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Corvette Z06 rolls into steep competition with the big dogs

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Corvette Z06 rolls into steep competition with the big dogs

by Tom Incantalupo
ROAD TEST

December 30, 2005

It's been enjoyable to watch the Chevrolet Corvette get better and better with each succeeding generation, evolving from an overpowered, unreliable, rattle-prone caricature into a world-class sports car.

One thing that hasn't changed, though, is the Corvette philosophy of offering a lot of power for the money.

And nowhere is that more evident than in the ultimate factory Corvette - the 2006 Z06.

Not for the faint of heart, the Z06 packs 505 hp. under its hood, from a 7.0-liter V-8 engine. It's a thrill and a handful to drive - a potentially vicious beast that will bite the careless who fail to respect its power. It provides an awesome driving experience.

Considering the technology and materials aboard, the Z06 is a value at $65,800.

That price represents a big jump, though, over that of the basic Corvette coupe, which starts at $44,990 with freight.

Consider, for example, the prices of some other hot performance cars, including the BMW M5 ($81,000, 500 hp.), BMW 650 ($73,500, 360 hp.), Jaguar XKR ($70,500 to $83,000, 294 or 390 hp.) and the Porsche 911 ($71,000 to $101,000, 325 to 381 hp. ). And, of course, the American-made Dodge Viper SRT10 ($82,000, 510 hp.)

And the Z06 looks like one of Kmart's blue-light specials next to the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Aston Martins of the world, the Mercedes SL and the Ford GT - not to mention the $1-million Bugatti Veyron.

The Z06 exacts a price of sorts, though, for its hot performance - in comfort and maybe in safety. The ride is brutal at times and the noise level high, even at cruising speeds when the engine is just loping along. The Z06 suspension goes beyond the "touring" setting of the optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control system and even the Z51 performance suspension in firmness.

You're advised to think carefully before opting for this version if your Corvette will be a daily driver or be used for those regular trips to the Florida condo. One of the most admirable features of the modern-day Corvette is how user-friendly it is without compromising on performance. The Z06 in a sense represents a step backward.

As fans already know, the Z06 differs first from the basic Corvette in its engine - a 7.0-liter V-8 substitutes for the basic 'Vette's 6.0-liter V-8 delivering a "mere" 400 hp. The Z06's 505 hp. is reached at 6,300 rpm and the redline is at 7,000. To describe the engine sound anywhere near 6,300 rpm as a scream is an understatement. The roar of an elephant with its butt on fire might be closer. Some credit for that goes to "bi-modal" mufflers that, in essence, don't do much muffling when max power is called for. And Chevrolet says it left out some of the Corvette's sound insulation in the Z06 to reduce weight and allow more "aural feedback" from the powertrain.

Chevrolet says zero to 60 mph takes 3.7 seconds in the Z06 - and that's in first gear, compared with 4.2 seconds for the basic Corvette. Chevy says the quarter mile takes 11.7 seconds, at which point the Z06 is doing 125 mph. Chevy says top speed is 198 mph and, no, I didn't verify that myself.

Even the most aggressive among you won't use half this car's power. Those who try anywhere but on a track might regret it.

The previous Z06, which was offered from 2001 to 2004 and based on the previous generation, or C5, Corvette, did zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds, according to Chevy.

The Z06 comes only with a stick shift - a six speed that's about as good as they make 'em, mated to a clutch whose pedal pressure is surprisingly light considering the torque it has to handle.

The Z06 has an aluminum and magnesium, rather than steel, frame. That, along with other lightweight materials, helps to make the Z06 49 pounds lighter than the base Corvette, despite the larger engine.

The Z06's brakes are more fade resistant than those of the standard Corvette, even one with the Z51 performance package. Chevy says the Z06 can stop from 60 mph in 111.3 feet, about the same as the standard Corvette.

Cognoscenti will spot the Z06 version immediately for its unique front fascia, grille, fenders, quarter panels and rear spoiler, as well as for its massive tires, which are even wider than the regular 'Vette's.

My experience with them on wet and sandy pavement suggests that you'd do better swapping them for an all-season or winter tires if you plan to run your Z06 through the snow.

The standard stability control helps. It can be switched off or left in a minimally obtrusive "competition" mode, but you are advised to be extremely careful if you use either of those things because this car readily spins its tires on even moderate acceleration, in any gear, and its rear tends to slew sideways when that happens.

The Z06 interior, like that of the basic Corvette, is generally well designed but a bit disappointing in that some important controls, like those for the rear window defogger, airflow mode and fan speed, are too small to find easily on the move and are awkward to reach because they're behind the gearshift lever.

And if you held a contest for the worst place to put a cup holder in a performance car, the winner would be a spot right next to the stick shift. Mr. Anonymous Chevrolet Engineer, step up and take a bow.

The seating position is low, as you'd expect in this type of car. The power-adjustable, leather-upholstered seats are specific to the Z06 and are deep, with side bolstering that is welcome in cornering but confining. The steering wheel manually tilts and, as an option, can power telescope but, even so, some drivers may find, as I did, that they have to sit closer to the wheel than they would like to depress the clutch pedal all the way.

On the upside, switches are self-explanatory. The clearly readable gauge cluster is partially reproduced in a heads-up display on the windshield that shows speed and lateral G-forces digitally and also displays engine rpm and coolant temperature graphically.

Available options include side-impact air bags, sold in a package listing for $2,900. They are seat-mounted and deploy inward and upward to protect occupants' thoraxes and heads. Other items in that package include a cargo cover and net; garage door opener; memory for the outside mirrors, driver's seat and steering wheel; automatic day/night inside rearview mirror; AM/FM/XM stereo with six-disc CD changer, MP3 player and Bose speakers; heated seats and the aforementioned power telescoping steering wheel.

Anti-lock brakes with stability and traction control are standard.

Neither the federal government nor the private Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have safety ratings for Corvettes.

A navigation system is available in the Z06 for $1,600, but General Motors' OnStar roadside assistance and travel concierge system is not available, although they are in the basic Corvette coupe and convertible.

The Z06 is once again available only in hardtop form.

For those who must have the fastest car on the block, the Z06 is hard to beat and worth the extra money over a basic Corvette. But for a balanced driving experience in which great handling goes hand-in-hand with creature comforts, I'd stick with the basic Corvette.

2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Vehicle Tested:

Engine: 7.0-liter V-8, 505 hp.

Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive.

Safety: Dual front and seat-mounted side-impact air bags; four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock and stability control; tire pressure monitoring system; fog lamps, daytime running lamps.

Place of assembly: Bowling Green, Ken.

Weight: 3,132 pounds

Cargo room: 22 cubic feet

EPA fuel economy rating: 16 mpg city, 26 highway

Price as Driven: $70,300,

including destination charge.

Email: tom.incantalupo@newsday.com

SOURCE - Newsday.com
 

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