The new king of General Motors' lineup, the Corvette ZR-1, has barely begun making the official press rounds but already insiders are talking about the next-generation version of the car, expected to be based on the as-yet unrevealed C7 Corvette. Definite information is at a premium, but speculation indicates the next ZR-1 could feature a twin-turbo V6 powerplant in place of the traditional big V8.

Wild ideas, including mid-engine designs, have been circulating around the C7 generation of the Corvette, but so far most have proven to be little more than fanciful wish-lists. The latest reports, however, seem to be grounded more firmly in reality, if still completely unofficial. The Corvette will almost certainly remain front-engined and reasonably affordable, reports Popular Mechanics. The drastic change in design would lie under the hood, where the 6.2L LS9 that currently generates a furious, supercharged 638hp (476kW) and 604lb-ft (819Nm) of torque would be supplanted by a twin-turbo V6, such as a modified version of the 3.6L direct-injection unit current found in the Cadillac CTS.

Insiders reportedly think that engine, in twin-turbo form, could easily produce 400hp (298kW), and given its current naturally-aspirated rating of 306hp (228kW), that sounds like a reasonable claim. That figure sits close to today's entry-level Corvette V8, but is a far cry from the ground-pounding ZR-1's statistical dominance. Extracting enough performance from such a small unit to generate the three levels of Corvette we've grown so familiar with - the base, Z06 and ZR-1 - could end up creating a very highly-strung unit at the upper end of the range. So highly strung that the cost and technology necessary might make it cost-prohibitive, even when fuel efficiency savings are taken into effect.

Though that in itself is a bit of a quandary for the twin-turbo idea, as the torquey V8s in the current cars are geared low enough that city and highway fuel economy isn't poor for the sports car class - even the brutal ZR-1 rates at 14mpg city and 20mpg highway. That's a long way from the CAFE-required 35mpg fleet average, but the ZR-1 isn't a high-volume unit. The current standard 'Vette manages a more respectable 16mpg city and 26mpg highway in manual guise. Beating those figures with a twin-turbo V6 won't be easy, as the slightly heavier but similarly powerful Nissan GT-R proves with its 16mpg city/21mpg highway rating.