ZR1 and LT7, the Future of the Corvette Engine

Is there anything more synonymous with love than the Corvette? The small-block Chevrolet V8 is a larger-than-life engine. Since it was introduced in 1955, it went on to power now-iconic muscle cars like the original Camaro Z/28, practically an entire generation of hand-built hot rods, and dozens of NASCAR championship winning racers. However, there is perhaps no machine more synonymous with the small-block Chevy than the Corvette. The current C7 generation ’Vette is slated to get an impressively powerful modern evolution of the small block in the new 2019 ZR1. And the upcoming eighth-generation (C8) Corvette is expected to get an even more advanced powerplant known as the LT7.

Change on the Horizon for the Corvette

The Corvette will be changed from a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, which it has been since 1953, to a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive for 2020. But before the C7 goes out of production, GM’s engineers are giving the 2019 Corvette ZL1 variant a supercar-caliber V8. While the specific design of the modern small-blocks may differ from the original version, the basic premise and dimensions are similar.

Based on the LT4 V8 found in the current Corvette Z06, packing 6.2 liters and a potent supercharger, the ZR1 will make an impressive 755 horsepower and a stump-pulling 715 lb-ft of torque. That is enough grunt to push the street-legal sports car to a top speed of 210 mph. It may surprise some readers to learn that the same basic architecture that underpins the ZR1 can be found in V8s that power other GM-powered vehicles, like the Cadillac Escalade, minus the supercharger.

“As a long-time Corvette enthusiast, I can tell you that this new platform is altering the way the Corvette is marketed. It’s insanely fast in stock form, and the overall cosmetic change is aggressive, which now appeals to a younger crowd as well, which is helping with overall sales,” said Matthew Bertelsen, a Keystone sales associate based out of Texas.

Eighth Generation Evolution

In addition to the big change in drivetrain layout, the 2020 C8 Corvette is expected to get a small-block that deviates from the traditional pushrod-valvetrain V8 formula. While the Corvette had dual-overhead cams (DOHC) optionally available as long ago as 1990 in the C4-gen ZR1, it will soon have DOHC as standard. The upcoming LT7 small block V8s are expected to have four cams, be twin-turbocharged, and displace between 4.2 and 5.5 liters. While this may sound exotic for an American sports car, the basis for this engine technology appears to be rooted in GM’s LGW-type engine found in the current Cadillac CT6. Horsepower and torque figures for the LT7 are not known yet, but it is safe to assume they will eclipse the C7-gen engine ratings that range from 455-755 hp. In fact, rumored outputs of 500-800 horsepower wouldn’t be surprising.

“The announcement at the end of 2017 about the new production of a 2019 Corvette ZR1 has many enthusiasts scrambling, as it will be the highest horsepower production Vette EVER MADE. Quantity is going to be very limited, and the price tag is said to be north of $120K. So, it’s out of reach for most, but not the diehard enthusiast!” added Bertelsen.

The Picture of Power and Performance

The small-block Chevy has evolved greatly in the last 63 years. From an iron engine that made 162-195 horsepower in 1955, to an alloy powerplant that’s on par with the best from the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche, it is truly one of the automotive world’s most enduring icons. While there is the chance that the modern small-block Chevy may be paired with a hybrid powertrain before long, it will power Chevrolet’s most iconic machines into the foreseeable future.

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