Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2019: How we arrived at the winner

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

We announced Monday that the Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2019 is the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. But how did we get there? The ZR1 faced off against a class of strong contenders that included the Audi RS 5, BMW M5, Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack Level 2, and Jaguar I-Pace.

With 755 raging horses under its hood, the ZR1 certainly had a leg up on the competition. And we have loved the C7-generation Corvette since its debut. But you need to corral all that power and channel it to the pavement, and the ZR1 can't just be a track weapon that beats up the driver on the road. Would the ZR1 offer just enough luxury to overcome its comfort deficit to our other contenders?

We started our testing with a day at the 2.0-mile Atlanta Motorsports Park road course, then moved on to road drives of each vehicle.

After we all had seat time in each finalist, we sat down and hashed it out. We compared notes, made bold claims, told each other to quiet down, drank a few beverages, and all finally agreed that the ZR1 has what it takes to be the Motor Authority Best Car to Buy 2019.

Our hive mind had thoughts about why the ZR1 won, and about the strengths and weaknesses of the other cars as well.

The following is what our crew had to say about each of our contenders.


2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1: The Missile

With the Corvette, Chevrolet brought an ICBM to a gunfight for out Best Car To Buy competition. Nowhere was that more true than at the 2.0-mile stretch of winding pavement known as Atlanta Motorsports Park. Big power, heaps of downforce, and precise handling made the ZR1 the star car at the track. It didn't just stand out—it blew away the competition.

We were all astonished by the ZR1's acceleration, but we agreed it does far more than that. "If there’s something the mighty ZR1 can’t do on a track like Atlanta Motorsports Park, I’m all ears," said Editorial Director Marty Padgett. "It rips and claws at the track with menacing acceleration and extra-sensory lateral grip—and it feels exceptionally composed in the in-betweens."

Managing Editor Aaron Cole noted "it’s the downforce that makes the ZR1 a hairy-chested dare machine."

That downforce helped make the ZR1 the most stable car in the hairy turn 16 right-hander onto the front straight after carrying a lot of speed through turns 13, 14, and 15. It also meant we reached the highest speeds heading into turn 1. Some of us used that downforce more than others and achieved higher speeds, but we all agreed the car held far more capability than our driving talent could access. Even though the ZR1 is a monster, Padgett noted it inspired confidence and The Car Connection’s Senior Editor Andrew Ganz called it remarkably manageable.

"None of the other cars come close to its lateral grip, or the speed it can confidently carry through transitions or gather on straightaways, or how unfazed the rear end feels at triple-digit speeds when nailing the brakes," said Green Car Reports Senior Editor Bengt Halvorson.

On the track, the ZR1 made rockstars of us all.

However, it wouldn't have won if it were unmanageable on the street.

Cole liked how tame it felt when unprovoked.

"It’s surprisingly sedate when it’s not driven hard. It’s far from a long-distance cruiser, but it’s no more punishing on long highway jaunts than, say, a Miata," he said.

After driving the ZR1 about 100 miles from Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson Airport to our cabin in the Georgia hills, I agree, but I wouldn't go that far. The ride quality, while not overly abusive, isn't as smooth as the Miata's; it can crash over sharp bumps that the Miata will soak up. The engine is so torque-rich that it's easy to forget to shift. At one point, I found myself cruising in second gear on the freeway. The steering that has so much feel on twisty roads can be darty at highway speeds, and the 285 mm front tires sometimes act like a distracted dog and tramline along road seams.

The crazy tall rear wing is a hindrance when loading luggage and you had better keep your fingers away when closing the hatch if you want to keep them. Other complaints centered the interior and the over-the-top looks.

Padgett loved the car but still hates the "teenage-dream flourishes carved into its flesh," while Cole asked: "Can’t we get a serialized number plate or something for more than six figures?"

In the end, it was the combination of track chops, street attitude, big power, and relative value that made the ZR1 the Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2019.

Interactive Content Manager Joel Feder noted, "It can slay cars costing four times as much, if not more, on the track." It's true, and it's not a bad endorsement for our Best Car To Buy 2019.

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