(Source: arstechnica.com)

Here at Ars, I’ve made no secret of my love for wagons or my regard for the current generation of Chevrolet Corvette. Now, thanks to the clever people at Callaway Cars, it’s possible to get both of those in one carbon-fiber package: the Callaway AeroWagen. The AeroWagen is the latest product from a company that has been tuning Corvettes—with GM’s blessing and warranty—for the past three decades. The coolest bit is that the carbon fiber AeroWagen hatch is a straight swap for the stock rear hatch of the current C7 Corvette. The modification will bump the ‘Vette’s cargo capacity by a couple of cubic feet, but perhaps more importantly, it transforms what was already one of the best-looking front-engined sports cars on the market into that rare automotive beast, the shooting brake.

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

  • Jonathan Gitlin

Callawho?

It is easy to forget just how far American performance cars have come in the past couple of decades. The latest-generation Corvette is an extremely good sports car, whether you opt for the regular ‘Vette, hotter Grand Sport, or Z06. And the recently deceased Dodge Viper ACR remains one of the fastest road-legal ways around a race track, up to and including the Green Hell.

But the automotive world wasn’t always thus. Go back 30 years to when the Corvette might have looked good, but everyone knew it was a little anemic. That includes GM’s Dave McLellan, the car’s chief engineer.

Enter Reeves Callaway. Like many of us, Callaway dreamed of a career as a professional racing driver but lacked the financial support to make that happen. A job at Bob Bondurant’s racing school followed, and it was there he started tinkering with cars and creating aftermarket turbochargers for a number of vehicles including the Alfa Romeo GTV6. After McLellan tried one of these modified Alfas, he knew he’d found the man to give the Corvette some muscle.

The first of these was a twin-turbo C4 Corvette, an extreme example of which—Project Sledgehammer—reached 254.8mph (410km/h) in testing in 1989. Not bad for a street-legal car driven to and from the Transportation Research Center test track in Ohio and actually a mile an hour faster than the Bugatti Veyron. Project Sledgehammer was also the first time Callaway started modifying bodywork in addition to tweaking the oily bits, and the AeroBody was offered as an option that same year.

Since then, Callaway has turned its hand to other Corvette mods, plus high-powered Range Rovers, Mazda Protegés, race cars, and even a few bespoke sports cars like the Callaway C12 that you may remember from Gran Turismo or Project Gotham Racing. Its relationship with Chevrolet is rather like that of BMW and Alpina or Mercedes-Benz and AMG (before M-B bought the latter). You can order your Callaway from Chevy dealers, and the vehicles are still covered by the OEM warranty on top of Callaway’s three-year, 36,000 mile warranty.

Seven Hundred and Fifty-Seven Horsepower

The AeroWagen Corvette originally started life as a Corvette Z06. The principle alterations over the stock supercharged LT4 V8 include a new Eaton TVS2300 supercharger and three intercoolers—a primary and then two secondaries, one for each cylinder bank. The supercharger housing pokes up a little above the hood, which helps a lot with cooling. (This is similar to the 6th-gen Corvette ZR1.) Overheating was a weak point of the standard Z06, and GM had to halt production of the car for six months last year to redesign the stock hood (and some other bits) to allow the car to run at speed for more than a couple of laps before heat soak shut things down. According to Chris Chessnoe, Callaway’s program manager, the supercharged Callaway will run out of gas at the track well before overheating becomes a problem.

In addition to checking out the AeroWagen up close, I got a chance to take it for a quick spin. To this day, the regular Z06 remains one of the few vehicles I’ve driven that I didn’t think needed any more power; 650hp (485kW) and rear-wheel drive is more than sufficient for the track and, let’s be honest, overkill for the street. So I was surprised to discover that the Callaway version—which has a barely imaginable 757hp (565kW) and 777ft-lbs (1053Nm)—was not at all terrifying to drive.

Needless to say, the AeroWagen is brutally fast when you need it to be: zero to 60mph in 2.8 seconds and a 1/4-mile time of 10.5 seconds (at 131mph) is more than enough to give you that “all my internal organs have just rearranged themselves” feeling. But even with that much torque on tap, the throttle remains progressive, and it really is capable of pootling along at 25mph on the way to the grocery store. (This is a good thing when driving a bright red car in suburban Northern Virginia, where the cops don’t take kindly to speeding.)

Happily, I can report that visibility out of the back isn’t much affected by the AeroWagen treatment. In fact, it may even be slightly better than the Z06, which has a massive rear spoiler that interferes with rearward vision.

The AeroWagen is not even particularly expensive when you consider the performance. On top of the price of a Z06 (which starts at $79,450), the SC757 engine costs $17,995, plus another $2,990 for the central exhaust and $14,995 for the AeroWagen hatch. That’s less than half what you’d spend to get the only other shooting brake on sale these days, Aston Martin’s Vanquish Zagato.

But the best bit? If (like me) you think the standard 450hp (335kW) Corvette is more than enough for the street, you can just opt for that AeroWagen hatch.

More Info: arstechnica.com

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