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Autoweek Reviews the Z06!

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Mad, Mad World: Chevrolet’s Corvette Z06 enters the supercar segment—and changes the game


MAC MORRISON
Published Date: 9/5/05
2006 CHEVROLET CORVETTE Z06
ON SALE: Now
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.)
FUEL MILAGE (EPA COMBINED): 18.8 mpg

“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.

Continue reading: http://autoweek.com/article.cms?articleId=103066
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I read the Car and Driver and Road and Track articles (well, I just read the specs of the R&T) and C&D had the 3.7 0-60 and 11.7 quarter mile while R&T had 4.2 0-60 and 12.x Quarter Mile. They both loved the car from what I could tell though.
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Just the simple thought that there could be something out there that could go faster than the Z06 makes me light-headed. To GM I say build the Blue Devil. Just give us a heads up, so we can all make sure the insurance is paid up.
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I say, the Corvette team should storm the gates of GM and take over management...then we'd see a different General Motors.

I'm in awe of this great car:

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Typical "meh..it's decent" ending. Told you they'd find reasons to write the car off, or not give it the respect due. "The badge" and th bitchy little issues with the interior. The car costs HALF the price of what they're comparing it to. Overall; terrible article that brushes aside the best from GM, typical of the media.
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