In standard guise, the Chevrolet Corvette packs a serious wallop, but there's always a small core of buyers who want more.
The 2009 ZR1 will have 638 horsepower, carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon-fiber body panels and a 205-mph top track speed. Only 2,000 will be made the first year. Its sticker price is $103,300, but the actual selling price will soar well above that.
Another option for die-hard enthusiasts is the Callaway Corvette, a special-order car that is available in small numbers through a handful of dealers nationwide. The Callaway has a low-profile Eaton/Magnuson supercharger perched atop its 6.2-liter V-8, and it pumps out 580 horsepower. That figure is less than the ZR1, but with horsepower approaching 600, the difference is academic unless you have a racetrack handy. The Callaway package adds $18,500 to the sticker price of a new Corvette. The test car was a coupe with the six-speed manual transmission and the Z51 suspension and brake package. The Callaway's engine package, stainless steel exhaust and short-shift kit brought the sticker price to $70,365.
Superior Chevrolet in Merriam is the only Callaway dealer between Illinois, Texas and Colorado.
Unlike the ZR1, the Callaway is also offered with an automatic transmission and as a convertible.
Callaway Cars of Old Lyme, Conn., was founded by Reeves Callaway in 1976, and it has modified production cars for General Motors, Mazda, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin and Land Rover, among others. Callaway also has facilities in California and Germany.
Callaway is probably best known for its modified Corvettes, starting with the twin-turbo in 1987.
Creating a Callaway Corvette begins with the addition of a supercharged engine and new exhaust to the base model. Options include a short-throw shift linkage ($470), an adjustable suspension ($5,960), upgraded brakes ($7,620), lightweight wheels ($9,495), sports seats ($6,940) and an all-leather interior ($24,300).
The first thing I noticed about the Callaway was how much better it shifts with the short-throw linkage. The shift pattern is tight and direct, although the effort is higher and requires a distinct tug to engage fifth and sixth gears.
The second thing came when I leaned on the throttle. The supercharger whines, the scenery blurs, and you're going fast quickly. The pavement was slightly wet during part of my test drive, and that meant instant wheel spin and intervention by the traction control. Later, when the pavement was dry, the monstrous rear tires grabbed the pavement and the acceleration was exhilarating. Sampling this car's performance on the street is impossible, but it would be a blast for track-day driving, especially in the hands of an expert.
Even though the Callaway has nearly 600 horsepower, it is content being driven sedately. It never bucks or protests a modest pace. As you would expect, the ride is firm but not tooth-jarringly stiff.
Fuel mileage is rated at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway, and the test car's onboard computer showed an average of 13.5 mpg.
Although this special Corvette has a host of electronic controls to help keep it securely on the road, its power is so explosive that it demands all of your attention all the time. The foolhardy need not apply.
The interior is standard Corvette, although the optional sports seats would be great for their additional support.
The test car was equipped with convenience items such as leather seating surfaces, dual-zone climate control, satellite radio and six-disc CD player.
Front and side airbags are standard, as are anti-lock brakes, traction control and a vehicle stability control system that has a competition-driving mode for track use.
The test car's base price was $49,395. The Callaway package and short-shift kit brought the sticker price to $70,365.
Three years or 36,000 miles.
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