The first factory supercharged Corvette arrived 15 years ago—wearing a Cadillac wreath
The Chevrolet Corvette is America’s sports car, a steadfast two-seat sports car that’s long been the halo of driving pleasure at General Motors. For decades, naturally aspirated V-8 power has been the heart and soul of the Corvette, but the C6-generation ZR1 broke with tradition. Calling upon a supercharger for the 6.2-liter LS9, the 2009 Corvette ZR1 made a stunning 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. If you’re willing to bend the rules a little, though, the very first supercharged Corvette was, well, not a Corvette. That honor goes to the 2006 Cadillac XLR-V.
I know the Corvette community is a proud one, so I don’t point this out to take anything away from Vette fans. No doubt, the 2009 Corvette ZR1 put America’s performance reputation in conversation with genuine exotics. Or in terms the stereotypical Corvette owner might appreciate, the ZR1 were like the fresh limited-edition New Balances for steak night out on the town, while your run-of-the-mill C6 was like the New Balances for yard work and walking the dog.
Let’s get one thing out of the way up front—the pair of McCulloch-supercharged 1953 Corvettes were not a factory effort. McCulloch sourced those cars privately and added the superchargers themselves in the hopes of selling the package to GM as a potential factory option. It didn’t work out.
A little more than five decades later, on the other hand, the platform-sharing XLR worked out pretty well. From its introduction in 2004, this Cadillac rode on a C6 Corvette architecture and featured many of the same parts. Rather than using the Corvette’s pushrod LS2 V-8, the standard XLR retained a Caddy powerplant in the form of a 320-hp Northstar DOHC V-8. The 4.6-liter engine made for more of a luxury cruiser than an upscale sports car, which left room for Cadillac to drop in the STS-V’s 4.4-liter supercharged mill. The result was a 123-horsepower increase from the un-pressurized Northstar, totaling 443 hp in comparison to the LS2’s 400 hp.
Considering the XLR is understood by many to be a dolled-up Corvette—and the much-improved interior more or less backs up this take—from a certain perspective the XLR-V is the first supercharged Corvette. It’s no ZR1, of course, but we should give credit where credit is due.