SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
There have been a number of legendary Corvettes in the past, including some made in early years of the Sting Ray with an option package designated Z06. The early 1960s Z06 was purely for racing, and included upgraded brakes and suspension parts and an oversized fuel tank. Z06 `Vettes were required to have fuel injection, a four- speed manual gearbox, and a Positraction limited-slip differential.
Fewer than 200 Z06-equipped cars were sold, only to racers, and, with all required parts considered, at 58 percent over the cost of a base- model Corvette. Then, in 1971, the big-block 454 cubic-inch LS6 engine was offered. Second in power only to the pure-racing L88 of 1967-69, the LS6 was rated at 425 horsepower and could accelerate a Corvette from zero to sixty in 5.3 seconds. Only 188 LS6-equipped Corvettes were sold.
Both names are back, in one car, for 2001. But the 2001 Z06 is no mere exercise in nostalgia. It is billed as "the quickest, best handling production Corvette ever" by Chevrolet, and they're not exaggerating. It's quicker to almost any speed than the previous "King of the Hill" ZR-1, and loses out to the ZR-1 (and regular C5) only at top speed. (171 mph versus 175 according to Chevy, and, no, I didn't check this out personally.) Its LS6 V8, developed from the 5.7-liter aluminum alloy LS1 found in other current C5 Corvettes, makes 385 horsepower.
If that seems less than the 425 of the old LS6, it's probably not all that much less given the optimistic gross ratings of the past and the conservative net ratings of today. It's enough to get a 2001 Z06 to 60 mph in just over 4 seconds, over a second quicker than a 1971 LS6. It'll stop and corner far better.
I've been driving a 2001 Z06 for the past week. Although its faster and more agile than its competition namesake, it's a civilized modern street-legal sports car. Its $46,855 base price is not inexpensive, but is far less than a 58 percent markup from the base Corvette's approximately $40,000 price. It has all of the modern comfort and convenience amenities and true supercar performance. The word "awesome" has been thoroughly overused and abused, but it perfectly suited to describe the Z06.
APPEARANCE: There is little to distinguish the Z06 from the previous Hardtop, as it inherits the Hardtop's notchback coupe body shape. A close look reveals wire mesh grilles over the front air intakes flanking the license plate mounting, and functional brake ducts. Additional mesh-covered grilles are found behind the doors, covering ducts for cooling the rear brakes. Special 5x2-spoke forged alloy wheels show off the Z06's red brake calipers. From the rear, check out the four large titanium exhaust tips. "Z06" badges are found behind the front wheels.
COMFORT: As outside, there are only subtle differences between the Z06's interior and that of other current Corvettes. It's basic and functional, in monochrome black standard, although a red-and-black color scheme is available. The seats have special "Z06" script and more side bolstering to hold the driver and passenger firmly in place when cornering quickly, and the instrument cluster is unique, with special graphics. Interior storage space is tight, but a locking glove box and small armrest console box can hold essentials. There is a reasonable amount of space in the trunk area, and, although it's not really separate from the passenger compartment, the trunk lid over a deep well provides good visual security. Travel light, travel fast.
SAFETY: Like all 2001 Corvettes, the Z06 has four-wheel antilock disc brakes and the second-generation "Active Handling" stability- control system as standard equipment.
ROADABILITY: The Z06 has its own special suspension tuning, called the FE4 package. This includes a larger front stabilizer bar, stiffer rear composite transverse leaf spring, and modified camber settings, and is meant to improve high-speed stability. Cornering power is ensured by massive rubber - Goodyear Eagle F1 SC tires, P265/40 ZR17 front and P295/35 ZR18 rear - mounted on extra-wide light alloy rims. It stops as quickly as it accelerates thanks to excellent four- wheel antilock vented disc brakes, and is capable of generating over 1g on a skidpad. On an autocross course, it's awesome. Sounds like punishment on the street? Guess again. The ride is firm, but never harsh, and it's actually very comfortable for a serious sports car. Two caveats: other C5s run on "run-flat" tires, so there is no provision for a spare in the C5 design. The Z06's tires are not run-flats, they are lighter for less unsprung weight. The "spare" is a fix-a-flat kit. And, careful around steep driveways and curbs, with its low nose, "approach angle" is not in the Corvette vocabulary.
PERFORMANCE: The Z06's most significant difference from other C5 Corvettes is under its long fiberglass hood: the LS6 engine. It's based on the LS1, and shares that engine's 5.7-liter displacement, but features numerous modifications for increased power and durability at continuous high engine speeds, including better oil scavenging, higher compression, a new intake manifold with larger fuel injectors and a wilder cam to take advantage of the better breathing, and a low- restriction titanium cat-back exhaust system. Sounds like a race engine? Not just in specs...although it's happy to troll around at under 2000 rpm (70 mph in 6th gear is 1800 rpm and 25+ mpg), and makes a mellow V8 burble while doing so, power starts to build around 3500. Over 4500 rpm, it's a howling, bellowing beast that compresses time and distance very, very quickly. Despite its 385 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 385 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm, it meets National Low Emissions Vehicle (NLEV) exhaust emissions standards.
CONCLUSIONS: The new Corvette Z06 is civilized, refined, and very, very quick.
SPECIFICATIONS 2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Base Price $ 46,855 Price As Tested $ 47,675 Engine Type aluminum alloy 16-valve V8, pushrod overhead valves Engine Size 5.7 liters / 346 cu. in. Horsepower 385 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 385 @ 4800 rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 104.5 in. / 179.7 in. Curb Weight 3130 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 8.13 Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium, 92 octane Tires Goodyear Eagle F1 SC: P265/40 ZR17 front, P295/35 ZR18 rear Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear unequal-length wishbone, composite material transverse leaf spring, monotube shock absorbers front and rear. Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 28 / 17 0 to 60 mph 4.0 sec (mfg) 1/4 mile (E.T.) 12.6 sec (mfg) OPTIONS AND CHARGES Memory package $ 150 color-keyed floor mats $ 25 Destination charge $ 645