2021 Chevy Corvette C8 ZR1 will look a lot like this, but what will power it?

Chevrolet says it has seriously enhanced every part of the new Corvette C8 Stingray’s performance repertoire - the car is considerably faster to sprint, but also sharper and more agile through the corners than the model it replaces. On paper, the regular C8 is probably about as quick as more potent versions of the old Corvette C7, so we’re really wondering what kind of bonkers numbers the ZR1 version of the C8 will provide.

What’s Going to Power the Corvette C8 ZR1?

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray gallery
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With just under 500 horsepower on tap, the new C8 is apparently able to reach sixty from a standstill in under 3 seconds. That’s very impressive when comparing it to versions of the outgoing C7 - that’s already up to the level of the Z06 and ZR1, both of which are supercharged to produce 650 horsepower and 755 horsepower respectively. In the case of the Z06, though, only automatic-equipped cars dip below the 3-second mark.

The C7 ZR1’s hand-assembled 6.2-liter LT5 V-8 not only pumps out 755 horsepower (at 6,300 rpm), but an obscene amount of torque too - 715 pound-feet (969 Nm) that arrives at 4,400 rpm. But what can’t be portrayed through mere words is just how muscular it feels on the move, especially since a lot of that torque kicks you in the back from quite low in the rev range - Chevy says it makes over 600 pound-feet (813 Nm) from 2,200 rpm all the way to the red line.

Its claimed naught to sixty sprint time is 2.85 seconds, but what’s even more impressive is what it does beyond that speed - it will reach 100 mph (160 km/h) in 6 seconds flat and smash through the quarter mile in 10.6 seconds at 134 mph (215 km/h) - this puts it in the same league as a Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4, a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta or the new Ford GT.

It also packs serious in-gear punch - all it needs to accelerate from 60 mph (96 km/h) to 100 mph (160.9 km/h) is just over 3 seconds. It will quite comfortably (and quickly) reach its top speed of 212 mph (341 km/h). All of the above are numbers fitting for a proper supercar and you might be asking yourself what they mean (and foreshadow) for the C8 ZR1.

The First Rendering of the 2021 Chevy C8 Corvette ZR1 Has Us Anxious for the Future
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The C8 ZR1 will certainly be even faster, grippier and generally more capable than the C7 ZR1, but what exactly will power it? Well, it’s definitely going to be a V-8, but which one remains to be seen. It will most likely be a supercharged mill with even more power than what the one in the C7 provides.

What’s worth noting is the fact that Chevy officials present at the C8’s launch event did admit the new mid-engined Vette had been designed with electrification in mind.

This statement has quite a few implications, including the fact that the next ZR1, which is the flagship model in the Corvette lineup, may be an electrified model.

It would make a lot of sense for a track-focused model, like the ZR1, to have an electric motor powering the front axle, maybe an additional one to provide constant, instant twist to the rear tires.

Having all-wheel drive would definitely enable it to catapult itself out of corners in a manner that just isn’t possible in a rear-wheel drive-only car.
The First Rendering of the 2021 Chevy C8 Corvette ZR1 Has Us Anxious for the Future
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There’s a good chance a development of the same LT5 V-8 will be the powerplant of choice for the C8 ZR1, but instead of wringing every last horsepower and pound-foot out of it, GM could go down the electrification route. Another route would be to supercharge the LT2 that powers the regular C8, but we don’t have information on whether or not that’s possible right now.

The next C8 Z06 could stick with internal combustion only, but there’s no reason why the hotter ZR1 couldn’t become a hybrid with 800+ horsepower and some 900 pound-feet (1,220 Nm) of torque, as well as mandatory all-wheel drive (a rear-wheel drive car with that much power would be too hard to manage for daily driving, and even though a ZR1 is designed to be thrashed on a circuit, it should still provide relaxed commuting to and from the track).

I’m pretty sure the fact that the C8 is exclusively available with the eight-speed double-clutch automatic transmission has something to do with future plans to electrify the model, but we’ll just have to wait and see what GM’s plan for the model is and what’s in store for the future.
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In essence, if it does turn out to be an all-wheel-drive hybrid with over 800 horsepower and oodles of torque, there’s no reason why its benchmark sprint time couldn’t come down to 2.5 seconds, maybe even lower. Recent Corvettes punch well above their weight (and price), so this hypothetical hybrid ZR1’s performance would start encroaching upon supercar (maybe even hypercar) territory at a mere fraction of their price.

What Other Performance-Enhancing Mods Will the C8 ZR1 Feature?

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Well, since the ZR1 will be considerably quicker than any other version of the C8, it will need improved grip. This will come courtesy of super sticky tires, as well as additional and/or larger wings and spoilers that will help keep it glued to the tarmac at higher speeds.

If we take the C7 ZR1 as an example, it has a unique front bumper that not only has bigger air intakes in order to feed the radiator and intercooler (these won’t necessarily be needed because the C8’s engine doesn’t breathe through the front any more, although they may still be required to cool other components), but also an integrated splitter that will make it hard to park and be a nuisance most of the time, yet it will provide substantially more front end grip out on track.

The First Rendering of the 2021 Chevy C8 Corvette ZR1 Has Us Anxious for the Future
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The C7 ZR1 also has a different hood that features a carbon fiber power bulge to help accommodate the blower which apparently is the largest one Eaton has ever made.

But the C8 won’t need a power bulge in the front because its engine is now in the middle of the car and it’s positioned low enough that even with the addition of a supercharger on top of it, there would still be room above it without having to modify the cover.

In its place, I don’t see why Chevrolet couldn’t design an aero feature similar to what Ferrari has done on the SF90 where air sucked in through the front bumper intakes exits over the hood and then over the entire car in order to provide additional downforce.

The First Rendering of the 2021 Chevy C8 Corvette ZR1 Has Us Anxious for the Future
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However, the main source of downforce would be the rear wing which will be considerably larger than the one you can specify on the C8 via the Z51 pack. Looking at the C7 ZR1 for reference, the C8 ZR1 will definitely come with a bigger wing as standard, but if GM decides to offer something similar to the ZTK Track Performance Package that it offers for the C7 ZR1, that would add an even larger (and adjustable) carbon fiber rear wing, extra carbon fiber bits and stickier tires (Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 on the C7 ZR1) for those looking to get the most out of their C8 ZR1 right out of the box.

The First Rendering of the 2021 Chevy C8 Corvette ZR1 Has Us Anxious for the Future
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And to maximize airflow efficiency under the car, whose underbody is nicely flat and free of disruptions, the C8 ZR1 would have to have a big diffuser in the rear. Diffusers help channel the air out from under the car behind it, so one would be a must in my book, even if as part of an optional pack - I’d like to see it fitted to the car from the factory.

The C7 ZR1 comes with adjustable magnetic shock absorbers as standard which are even stiffer if you opt for the aforementioned ZTK pack. The C8 ZR1 will definitely also follow this same recipe with no real changes to it. Oh, and the gearbox will probably have different and more aggressive tuning to minimize gearshift times. This may not be as important if the car does turn out to be a hybrid whose electric motor (or motors) will provide torque fill even during gear changes when the car would otherwise not have accelerated while cogs were being swapped.

What Will the Corvette C8 ZR1 Look Like?

The First Rendering of the 2021 Chevy C8 Corvette ZR1 Has Us Anxious for the Future
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This rendering by X-Tomi appears to be quite an accurate representation of what the Corvette C8 ZR1 might look like, although it is purely based on what the C7 ZR1 looks like right now. GM might want to move its styling game on (while still keeping things looking like they belong on a Corvette), especially since the ZR1 will probably be the last new Corvette variant to join the range, probably in 2021 or maybe later - for reference, the C7 ZR1 debuted in 2018, when the C7 had already been around for four years and we already knew an all-new model was on its way.

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The rendering doesn’t so much predict the future look of the C8 ZR1, as it does dress the C8 with C7 ZR1 bits. I’m sure Chevrolet will go down a different styling path for the C8 ZR1, especially if the automaker also turns it into a hybrid. What’s clear is that it will have a lot of aero enhancements, its interior will have race car-like bucket seats, plenty of carbon fiber trim inside, as well as a unique steering wheel and discrete ZR1 badging.

I must also reiterate the fact that the power bulge on the hood is silly and useless on a mid-engined car.

How Much Will the Corvette C8 ZR1 Cost?

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If Chevrolet keeps things simple and just turns the regular C8 into a C8 ZR1 in the same fashion it did with the C7, then the price difference between a base C8 and the flagship model would be very similar to what it is now.

The base C7 kicks off at just over $55,000, while the C7 ZR1 will set you back at least $122,000.

If you add the main ZR1-specific extras on the C7, like the $2,995 ZTK pack, the $6,996 ZR1 Sebring Orange Design pack, the one of the $1,995 optional sets of wheels, the $1,995 Competition Sport bucket seats (to name but a few), then the price quickly rises to around $150,000.

However, if Chevrolet goes crazy with electrification (and therefore makes the C8 ZR1 a more complicated and harder to manufacture car), then it might end up being considerably dearer than the ZR1 that went before it.

Further reading

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Zora ZR1 Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Read our speculative review of the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Zora ZR1

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Exterior
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Read our full review of the 2019 Chevy Corvette C7 ZR1

The First Rendering of the 2021 Chevy C8 Corvette ZR1 Has Us Anxious for the Future
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Read our full review of the 2010 Chevy Corvette C6 ZR1

The 9 Mid-Engine Corvette Concepts That Didn't Make it To Production
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Read all about the mid-engined Corvette concepts that never made it to production!

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