SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: Corvette Z06 Coupe ENGINE: 5.7-liter V8 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 385 hp @ 6,000 rpm/385 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual WHEELBASE: 104.5 in. LENGTH x TREAD WIDTH x HEIGHT: 179.7 x 62.5 x 47.7 in. STICKER PRICE: $50,000 (est.)
I'm always excited when I get a Corvette to road test. Let's face it, the Chevy hot rod has survived for almost 50 years as America's Sports Car, and has done quite well. It is powerful, sleek and can outrun almost any other car on the road. Thanks to a suspension that has finally caught up with the power, it can compete on winding roads as well as straight ones.
But then, when the car is delivered, reality checks in, and takes some of the fun away.
Take this week's tester, for example, a 2001 Corvette Z06.
First off, the Z06 is the top-of-the-line `Vette, with extra power, a stiffer suspension and better tires and brakes. It was also taxi-cab yellow. Everywhere I went, there was no way the `Vette was going to be "invisible." Even if I was driving 5 mph under the speed limit, it looked as if I was speeding.
My long trip was an hour and a half on an Interstate. In reality, with the Corvette I could have cut the time of the trip by at least 15 minutes, maybe 30. But with the yellow `Vette, it took the standard 90 minutes, maybe longer. I even kept it on cruise control to be sure I didn't accidentally develop a heavy right foot.
Other that the frustration factor, the Z06 was a great car to drive. It was fun because of the power (I really missed all that oomph the following week when I was in a "normal" car. It was also fun because of the handling that allowed me to take on- and off-ramps at ridiculous speeds without ever feeling that I was going to go off the road. It was especially fun because it also had great brakes (four-wheel discs with ABS) that would slow me down or stop me if I got too rambunctious.
I did notice, though, that if I wasn't paying complete attention when I was driving (like trying to find a radio station) the precise steering would drift me to the side of the road, where I could find trouble. That only happened once, though.
Another "problem" was age. While my spirit loved the Corvette and my admiration for what Chevrolet has done with this automobile since its creation has grown enormously, I think I'm getting too old to get in and out of the car more than three or four times a day.
Under the Z06's hood is a 385 horsepower LS6 5.7-liter V8 engine. It is the only engine available in the Z06 and it is not available in any other Corvette models. The standard Corvette LS1 V8 delivers 350 hp.
This engine drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox, although an automatic is available. This gearbox is unique to the Z06 and has more aggressive gearing to increase torque multiplication in almost every gear and allow for more rapid acceleration. On a race track, the Z06 achieves 0-60 mph in 4 seconds flat and a quarter mile in 12 seconds.
The Z06 has a suspension system that is all its own, and it's standard on the Z06 and not available on other models. It features a larger front stabilizer bar, stiffer rear leaf spring and revised camber settings, all calibrated wit a bias toward maximum control during high-speed operation. In addition, the Z06 has special forged-aluminum wheels with wider and stickier Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires specially created for the Z06.
The car also features a special instrument cluster that has a "three-dimensional" look to it. The stylized graphics give a greater sense of performance and speed and monitor just about every engine function. I have to admit, thought, that the 200 mph top line on the speedometer made me think twice.
Weight reduction efforts for the Z06 were aggressive. It has a unique titanium exhaust and lighter wheels and tires. If even has a thinner windshield and backlight. It is the lightest Corvette this year, 36 pounds lighter than the former C5 hardtop, and 117 pounds lighter than the coupe and convertible.
Chevrolet chose the Z06 designation to honor the efforts of Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette's first chief engineer, who created the original Z06 in 1963. Zora's special package was intended to make the then-new Sting Ray race-ready right out of the showroom. The 2001 Z06 was developed with the same concept in mind.