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Autoweeks review of the new C6Z06(long but worth the read)


Well-known member
Nov 28, 2001
Northern NJ
Mad, Mad World: Chevrolet’s Corvette Z06 enters the supercar segment—and changes the game

Published Date: 9/5/05
BASE PRICE: $65,800
POWERTRAIN: 7.0-liter, 505-hp, 470-lb-ft V8; rwd, six-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT: 3132 lbs
0 TO 60 MPH: 3.7 seconds (mfr.)

“I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.”

When recently paroled Brooks Hatlen penned those words to his former prison mates in the film The Shaw-shank Redemption, he meant them as an indictment of a world that bore no resemblance to the one he knew pre-incarceration. Fifty years on the inside will do that to a man.

As far as the “big damn hurry” goes, he may as well have been talking about today. It wasn’t long ago pre-pubescent boys triggered a running shortage on Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari Testarossa posters. In the golden, bewinged and bestraked supercar age of the 1980s six figures bought you machines that you might now mistake for the work of a remedial Art Center student. Drive almost anything from that era short of a Porsche 959 or Ferrari F40 and you’d be justified in wondering what all the fuss was about.

That thought recurs often in three days spent hammering across Europe in the new Corvette Z06, and especially on the downhill run into arguably the most exhilarating corner in international road racing. The undulating Belgian tarmac known as Spa-Francorchamps allows drivers no synaptic downtime over its 4.334 miles, but the left-right-left Eau Rouge complex is the star of the show; in Formula One’s pre-traction-control era drivers spoke of it in reverent tones and needled one another about which of them could stay flat on the throttle all the way through.

The Z06 powers out of the second-gear La Source hairpin to begin the lap and cracks the 120-mph threshold before braking at the bottom of the hill. A road car, even one of Z06 caliber, does not produce enough aerodynamic downforce to make it through Eau Rouge flat, so it requires brief application of brakes to scrub off 15 or 20 mph and plant the nose. The suspension makes full use of its travel as the Corvette plunges in. It then lightens yet keeps the rubber planted when the car flicks right and climbs a steep grade that provides the road-racing equivalent of going vertical in an F-16.

Back on the throttle down the Kemmel straight, the 7.0-liter LS7 V8’s roar shakes the Ardennes forest as the Z06 accelerates fantastically, even when the speed surpasses 140 mph. The digital head-up display reflected in the windshield indicates 162 mph just as the trackside 200-meter board warns it is time to brake again for the third-gear right-left at Les Combes. The rest of the lap brings more of the same: An atomic forward rush presses flesh and bone into the seat, interrupted only when the brain protests the car cannot possibly enter the approaching bend this fast, even though Chevy claims the Z06 will maintain a 1.04 g lateral load during steady-state cornering.

But time and again the Z06 proves it can. The ginormous Goodyears (275/35ZR-18 front, 325/30ZR-19 rear) bite into the road and hold the line, and the suspension—with roll stiffness increased 15 percent front and 16 percent rear over a C6 with Z51 performance package—keeps the car flat and stable. Right-foot precision determines whether the Corvette maintains its neutral path or kisses the exit curbing in tidy four-wheel drifts. Back in the pits the Corvette guys are all smiles.

“What did you think,” chief engineer Dave Hill inquires disingenuously, like a kid asking his math teacher how he did on a test to which he stole the answers. A-plus, Dave.

There is no grading on a curve here. The Z06’s $65,800 base price marks it as the greatest value in supercar history, and the performance means those poster-buying kids should now lust after a Corvette, value or not. The price/performance combination also explains a lot of the pre-launch speculation and fanatical enthusiast effort to uncover any sliver of official information (Dec. 13, 2004).

An SAE-certified 505 hp at 6300 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm mean the Z06 will run with anything not named Carrera GT or Enzo, give or take a few obscure low-volume specials or million-dollar dreams like the still-coming-any-day-now Bugatti Veyron. And with a 16/24 city/highway EPA mileage rating, the Z06 is even exempt from the federal gas guzzler tax.

Chevrolet claims 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and first gear is good for 62 mph. But it takes restraint to keep from burning the tires down to their cords. To avoid a one-two shift and to help put the power down efficiently, the Z06 gets the gear ratios from the C6 rather than the Z51’s shorter cogs. Chevy says the quarter-mile passes in 11.7 seconds at 125 mph on the way to a top speed of 198 mph. Granted, AutoWeek’s track test of the standard C6 indicated Chevy-quoted times may hedge toward the optimistic side, and we will have to connect our timing gear to a Z06 to discover whether that is again the case and to what degree. But in the course of driving the car at Spa, Germany’s Nürburgring F1 track and on public roads, we found the Z06’s performance exceeds its on-paper promise (Jan. 10).

The Corvette team says one goal for Z06 was to build a car owners could drive on any closed circuit and not have to worry that “anything would leave you in the dust, even if it cost five or six times more money.”

Chevy pulled out the obligatory Nürburgring Nordschleife lap times to make the point: With Jan Magnussen, winner of the 2004 and 2005 Le Mans 24 Hour, at the helm, the Z06 clocked a seven-minute, 42.99-second lap of the 13-mile Green Hell, 16 seconds faster than a Z51-equipped C6. Porsche’s $440,000, 604-hp Carrera GT, with a seven-minute, 32.44-second lap, is the only production car to have gone quicker. For perspective, Lamborghini’s $283,000, 580-hp Murciélago clocked in at seven minutes, 50 seconds, and the $452,000, 671-hp McLaren-Mercedes SLR at seven minutes, 52 seconds.

Thus Hill is being modest when he comments, “Our benchmark car was the Porsche 911 Turbo—that’s a car we purchased and have present whenever we’re doing an important assessment.” And then he can’t resist taking the expected swipe. “We also have a Viper, but we knew we were going to leave the Viper far behind,” he adds, fighting to suppress the hint of a mischievous schoolboy smile tugging at his mouth. The new, more powerful Viper GTS may prove Hill wrong, but he could to varying degrees add 911 Carrera S, Aston Martin DB9, Lamborghini Gallardo and Ferrari F430 to the hit list. The new 997-series 911 Turbo, like the Ford GT, should match up well with Z06, but even if these cars ultimately prove quicker, they likely won’t leave the Z06 “in the dust.” Those cars will also demand buyers dig far deeper into that offshore account.

Inevitably some will do so. The corollary to the Z06’s price and C6 origins is that it does not possess the same seductive exoticness or provenance as some of its European competitors. Aside from the three-inch-wider bodywork with flared fenders, rear brake ducts and hood scoop necessary to feed the endurance racing-derived 427, there is not much to tell potential gawkers the Z06 is light-years ahead of the everyday C6. You have to get close to spot the unique, half-inch-larger exhaust diameter and bigger wheels, tires and brakes (14.0-inch front, 13.4-inch rear) with red six-piston calipers. It takes an even keener eye to notice the racing-inspired aerodynamic trip-strips in the front wheel openings, as well as the larger-radius front wheel wells that reduce turbulence as air escapes and runs down the car’s sides—another lesson gleaned from the racing effort. Bring a magnifying glass and you still won’t detect the carbon fiber fenders, wheel house and floor, or the aluminum frame.

The cockpit is standard C6 fare save for lighter, two-tone seats (the passenger seat loses its power adjustment feature to save weight) with meatier side bolsters and Z06 embroidery, and a revised instrument cluster. The seats provide decent support during heavy cornering, but the prominent center tunnel limits the size of bolster that Chevy can wedge in; drivers who plan to perform consistent track work will crave more support. We would also like Chevy to offer the telescoping steering wheel as standard. Carbon ceramic brakes would improve performance even further, but Chevy won’t offer them until it can do so at a “reasonable” price.

Hill says the development team did not think the Z06 needed an interior upgrade, given the car “would come in substantially less expensive than the Viper but with substantially more performance and refinement.” He acknowledges that “may not have been the right thinking, but we didn’t want to get the car too pricey.”

Indeed, the Z06 is far more refined than the Viper, but there is room for improvement. Away from the track tire noise, gear whine and a distinct rattle from the shifter detract from an otherwise livable environment. Insulation lost as part of the car’s extensive weight-saving program is responsible for some of the noise, though Hill points out these are pre-production cars lacking improved gearboxes and transmission-tunnel noise isolators. The strengthened six-speed box and beefier clutch required to handle the increased torque are also to blame. “We could have fixed [the noise] with a different clutch type, but the loss of acceleration performance was too severe,” Hill says.

Corvette haters will point to such idiosyncrasies as evidence the Z06 does not measure up to the world’s best packages, but ask them again after they drive the car. The ride quality makes the C6 feel like a grand tourer, but the gap isn’t as big as, say, the old 911 GT3 (a car universally applauded for its visceral character) vs. the everyday Carrera.

Given the choice we’ll take the Z06 over the C6 any day. Aside from the interior noise and harsher ride, its sublime track manners carry over to the street. Hours of driving in mixed conditions leave us ready for more: The steering feels less direct than that of some European competitors, but effort builds nicely through fast bends without harsh kickback. All that power means throttle-steering is effortless if and when the neutral cornering attitude bores you. Mid-corner bumps of consequence at times unsettle the Z06 from the road more than they might a 911, but the chassis copes well with the increased suspension loads. Credit the aluminum construction and magnesium fixed roof that increase the Z06’s bending stiffness 10 percent and torsional rigidity 15 percent over the base Corvette.

Chevy does not want to dilute the Z06’s pedigree, so it will not offer a heavier, less rigid convertible version. Bad news for drop-top fans, but if Hill’s team manages to perfect the refinement and interior formulas in the coming year or two, you’ll want for nothing else except perhaps a more prestigious badge.

Or maybe the long-rumored, supercharged Blue Devil exotic (July 4) sources say they have seen pounding around the Nordschleife. Hill says those sources have inhaled too many exhaust fumes. “If you have an idea that we’re coming in a few years with something a lot better than this, you’re going to spend a lot of time on the sidewalk watching Corvettes go by.”

Flared bodywork, new front fascia, and larger exhaust, wheels and tires distinguish the Z06 from the standard Corvette. Other touches, such as the underhood plaque bearing the signature of the 7.0-liter engine’s assembler, are less prominent.Does that mean there are no running prototypes of any kind?

“There are no running prototypes.”

Hill is clear on one other point: Whether it arrives in the form of a six-figure limited edition or C7 Z06, “There are going to be better Corvettes than this.”

Imagine what Brooks Hatlen would think.

Lamborghini, Ferrari and other European makers still hold a tight grip on the supercar moniker, but the Z06 will pry their fingers open.

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