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Edmunds: Chevy Corvette Z06 Review

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America's Sports Car Becomes a Global Superpower

By Karl Brauer
Date posted: 11-10-2005

I'm catapulting the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 between apexes on a deserted, twisting canyon road in central California, and all I can think is, "Whatever you do, don't contract that annoying 'Jeremy Clarkson' strain of Tourette's syndrome!" The risk of blurting out all manner of multisyllabic drivel is very real, and the last thing I want is an involuntary impression of Britain's Top Gear host marring my otherwise enjoyable ride.

Then it happens, coming out of a smooth left-hand sweeper in 2nd gear I dip into the 7.0-liter V8's enthusiastic 470 lb-ft of torque. The 3-inch aluminum exhaust system's internal baffles swing open, unleashing the engine's full baritone roar as the tach swings past 4,000 rpm.

"Magnificent…Fabulous…Absolutely ee-STON-ishing!!"

Ugh! Sounding like that British wag is almost enough to overcome the pure adrenaline flow generated by road testing the all-new Corvette Z06.

Advanced Design Equals Advanced Performance
Instead, let's focus on the otherworldly capabilities Chevrolet has imbued in this most evolved version of the C6 platform. The high-tech carbon-fiber fenders, wheelhouses and floor panels may wrap around the same basic chassis, but the aluminum frame and magnesium engine cradle have taken the 2005 Corvette revamp and elevated it to exotic-car levels of advanced vehicle design — all while shaving 50 pounds off the base model's curb weight. Not surprisingly, a 105-horsepower increase — and 50-pound weight loss — from the standard C6 has resulted in the aforementioned "ee-STON-ishing" levels of performance.

There was a great line once written about Kawasaki's ZX-11 Ninja, the first extreme high-performance superbike of the modern era. It went something like, "Before nailing the throttle you better make sure you know where you're going…because you'll be there before you realize it." The same advice can be applied to the 427-cubic-inch, 505-horsepower Corvette Z06. The engine is packed with race technology, from its dry-sump oil lubrication system to its titanium connecting rods and intake valves. It revs to 7,000 rpm with the enthusiasm (and near smoothness) of a Honda engine, yet it pulls harder than the Viper coupe's V10.

Describing the driving experience as "catapulting" between apexes isn't meant to be particularly creative, just accurate. In this car you come out of one turn, see down the straight to the next, roll on the throttle and BAM! You're there! Putting this 'Vette through our test regimen confirmed this impression with a 0-to-60 time of 4.5 seconds and a quarter-mile dash of 12.2 seconds at 120.2 mph.

Fortunately, the brakes are as capable as the tricked-out race engine under the hood. Balancing such go-fast goodies as an 11-to-1 compression ratio and cold-air induction are 14-inch cross-drilled front rotors with six-piston calipers for stopping power (the rear brakes use 13.4-inch rotors and four-piston calipers). With progressive brake-pedal action, the Z06 sends a confident "Don't worry, I've got your back" message to its driver, and the short 108 feet the car needed to stop from 60 mph had us believing it.

Exotics Beware
These numbers certainly put the 2006 Corvette Z06 in company with some of the fastest cars ever produced. Only the Enzo Ferrari, McLaren F1, Saleen S7 and Porsche Carrera GT are clearly quicker than this Chevrolet, and each of those cars is made in very limited numbers while costing between $400,000 and $1,000,000. Other contenders, like the Ferrari F430, Ford GT and Lamborghini Gallardo, offer about equal straight-line performance — but at two-to-three times the Z06's cost of entry.

Of course Dodge's Viper is in the Z06's same neighborhood, both in terms of price, performance and interior materials quality, but the Corvette offers such amenities as standard stability control, as well as optional DVD navigation and a standard head-up display. It's also far easier to get into and out of, and much more pleasant to drive on a regular basis. To say the $66,000 Z06 is a performance bargain is like saying our dependence on foreign oil is sort of inconvenient. Speaking of which, this supercar avoids the gas-guzzler tax by averaging over 20 mpg in EPA testing (16 city/26 highway).

Shifty Performance From the Shifter
With the performance numbers of an exotic car, along with the price, fuel-efficiency and amenities of a European luxury sedan, you might think there's no downside to the Z06. That's what we thought, too, until it came time for our first 2-3 gear change on that same picturesque canyon road. As with every Corvette before it, the new Z06 still feels like a 1980s muscle car when the shifter clunks and bangs between gears. Admittedly, there are some drivers who like this type of shifter action, but most people shopping a $50,000-plus sports car will find it aggravating. We did, especially when compounded by the transmission tunnel's propensity to set itself to "broil" and make the cabin feel like a certain Dodge supercar's. With the Corvette's tranny located behind the passenger compartment, we can only assume the heat is coming from either the engine or exhaust system. The Z06 even gets an upgraded engine, transmission, and differential cooling system, so we were surprised that heat was an issue.

But it was, and the heat coming off the driver side of the center console came right through our pants whenever we braced our right leg against it while navigating tight corners. We normally don't use the center console as a source of stabilization for our bodies, but the seats in the Z06 aren't exactly bursting with lateral support…or any kind of support for that matter. Like the shifter, the seats aren't terrible — they're just substandard on a $70,000 sports car, especially one with the performance capabilities of the Z06.

Comfy…but a Bit Bumpy
The upside is that there was a need for bracing ourselves, as this car is easy to fling along back-road byways. On smooth pavement the Z06 feels as planted as anything we've driven with fenders and a license plate, and at our test facility we averaged 65.5 mph in our 600-foot slalom. The Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires can produce over 1.0g of lateral grip, and they're very progressive at the upper limits of adhesion. They are also certified for 200-plus mph (the Z06 is said to top out at 198). We did, however, notice that when the road surface was less than perfect, so was the car's dynamic response. Bump steer, and a tendency to "hop" when traversing pavement disturbances, kept us focused when strafing turns or disposing of large, straight stretches of deserted highway. "Darty" is far too strong a word to describe the Z06's bumpy-road behavior…but so is "unflappable." Thankfully, the car's suspension tuning delivers an eminently enjoyable ride quality, one that's perfectly suited for everyday driving.

Still a Corvette at Heart
In fact, it's the Z06's relaxed nature (as long as you respect the right pedal) that most endeared us to this Corvette. As we enter the automobile's second century we tend to expect more from our cars. We want cars that offer gut-wrenching acceleration along with eye-bulging brakes. We want high-speed cruising comfort as well as sharp corner dexterity. We want all the hardware of a racecar overlaid with all the amenities of a luxury car. Oh, and we want it all at a bargain-basement price.

Or — to put it another way — what we really want is the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06.


Vehicle Tested:
2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 2dr Hatchback (7.0L 8cyl 6M)

What Works:
Quite possibly the world's greatest engine; eye-popping brakes; can easily serve daily-driver duty; exotic-car slayer for under $70,000.

What Needs Work:
Substandard transmission for the "over $50,000" vehicle segment; seats aren't particularly comfortable or supportive; suspension gets unsettled on bumpy surfaces.

Bottom Line:
Chevrolet continues to work wonders with the Corvette. Between its lightweight materials and high-powered engine, it can keep company with the fastest cars ever made — at a fraction of their cost.

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lol 0-60 took 4.5 seconds? Great article and review...but 4.5 seconds? That's a tenth slower than a CTS-V. Its good to hear people are so happy with the new Z06...

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Looks really good in blue, too, not flashy or plasticky at all. The LS7 isn't that good sounding, IMHO, judged from that video.

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I can maybe see how one of these might be just a little slower than the CTS-V from 0-60. How could you get a good accelaration run without burning up the tires? More telling to me would be how it goes from say 50-80. A more normal routine.

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