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Release the clutch and hang on

Nov 11, 2001
SouthCentral Ontario
Release the clutch and hang on

Thursday, November 10, 2005 Posted at 10:05 AM EST
Globe and Mail

A 7.0-litre V-8 engine spinning at 7,000 rpm and pumping out 505 hp creates a wrinkle in the space-time continuum.

This is particularly noticeable when the "space" is the pavement between second-gear corners at Shannonville Motorsport Park. And the "time" is that required to decide when to lift off the gas, stand on the brakes and turn the steering wheel. All of which you need to do if the "continuum" of your presence on the track is going to, well, continue.

Being a tad tardy with this sequence will see you abruptly displaced into that alternate parallel trackside universe comprised of wet grass. And possibly that line of fairly distant pine trees you'd never really taken note of before.

Prior to driving the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at Shannonville, where I was taking part in the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada's annual Car of the Year judging, I'd spent a week with one. But while I'd enjoyed a few illicit blasts of acceleration, I'd never come remotely close to experiencing all that this astonishingly potent car has to offer.

And, I hasten to add, I still haven't.

I'd have to be in the passenger seat with somebody like GM-sponsored race driver Ron Fellows at the wheel to experience those heady heights. I did, however, get pretty close to my own limits of both skill and bravery.

The Z06 was in the category I was judging and I'd done a handful of fairly tentative laps in it during that process. And I did a few more Saturday morning, still without a lot of confidence making itself evident. This is an intimidating automobile, just as I recall the 375-hp ZR1 coupe was a decade and a half ago.

But just before the track closed I saw the car sitting there and snagged the keys. All by myself, in the softening light of late afternoon, I did perhaps 10 laps, culminating in a final one -- electric nannies in the off-duty mode -- that I got just about as "right" as I'm likely to manage. Picture me very pleased with myself.

Straight-line acceleration in the Z06 is beyond fierce. Dial up maybe a couple of thousand rpm, release the clutch and hang on. The rear wheels spin, respond precisely to throttle modulation and then hook up and catapult you forward -- in a shocking blur of sensation.

The shift into second at full throttle breaks the back end loose again and progress in this gear is even scarier because you have a little time to actually think about it. Third gear, after dealing with those rear tires yet again, is just awesome as you've now got some serious, and rapidly increasing, speed happening.

Getting to 100 km/h takes about four seconds and from 80 km/h to 120 km/h in third gear about three seconds. Top speed is more than 300 km/h.

The Z06's brakes, working with those wide tires, deliver eye-popping deceleration. Which is a good thing, as I was arriving at corners faster and carrying much more speed than I've ever experienced here.

Downshifting takes a deliberate, but not too heavy, effort and the steering is both very direct and fairly weighty. Power must be applied with obvious care exiting corners, but overall this is a surprisingly manageable car to drive.

Like the venerated ZR1 and the original Z06 of 2001, the new 2006 Z06 is designed to be the ultimate Corvette of its generation and the people responsible for creating it are the most rabid of enthusiasts. Which means that while it resembles a stock C6 Corvette -- main visual differences include the front fascia with larger grille, cold-air intake and air splitter, plus wider rear bodywork and a different spoiler -- it's actually a very different animal.

First there's an aluminum frame that saves 62 kg over the steel one used in the 2004 model (there was no 2005 Z06), plus a magnesium engine cradle and roof. Carbon-fibre is used for the front fenders and wheelhouses and the floor panels, which have a balsa wood core. This has kept weight to just 1,420 kg.

The Z06 is powered by a 7.0-litre overhead valve LS7 V-8, with forged steel crank, titanium connecting rods and dry sump lubrication. This monster produces 505 hp at 6,300 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm.

That number of litres, incidentally, works out to 427 cubic inches, a familiar number from Corvette's past. This one's a small-block design though, the biggest produced in that engine family in its 50-year history.

It delivers its power to the 325/30ZR19 rear tires (fronts are 275/35ZR18) through an up-rated six-speed manual transmission and limited slip rear differential.

Suspension has been upgraded to suit the new level of potency, as has the braking system, with 355 mm front and 340 mm rear vented and cross-drilled rotors. Six piston calipers (with six individual brake pads) per side up front with four pot four puck units out back.

Inside are all the usual amenities, including dual-zone air conditioning, a Bose audio system and leather on the form-fitting bucket seats. It's as civilized as any Corvette although there's distinctly more "aural feedback" due to a weight-saving reduction in sound insulation.

On the road, the Z06, with its very firm and jouncy ride and considerable heft, feels almost cumbersome.

The steering is heavy-ish as is the gearshift; everything requires a distinct effort -- including that required to keep it anywhere close to a speed limit. It's civilized enough, barely, but constantly lets you know it resents being kept on the short leash required to keep your driver's license.

If you're going to buy one, I'd recommend booking a few track days each year, so you can both work a little of the testosterone out of your systems.


Canadian Specifications:
2006 Corvette Z06
Price: $89,900 (as tested, $92,390)
Engine: 7.0-litre, OHV, V-8
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Output: 505 hp/470 lb-ft of torque
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.3 city/8.2 highway
Alternatives: Dodge Viper SRT/10, Jaguar XKR, Porsche 911 Turbo S
Like: How (relatively) controllable this car is given its power
Don't like: Anything noted here would be irrelevant to what the Z06 is all about

SOURCE - The Globe and Mail, Canada's National Newspaper
67HEAVEN said:
snip -- in a shocking blur of sensation.
:lou Shocking i say Shocking ! :L

67HEAVEN said:
snip... It's civilized enough, barely, but constantly lets you know it resents being kept on the short leash required to keep your driver's license.

My two favorite quotes.. Thanks for sharing Bob..


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