Obviously, it's important that you get the gear changes right, but that's a simple task. The 6-speeder is a 'box that begs to be used, and has a short throw, a close gate and slick movement. The clutch is fairly heavy, but not tiresomely so and is easy to feather or feed in gradually. A three-hour traffic jam, never getting beyond 15mph, doesn't cause me to wish I had an auto.
Occasionally, however, I do wish I was in a car that was as cool to use as it looks. While aspects such as all-around visibility, seat comfort (GM's best, in my opinion), luggage space, clutch-weight, tractability and docility in traffic all make you realize that this is a supercar for the 21st century, the heat soak from the transmission tunnel makes you think of dramatic 1970s machines that were all about show, go…and impracticality. Seriously, there is no need for the heated seats that come as part of the 3ZR package; your right leg and hip is going to cook on a long journey.
Time to get distracted by using this car as Chevy intended and hit the bends. The driving experience is as sensational as you'd expect from a car of this power that weighs a mere 3324lbs, especially given a 'Vette's low c of g, wide track and the absurd amount of lateral grip offered by its Michelin rubberwear. It's hard not to be intrigued by the g-meter that features in the wonderfully useful heads-up display, and it's not hard to believe the 1.1g that R&T recorded on its skidpan.
However, long before you reach that level of side-load, you're propping yourself against either the door or that thoroughly warming trans-tunnel, because there isn't enough seat bolstering for the narrower of body frame. This is a real bummer because it goes against the message of almost every other part of the car. This is not a car aimed at drivers of regular Corvettes who wish to upgrade: they (in general) use their machines as harder-edged grand tourers. The ZR1, is a sports car that responds like a racecar.
For that reason, despite those seriously large P285/30ZR19s, the steering is alive with “don't sneeze or you'll change lanes”-precision, and by modern-car standards, its feedback is excellent. The Magnetic Ride Control (which is adjustable but is damn hard, even in “Touring” mode) automatically alters the damping of the shocks, but you still feel every imperfection on the road. That gives the driver a fair bit of work to do on uneven cambered or mottled road surfaces, the steering wheel twitching around in your hands but unlike many cars with a similar tendency to follow road contours, it doesn't get worse under braking. Maybe that's because the ZR1's body control is as sensational longitudinally as it is laterally: despite its ludicrous acceleration and stopping power, the car neither squats nor dives.
The brakes are awesome carbon-ceramic Brembos that seem never to tire, however hard you work them and, if you lack experience with these, it's hard to train yourself not to lengthen your braking zones after repeated hard stops. One thing you emphatically don't want to do is add extra steering lock to use understeer to scrub off excess speed. On a public road when the surface is dry, you won't be traveling at a speed where the front grip will give out even slightly. You'll just hurtle around the corner faster than intended. It's a mind-warping machine. Unless you've lost your senses or care nothing for your driver's license, you won't reach the limits of this car on the road. The only limit is the driver's imagination.
Familiarity helps, of course, but over the course of a week, the intimidation factor disappears. I even started to think of the ZR1 as practical: pulling into a parking lot, the tendency of the steering caster to try and send it into full lock when past a certain turn angle and its impractically low front splitter are about the only things to bear in mind when taking a trip to the supermarket.
But it's not the practicality of the ZR1 that will win you over. It's the many and major plus points and the few and minor negatives that make it impossible not to be impressed. Day to day, I drive a car worth about 10 percent of this 'Vette, yet after just a week, I return the keys in the belief that I've now driven not just the performance car bargain, but the automotive bargain of the era. It's an unbelievably and unforgettably awesome car.