1 will eat you. Now imagine how much more fun you could have as a ZR1 owner if you dropped the top?
The 2019 Corvette ZR1 convertible is the first ZR1 drop-top since 1970. That is, to say the least, a long time. Much has changed in the automotive world, and Chevrolet, thankfully, has adapted and grown with those changes. The current model Vettes are fast, nasty, well thought out, and technically sophisticated sports cars. There are no more “yeah, but” equivocations coming from Corvette owners. And the ZR1 piles on even more power, torque, and aero goodies to drive that point home all the harder.
Both the coupe and convert versions of the ZR1 go on sale next spring and while not exactly inexpensive, neither of them cost what a Ferrari or Porsche or McLaren cost. How much? The ZR1 coupe will cost you $119,995, while the drop top will start at $123,995. Like I said, not exactly inexpensive, but still . . .
The differences between the hard and soft tops are actually pretty negligible. Everything you get in the coupe you get in the convertible. Gone are the days of extra bracing here and there to make up for lost rigidity in an already flexi-flyer (I’m looking at you, first round of Gen 4 convertibles!). The strength and design of the latest Corvette’s aluminum chassis means the only structural changes in the drop-top are modifications for the folding top and repositioned safety belt mounts. The top is a fully powered job that can be operated remotely or while driving up to 30 mph, which, you know, looks so boss when your leaving the drive-in. “But it adds weight,” you mumble. Au contraire mon frère! In fact, the difference in curb weight between the ZR1 coupe and convertible is less than 60 pounds. Most of that added weight is down to the folding top hardware. Very impressive.
The convertible gets the full aero kit, including the standard, stanchion-mounted Low Wing. If you have all the restraint of a Vin Diesel fanboy with a Liberace fetish, you can spring for the ZTK Performance Package (an extra $2,995) with that absurd (yet adjustable) High Wing, front splitter, and carbon-fiber end caps. The ZTK also gets you Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and Magnetic Ride Control.
The convertible is powered by the same LT5 6.2-liter supercharged engine, putting out 755 horsepower and 715 lb-ft. of torque. Transmissions are the same: either a seven-speed manual or a paddle-shift eight-speed automatic. Chevy’s testing shows 60 mph in under three seconds (gulp!), a quarter mile in the high 10 range (not bad), and a top speed of 212 mph. And that’s when you opt for the eight-speed automatic.
The blower on the LT5 is the same intercooled unit found on the coupe that displaces 2.65-liters on its own. It generates more boost at slightly slower speeds than before, and reduces heat for lower intake temperatures for optimal performance. And yeah, both ZR1s have thirteen radiators.
And finally, there is a new, patent-pending exhaust system to offer “the most aggressive sound ever for a production Corvette.” Essentially it’s a Jekyll and Hyde set up. It’s a bi-modal exhaust system with four distinct modes and sound levels: Stealth, Tour, Sport, and Track. In Stealth mode, the ZR1 is quieter than the Z06, while in Track mode it is “significantly louder.”
So, you know, from a performance standpoint, the choice is yours. Do you want the coupe or the convertible? Because they’ll both turn the same lap times. Which is all that really counts. Both the 2019 Corvette ZR1 coupe and convertible will be on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show through December 10th.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.