Thursday, June 19, 2008

GM Announces 2009 Corvette ZR1 Price, Performance

By Chris Haak


GM has released the official pricing and performance specifications for its fastest, most powerful, most expensive vehicle in company history - the 2009 Corvette ZR1. Basically, all of the numbers - pricing, performance, even fuel economy - turned out almost exactly where everyone expected them to. But it's only when you step back to consider these numbers, particularly when taken together.

The ZR1's base price is $103,300 (including an $850 destination fee) and has a $10,000 option package available (likely interior upgrades such as the leather-wrapped dash available in other Corvette models), $2,000 chrome wheels, and a mandatory $1,700 gas guzzler tax. It's interesting to note that the 2009 ZR1 is the first Corvette to be saddled with a gas guzzler tax (estimated EPA ratings are 14 city/20 highway). Forgetting for a moment about the likely dealer "market adjustment" and mandatory gas guzzler tax, the ZR1 is 115% ($55,405) more expensive than a base $47,895 coupe and 41% more expensive ($30,045) than the $73,255 Z06.

So, what do you get for your $103,300 (plus the aforementioned dealer "market adjustment," which is likely to be particularly problematic for the first cars to hit showrooms)? The quarter mile flashes by in 11.3 seconds at 131 miles per hour; 0 to 60 happens in just 3.4 seconds, and the car can go 0 to 100 in just 7.0 seconds. Manufacturers' performance claims are often conservative, and in fact, the former bad boy Corvette, the Z06, had a manufacturer-claimed 0 to 60 time of 3.7 seconds, but several magazine tests were able to beat that, with times as low as the ZR1's claimed 3.4 seconds. GM claims that the Z06's 0 to 100 time is 7.9 seconds, so the ZR1 is significantly quicker in that metric as well.

Given the large price differentials ($25,360 between a base coupe and a base Z06; $30,045 between the base Z06 and base ZR1), it's unlikely that many buyers will be comparison shopping among the various Corvette models; some buyers will want the relatively inexpensive and fast base model; others will prefer the more expensive and faster (and more hard-edged) Z06; many will covet and some will step up to the ZR1's ultimate performance and luxury, which is probably a less hardcore track machine than the Z06, yet thanks to its significant horsepower and braking advantage, can probably still beat the Z06 on most racetracks.

Since the various Corvette models won't be competing with each other, GM surely enjoyed pointing out in the press release (linked below) how well the ZR1 compared with its competitors in terms of fuel economy. Most of the competitors GM named consume far more fuel than the ZR1 does; the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano is rated at 11 city/15 highway), the Lamborghini Murcielago is rated at 8 city/13 highway, and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is rated at 12 city/19 highway. Interestingly, two competitors do top the ZR1 in fuel economy; the Dodge Viper bests the ZR1 in highway economy (13 city/22 highway) and the Porsche 911 GT3 bests it in city economy (15 city/22 highway).

Of the competitors named above, the ZR1 is less expensive than all but the Dodge Viper (which is likely on its way to the racetrack in the sky after this current generation runs its course and sells in extremely small numbers). Those prices are: Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano ($270,484), Lamborghini Murcielago ($323,300), Aston Martin V8 Vantage ($114,350), Dodge Viper ($87,460) and Porsche 911 GT3 ($108,360). The Italian exotics and the Viper are pretty close to the ZR1 in terms of power output, but the Aston Martin and Porsche are far below the ZR1 horsepower-wise (415 for the Porsche and 380 for the Aston Martin). The competitors (excepting the Viper) all have higher-quality interiors, but for twice or triple the price, they should as well. Start checking option boxes (there are no less than 19 of them) on a Porsche order form for leather-covered interior bits, and the price quickly gets further from ZR1 territory and closer to Ferrari territory.

While any car costing $103,300 could be called "inexpensive" or a "bargain," GM has really put an impressive machine into enthusiasts' hands for the 2009 model year. What GM has also inadvertently shown is what a great performance bargain the upcoming 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, which shares many basic engine components with the ZR1, although in a detuned state, will be if its price is near the rumored $58,000 to $62,000 range.

GM's press release can be found here.

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