By on April 4, 2006

Da bomb. 'You have the car everyone wants right now.' Souls are ice-skating in Hell. Pigs are airborne. The guy handing the Corvette Z06 the ultimate accolade wasn't a sixty-year-old Midwestern mid-life muscle car maniac. It was a BMW M3 owner fresh from the track at the Motorsport Ranch roadcourse in Houston. General Motors may be on Death Watch, but its Chevrolet-branded halo car has, after 53-years, ascended to the top of the honest-to-God sports car category. Of course, even Euro-snobs are susceptible to baseless hype. Well guess what? The Z06 is all that, and more.

Unless you're looking for pretty. In ideal lighting, the Z06' form evokes all the sleek, thrusting glamour of a 550 Maranello. Take off the beer goggles and it's a bit of a mess. Peep the bulging carbon-fiber fenders, hood scoop and brake cooling ducts: items longing for Pininfarina's magical powers of integration. The matte black 'Gurney Lips' (mud flaps) stand out like a fanny-pack'd tourist strolling the Louvre. Tacked-onto on the C6 Vette's clumsy profile, the performance-oriented addenda create an unsightly blend of hard edges and undefined curves, not to mention a posterior straight from the Sir Mix-A-Lot School of Design.

Decaptitated dwarf RIP.The exterior may be a challenge to skin deep beauty theorists, but the Z06 interior gets it done. Dual-zone climate control, XM radio, in-dash navigation and power everything supplies sufficient indulgence. The cabin's soft-touch petroleum byproducts are another giant step-up from the brand's Avis-grade interiors. (The door panels alone would make some wikkid kicks.) The 'Vette's heads-up display provides useful eye candy, and can be switched off faster than you can say 'i-Drive.' Metal grilles hide seven crackalackin' Bose speakers. Pump up the volume via chrome-ringed knobs that move with Teflon-coated precision. Yes, this is still a road test of a GM product.

Close the Z06' portals and the side windows bury themselves deep inside ample weather stripping (finally ending the dreaded Corvette triple digit howl). A new three-spoke wheel supersedes last year's headless doughboy, though the thin rim can't match a BMW M-series' beefcake hula-hoop. The seats also need to leave Atkins behind and hit the pasta bar. Cushions this flat, short and lacking in lateral support belong in a Monte Carlo, not a car boasting a Nürburgring-fettled pedigree. And just in case you forgot that the Z06 hails from the Land of Lawsuits, the GM parts-bin rearview mirror brightly shines 'PASSENGER AIRBAG ON/OFF.'

Everyday muscle car.Once underway, the Z06' compliant ride and docile demeanor help the uber-'Vette mount a convincing challenge to the 911 for everyday drivability. The 'Vette's peanut butter smooth idle, dual-stage exhaust system (from mild to monster), light but accurate steering (with a welcome improvement in on-center feel) and mid-weight clutch will endear it to unrepentant boulevardiers and brand loyal commuters. Aside from the Goodyear run-flats' tendency to holla back over rough pavement, it's hard to fault the Z06' civility. A real world twenty-nine mpg at 75mph seals the deal.

Pull the trigger on the Z06' 7.0-liter powerplant and it's clear pushrod proletariats needn't take a backseat to OHC elitists: the 'Vette's burbling aluminum/titanium masterpiece provides unadulterated four-cycle fun. Switch to 'Competitive Driving Mode,' put your foot down and unleash the beast. Massive low end grunt belies the 7000rpm redline, pinning your spine to the seat back at any engine speed. Quick? Only in the same sense that a photon is sprightly. Accelerating from zero to sixty takes just 3.7 seconds, while a quarter mile deducts a mere 11.8 seconds from your lifespan.

Holy shit.An aluminum, magnesium and carbon-fiber diet has significantly improved the donor car's turn-in and cornering poise. And why not? The 505hp Z06 weighs three hundred and sixty-four pounds less than the 480hp next gen Porsche Turbo. Missile the Z06 into a turn and its run-flats stick with supernatural tenacity, carving corners with uncanny balance and, most deliciously of all, the option of a predictable power slide exit. [Traction control aversive greenhorns beware: you'll trim the landscape the hard way with even a little extra throttle.] The Z06' brakes are equally astounding, equally reliable. Lap after lap, manhole-cover sized discs serve-up bottomless cups of stopping power java. Much to the dismay of the folks at Hurst, even the short-throw shifter is perfect.

In short, the Z06 is the best vehicle to come out of General Motors in decades. Which begs the question: how can such a fantastic vehicle come from such a horribly flawed organization? The fact that combative Corvette project manager Dave Hill capped his career with this car is one possible explanation– and a stark warning that the Z06 may represent a Pyrrhic victory for a terminally ill automaker. If so, there's no question: the manufacturers of "America's sports car" saved the best for last.

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14 Comments on “Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Review...”


  • avatar
    biturbo

    Sajeev, I just don’t get it about the design problem, sorry. Please point me to some reviews supporting it.

    As a “trade”, here is a good read about the Z06:

    New Corvette Z06 makes its fancy European rivals look like puny, overpriced pussies, says Andrew English from Telegraph.co.uk

  • avatar
    biturbo

    Sajeev wrote: “But look at the integration of the wide body on a Corvette ZR-1 and tell me you still love your plastic mudflaps. The Z06 is cost engineered, and it doesn’t need to be. Chevy could jack up the price another $7000, give it nicer leather and wider fiberglass fenders to clear the tires and people would still flock to it.”

    Are you referring the front wheelhouses?

    I am very happy about the Z06. I wanted unbeatable performance for my budget. I couldn’t afford more anyway.

    We have to underline that there is no car with similar performance at this price.

    Honestly I don’t care about leather and comfort creatures. I wanted something close to a racecar that I can drive on the road and especially on the track. The interior is good enough for the job. GM know what they are doing with the Z06. All 2006 production is pretty much sold.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    He’s referring to the mud flaps in front of the front-wheels — they do look lame.

    However… the Z06 is just drop dead, ferocious-gorgeous.

    I swoon when I see one. And melt when I drive one.

  • avatar
    biturbo

    The so called “mud flaps” are really “Gurney flaps” and their real reason is aerodynamics.
    GM already made the carbon fiber fenders wider compared to the C6, so I highly doubt that they stopped one inch short on this widening for cost reasons as Sajeev suggests.
    Please read about it here:
    Gurney Flaps by All American Racers
    A car that really can do 198 mph needs aerodynamic tweaks.
    I like these flaps; to me they are little accents that add to the personality of the car.
    Also when a manufacturer goes to that extent to make carbon fiber fenders and extensively use many other exotic materials like GM did, I doubt that “Z06 is cost engineered”.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    From your link:

    “Thirty years on from its first, mysterious appearance, the Gurney Flap is still widely utilized in motorsport as an inexpensive and effective aerodynamic tweak.”

    More importantly, these flaps were intended for use on a spoiler, is there a benefit (besides wheel clearance) on the fenders? I ask because the Corvette ZR-1 didn’t use cost-cutting Gurney Flaps:

    “Initially GM considered fender flares but the result was unattractive. GM Design Staff then came-up with better-looking, wider, rear bodywork. The new doors, rear fenders and rear fascia were responsible for nearly a quarter of the tooling cost of the entire program but gave the ZR-1 its unique appearance.”

    http://www.zr1netregistry.com/firstking.htm

    Corvette ZR-1s weren’t hailed as the “American Exotic” for no reason. I encourage anyone who reads this to learn more about the ZR-1 to see why I made a big deal about the Z06′ styling.

    I’ve asked plenty of C6 Corvette owners this, and now I’ll write it for the Z06: wouldn’t you pay $5000-ish more (less than 10% of MSRP) for a bodykit without Gurney Flaps, a more supportive pair of buckets (serious problem on a car with this much performance) and an interior with a little more leather?

    Yes, I’m probably too picky…but sweating the details is all the ‘vette needs to put Porsche owners in their place, on or off the track.

  • avatar
    biturbo

    Yes, the Gurney Flaps are inexpensive, but they are highly effective. Works for me!
    Of course it can be done with wider fenders, but that would increase the width of the car too much. My aerodynamics engineer friend said:
    “It would require extending the fenders with double the width of the flaps. The flaps create turbulence and they are good for two reasons: downforce and hot air extraction from brakes”.
    The ZR1 width is 73.1″ while the C6Z06 is 75.9″ wide. I think GM wanted the car under 76″ wide and I am glad they did.

    As for your question “wouldn’t you pay $5000-ish more (less than 10% of MSRP) for a bodykit without Gurney Flaps, a more supportive pair of buckets (serious problem on a car with this much performance) and an interior with a little more leather?” – NO, I wouldn’t pay $5,000 for cosmetics!.
    I would pay [way less] for some true racing seats; but that is not happening in ANY mass produced sports car. I much more prefer to pay and put myself the racing seats I like in my car.

    I agree on “sweating the details”. There is plenty of room for improvements. I can tell about the steering wheel [lousy], the acceleration pedal [for better heel-and-toe?], plus many little annoyances than would be inexpensive to fix [like the ash tray cover].
    But let me put it this way: I am 100% satisfied about what I have got for my money. Point me please to another performance car that I could buy instead.
    It is a pleasure to read your articles and chat with you Sajeev. I see your point, but I think we should see here the big picture: C6 Z06 is a hell of a car that cannot be dismissed due to cosmetic opinions. It’s as close as one can get to a Le Mans racer!

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    It is a pleasure to read your articles and chat with you Sajeev. I see your point, but I think we should see here the big picture: C6 Z06 is a hell of a car that cannot be dismissed due to cosmetic opinions.

    Yes, and it’s been a pleasure discussing this with you. But I am hardly dismissing the Z06, I just don’t like the styling. RF said the same thing in his test of the C6, and that’s just an opinion from two…umm…highly-opinionated individuals.

    I’m currently driving the C6 Z06 I tested for this review, and there’s a 1990 Corvette ZR1 next to it in the garage.

    So, now I need to ask your engineering friend:

    Why double the width of the bodywork to replace the Gurney Flap? The ZR-1s extra width covers the wheels just as “tight” as the GFs…doubling it sinks the wheel into the bodywork. If there was a new rear fascia as wide as the tires, the car wouldn’t be any wider but will look better and fixes the currently exposed rear tires ready to kick debris on the paint if race tires are present.

    Another question: is the Gurney Flap’s extra turbulence relevant when you factor in:

    1. Z06-specific front and rear brake cooling ducts
    2. Z06-specific front/rear downforce inducers like the splitters and rear spoiler.

  • avatar
    biturbo

    You are right Sajeev, actually your article is not dismissing the Z06, it is just that you don’t like the styling. No problem, I do like it.
    Just called my friend:

    “You and your Z06! Get over it man, Dave Hill & Co did a very good job on the aerodynamics. They surely needed more downforce for the Autobahn. Bodywork/fenders increase must be much bigger/wider than flaps because one must build flow lines, you cannot just stick out margins. Those Gurney’s are a good solution to me.”

    My friend does not work for GM, he is in aviation.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I don’t think your friend appreciates the length some Corvette owners go to learn more about their cars. You need to work on that with him. :-)

    I also think Dave Hill and crew did a great job, the package is stunning. I talked to Mr. Hill for a little while, he’s the coolest engineer I’ve met. If I ever meet him again, I’ll ask if they could have accomplished the same thing with a smooth bodyside and more Ferrari-like downforce appendages…if GM made the budget for it.

  • avatar
    finger

    The ZO6 is absolutely the best value in a sports car available anywhere. Does it have some minor annoyances? Maybe it does. I would defer to owners of the car to relate that information. If you want “elite”, maybe you should price a 2007 Porsche Turbo 911. And don’t forget to order the Sycamore rear console for $1,625, the aluminum “look” door finishers for an extra $1,525 or the valuable “leather/aluminum “look” shifter and parking brake handle for a bargain basement $1,680. Sort of surprised that none of these were included in the base price of $123,000.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    And Chevy could add all of that to a Corvette interior for a mere $3000-5000 more to the MSRP…effectively sniping Porsche’s snooty factor while kicking its ass in most any dynamic competition.

  • avatar
    Krupple

    Good read, but your ‘all hail BOSE’ attitude really bugs me. People in the know about audio know BOSE is all hype and low quality.

    Here’s a long review
    http://www.intellexual.net/bose.html

    and here’s a short one
    http://liquidtheater.com/editorial_56.html

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I will never “hail” anything BOSE-related. I’m someone who installs aftermarket audio (mostly JL) in my cars, so you’ll have to take my word on that.

    But I can’t deny that the BOSE tunes in the Z06 are good, especially considering this chassis was scrutinized in every corner for maximum weight reduction. The stereo is nice considering the Ferrari killing performance of the car.

  • avatar
    mrpieeater

    this is a great car to throw in the faces of eurosnobs, chevy did wonders with this because they marketed it as a 505 hp car, when in reality it puts out about 530 hp…..to the wheels that is….yes, straight to the rear wheels, hhmmmm, I wonder what it puts out to the crank in hp?:)


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