Centuries from now when archeologists unearth the remains of this civilization, we hope among the countless Prius statues they will find at least one 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1.
The ZR1 will serve to signify a time when a limited number of folks dared be politically incorrect by driving a V-8 coupe with the power of a rocket.
The ZR1 Corvette, lovingly dubbed King of the Hill in 1990 when it bowed because of the exhaust its rivals had to eat, has returned for 2009 after a four-year absence.
In an age when mileage is sacred and speed is a sin, the ZR1 is an absolute blast. Sorry, Big Guy.
The ZR1 is propelled by a 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8. Its 638 horsepower are the most ever squeezed into a Chevy.
Stand on the pedal, the power generated as you slip the lever from second to third sucks the air out of every fiber of your body. First guy to travel this fast was named Armstrong, and he had to pause on the moon to catch his breath. At age 18, Twin No. 2 once came close on Interstate 94.
If the original was King of the Hill, this is Potentate of the Planet, with a top speed of 205 mph.
When the supercharger kicks in, it lets out a wail. While gas/electric hybrids have merits, none come to mind when turning three digits in a ZR1, and the V-8 still has power in reserve.
A 5-Series BMW tried catching up as if to pass. It eventually did, a minute or so after we stopped to jot down a few notes. Don't think that was a thumb the Bimmer driver raised.
The ZR1 combines amazing handling with its blistering speed.
It has holders for coffee cups or pop cans and a navigation system to find the nearest restaurant for a leisurely meal, amenities we found after three days on secluded country roads.
No time for such trivialities during playtime, and no USB port; there's a power plug under the armrest instead.
But, as colleague Jim Jackson noted, no use for iPod, much less radio, when piloting a 638 hp ship. "Radio should be a delete option," he noted.
Agreed. The sounds coming from the engine and the exhaust are music to the ears of the performance enthusiasts who have lined up to get one of the high-priced, limited-edition works of engineering art. When the supercharger goes to work and the exhaust starts to rumble, AM, FM and XM give way to rpm.
A couple problems with a vehicle this potent, however, one being finding an off-track place to enjoy it. We found a desolate spot in the country, though after about 30 minutes, a patrol car did too. When joined by a second patrol car, it seemed more than coincidence, so we moved on -- a couple times.
The ZR1 is sure-footed with its sports-tuned suspension and 20-inch performance radials. It holds flat in corners and turns, traction control preventing slippage at takeoff and stability control guarding against lateral wandering. Twist the console button and you move from a smooth "touring" setting to a firmer "sport" mode for the track. With a chin spoiler a couple inches off the road, avoid steep driveways and any snow.
The cockpit is designed for room (as much as possible in a two-seater) and comfort (as much as possible sitting about 4 inches off the pavement) and to hold occupants in place. But, as we found, the safety belts tighten against the body automatically in power takeoffs. So we had to pull over every so often to loosen the straps and exhale.
The ZR1 is meant for aggressive motoring, but at recess don't expect to blend in with the scenery in an atomic-orange coupe, especially one sporting a supercharger under a plexiglass shield in the hood and ZR1 supercharged badges on the fenders.
The 2009 ZR1 tested starts at $103,970, highest price ever commanded by a Chevrolet. A 3ZR package with custom leather interior trim, perforated leather sport bucket seats, navi system and Bose sound system runs $10,000; the atomic orange, $300; and freight, $960. And don't forget sales tax, no small change on a $103,000 machine.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at email@example.com.
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