– Jet-fighter engine
– Jet-fighter handling
– Jet-fighter styling
– Jet-fighter cabin capacity
– Economy-class cabin trim
– Cargo-plane ride quality
Being as humble as we are, the Corvette Z06 is the closest we’ve ever come to playing with a supercar. We are constantly ignored by Porsche. The Italians are too cheap to give out cars. Audi never invited us to their R8 launch because we “offend” them with our frank opinions. And Aston Martin judged us as being too “young” to give us anything. But the funny part is, this relatively “cheap” American speedster, in the hands of a competent driver, can slay them all.
The Corvette has as much heritage as any of the Italian marques. First built in the 1950s to compete with European sports cars, it was fabricated in fibreglass due to a steel shortage. Sure enough, this also resulted in massive weight savings, and the tradition has continued ever since. Nothing more than a straight-line bruiser in its first five generations, the fifth-gen C5 brought about an injection of handling prowess comparable to more expensive supercars. And now, in its sixth-gen C6 form, it improves on the previous model’s attributes. The Z06 trim just adds more flavour to an already-enticing sizzler.
Spelt “zee-zero-six” but officially called “zee-oh-six,” the Z06 is obviously stunning up close. Hard to distinguish from a regular Corvette, hardcore enthusiasts will notice the extra intake on the hood, tiny add-on flaps around the wheel wells, intakes in front of the rear wheels, and the discrete fender markings proclaiming “505 hp” as a badge of honour. Looking around, the build quality is as good as it can get with fibreglass, but there are pretty big panel gaps to allow for expansion, since fibreglass expands more than steel in the heat. Interestingly, the front fenders for the Z06 only are made of stronger carbon-fibre.
Entry is gained via a switch-like electronic door handle, and slipping into the low-slung seat requires dropping to almost ground level. The relative “low” price of this car becomes apparent from the interior materials. While the faux-leather seats are stylish and somewhat supportive, the dash and door materials have a slight shiny cheapness to them. However, these surfaces are also soft to the touch, retaining at least a bit of upscale feeling. The metal-look plastic trim is easy to scratch and the navigation system looks like a cheap aftermarket unit, but Chevy counteracts this by infusing a number of cool high-tech features specifically in the Corvette to “wow” your snooty buddies. These include button-operated door releases, keyless entry and start, and a trick heads-up display “in” the windshield that is remarkably accurate and keeps up with the analogue gauges.
The navigation unit is controlled by a touch-screen thankfully, making it easier to use but not any less confusing than most others like it. It also controls the average-at-best Bose CD stereo and could probably be used to watch DVDs too. Other features include power windows and mirrors, cruise control, front and side airbags, trip computer, in-dash CD changer and HID headlights. The dual-zone a/c is excellent, not having to stress too much to cool such a confined space.
The two-seater cabin itself is obviously small, but it has good enough headroom, legroom and width to comfortably seat two average-sized people. There are two cup-holders, some pockets, a small glove box and a very shallow luggage trunk good for flat-packed IKEA coffee tables. The trunk is even accessible from the cabin, but closing the ill-fitting trunk lid requires slamming it very hard, otherwise it does not close properly and the car beeps a warning.
The gigantic engine is simply a monster, to put it lightly. With 7 litres of displacement, this massive V8 offers brute force whereas other supercars try to extract the maximum amount of juice from smaller motors, passing on the huge developmental costs to its upscale customers. Following the “no replacement for displacement” mantra, Chevy has managed to keep costs down, while offering substantially more power than the 6.0-litre V8 in the standard Corvette. Final numbers clock in at 505 hp peaking at 6300 rpm and 637 Nm of peak torque at 4800 rpm, with redline at 7000 rpm. For a car weighing only 1421 kg, this tidal wave of power led us to a 0-to-100 kph time of 4.5 seconds with the traction control on. Amazingly, it reaches 100 kph in first gear itself. Theoretically, it can do 3.9 seconds, but we didn’t want to tempt fate by unleashing a mountain of wheelspin on public roads. That’d make it quicker than any Aston Martin, let alone bit players like the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Gallardo, while somewhat matching the Porsche 911 Turbo and the Ferrari F430. Needless to say, few cars and even fewer people will experience acceleration this quick in their lifetimes, unless they love roller-coasters.
The firm six-speed manual gearbox is slightly notchy and occasionally feels vague, but gets the job done. Care is needed while shifting into reverse due to its close position next to fifth gear, while the firm clutch has a somewhat long throw. But since the car is so damn powerful, it is possible to drive around town like an automatic, leaving the shifter in either first or second or even third while loafing around. It is also possible to overtake on the highway rather briskly in fourth gear itself. Cruising around at highway speeds in sixth gear leaves the beefy engine at barely above idle. A weird driveline noise can be heard between shifts, which is apparently a characteristic of this tranny, but it’s hardly annoying and can be reduced by smoother shifting methods. Mixed driving of course resulted in high fuel consumption, but it’s not as bad as one would think, at 18.6 litres per 100 km. In contrast, a Ferrari burns more petrol than most full-size 4WDs.
Handling is simply phenomenal. This is probably the first car we’ve ever driven with absolutely no discernible body roll. The communicative steering makes driving a point-and-shoot extravaganza, although not being able to reach its limits easily makes fast driving look deceptively easy. Grip levels are unrealistically high and it is near-impossible to squeal the tyres in fast corners, unless one forces a powerslide by heavily dabbing the throttle while the stability control is off. Part of the reason for such insect-like footing are the 275/35 tyres in the front and the ridiculously-wide 325/30 tyres in the back, all low-profile rubber with 18-inch alloys up front and 19-inch at the back. Such wide rubber also helps the massive ABS-assisted disc brakes when bringing the car to an uneventful halt easily.
Considering the handling, the ride quality is expectedly firm but easily bearable on smooth highways. The suspension crashes over ill-fitting manhole covers and crappy temporary surfaces on construction detours, but we’d say the ride is barely worse than that of the BMW Z4 Coupe. Whatever comfort level it mustered is surprising considering that, contrary to reports by naïve journalists, the Z06 uses traditional shocks and does not have the trick magnetic suspension system that General Motors offers optionally on the standard Corvette and also sells to Ferrari for their overpriced 599 GTB.
All-round visibility is somewhat limited due to the low seating position, but it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, and didn’t have too much trouble parking it in tight spaces. However, there are no parking sensors, so care has to be taken otherwise the low front bumper will meet an unfortunate end with a footpath curb.
There are some interesting features and quirks that only the owner of this car would know about. One is the trick muffler that tries to be quiet at low revs, but opens up a valve to sound louder at full throttle. And by “louder,” we mean an earthquake-inducing roar loud enough for nearby children to cower under their beds. Of course a lot of the sound-deadening materials have been removed, so it gets loud in the car too, even at legal speeds. And when the car is turned off, you have to put the shifter in reverse, apparently to avoid draining the battery. Also, the engine fans keep running for a while even after you exit and lock the car, to cool it down.
The Corvette Z06 certainly is a respectable machine, made even more impressive by being the cheapest production supercar in the market. We took it to a five-star hotel for the launch of some Volvo hatchback, and the valet guy parked it nearest to the hotel entrance, in the VIP parking lot. So it certainly gets almost as much attention as any Ferrari. It is already known for getting attention on the racetrack too, where it is also as good as any Ferrari.
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