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Car Reviews- 2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

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SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide


    Thirty-plus years ago, when the first Federal emissions and safety 
standards came into being, conventional wisdom said performance 
was dead. The muscle cars and sports cars of the late 1960s and 
early 1970s would be remembered as the high-water mark of speed 
and power, never to be surpassed.
    Fast-forward to the 21st Century. Conventional wisdom of thirty 
years ago was wrong. Seriously wrong. Advances in materials 
science and structural engineering have given us cars that are far 
safer than the cars of thirty years ago, without the ugly add-on 
carnival-ride bumpers of the 1970s. Advances in engine design and, 
most importantly, electronics have led to peaceful coexistence 
between low emissions and high performance. One of the most 
revered cars of the old days was a Corvette with the ``big block'' 
454 cubic inch, 425-horsepower LS6 V8. It could do zero-to-sixty 
in 5.3 seconds, but that large, heavy cast iron engine made it 
happier on the drag strip than on a road course. Today, there is a 
new Chevrolet LS6 V8, but it's a ``small block'' 346 cubic inch 
design made of lightweight aluminum alloy. It debuted with 385 
horsepower in the 2001 Corvette Z06, a car named after a limited-
production competition version of the early 1960s. But nothing, 
especially a Corvette, stands still. The Z06 has been improved for 
    How do you improve on the performance of a 385-horsepower 
2001 Corvette Z06?  With a 405-horsepower 2002 Z06. Next 
question: Does the 20-horsepower increase make a real difference? 
Oh, yes.
    Forget nostalgia. Today's cars are the best ever for performance 
and safety. Unlike an over-carbureted race car, the 2002 Z06 is 
docile enough around town for everyday use, and, right off the 
showroom floor it can most likely show its titanium exhaust to the 
old LS6 or Z06 on a road course or drag strip. Yet it has a National 
Low Emissions Vehicle (NLEV) exhaust emissions classification, 
and is capable of 25 mpg plus on the highway if driven sedately. 
I've been driving one for the past week, and have thorough enjoyed 
it. In any form, the Corvette is a world-class sports car. In Z06 
trim, it's every bit equal to anything on the road, and for a 
substantial savings over any of the exotics or semi-exotics. Let's 
hear it for unintended consequences.

APPEARANCE: There is little to distinguish the 2002 Z06 from 
the 2001 model, or previous Hardtop, at least at a distance. The 
Z06 inherited the Hardtop's notchback coupe body shape. It added 
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 large, red brake calipers. From the rear, check out the four 
large titanium exhaust tips, a wonderful quadraphonic sound 
system. ``Z06'' badges are found behind the front wheels, and the 
'02 model's have a small ``405 hp'' under the ``Z06''.

COMFORT: Like the exterior, the Z06 interior styling is largely 
shared with the Corvette coupe and convertible. It's definitely a 
driver's office, cozy but comfortable, with much easier access than 
in earlier Corvettes. The bolstered seats provide great support 
around town or at speed. The Z06 gets unique trim on the 
instrument panel, and the GM ``head-up'' (HUD) display is 
standard this year. Like its counterpart in a fighter jet, the HUD 
projects an image of important instruments on the windshield in 
front of the driver, just below the main field of vision, so the 
driver's eyes don't have to move and refocus. There is more 
luggage space than you might expect, but leave the golf clubs at 
home. They won't fit through the trunk lid, but overnight bags are 
no problem.

SAFETY: Active safety is taken care of by ferocious acceleration, 
excellent four-wheel antilock disc brakes, and a high cornering 
ability. Passive safety comes in the form of a sturdy structure with 
front and rear crumple zones and side impact protection, and dual 
next-generation air bags.

ROADABILITY: The Z06 has its own special suspension tuning 
that includes a large front stabilizer bar, stiffer rear composite 
transverse leaf spring, and modified camber settings, and is meant 
to improve high-speed stability. Recalibrated rear shocks, aluminum 
front stabilizer bar links, and cast instead of forged wheels are new 
this year. Cornering power is ensured by massive rubber – 
Goodyear Eagle F1 SC tires, P265/40 ZR17 front and P295/35 
ZR18 rear. It stops as quickly as it accelerates thanks to excellent 
four-wheel antilock vented disc brakes, with new high-performance 
front pads this year. A Z06 is capable of generating over 1g on a 
skidpad. On an autocross course, it's awesome, and it'll probably 
lap a road course faster than the race-only Z06 of 40 years ago. 
Sounds like punishment on the street? Not even. The ride is firm, 
but never harsh, and it's actually very comfortable for a serious 
sports car. The steering effort is higher than that of a minivan, but is 
completely appropriate to the car's power and character. 

PERFORMANCE:  In the search for more power, Corvette 
engineers turned to hollow valve stems, higher-lift cams, and less 
restrictive intake and exhaust systems. Better breathing means more 
power, in this case 20 more ponies and 15 more lb-feet of torque, 
for 405 horsepower at 6000 rpm and even 400 lb-ft of torque at 
4800 rpm. The 5.7-liter LS6 sounds like a race engine in more than 
specifications, too, with the sound of thinly-veiled power at idle and 
a raucous metallic bellow under acceleration. There's a nasty race-
car crackle on overrun. Music to the enthusiast's ears! Power is not 
extinct, it's better than ever. The six-speed manual gearbox shifts 
easily, with well-chosen ratios. Sixth is really a fuel-
economy/supercruise gear, as 60 mph is about 1500 rpm and 25 
mpg can be attained. But that's not the point....

CONCLUSIONS: Chevrolet's cruise missile is better than ever.

2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Base Price			$ 50,430
Price As Tested		$ 51,370
Engine Type			aluminum alloy 16-valve pushrod 
overhead valve V6
Engine Size			5.7 liters / 346 cu. in.
Horsepower			405 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			400 @ 4800 rpm
Transmission			6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		104.5 in. / 179.7 in.
Curb Weight			3118 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	7.7
Fuel Capacity			18.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement		93 octane unleaded gasoline 
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

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)

Memory Package					$ 175
Electrochromic inside and left-hand outside
 rearview mirrors					$ 120
Destination charge					$ 645