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2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Review

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I'm a Believer, Again
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Chevrolet

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reintroduced to the Corvette. I’ve not been a big fan since the Sting Rays of the sixties when two of my brothers and a few friends owned ‘Vettes. The Sting Ray (second generation) went away in 1967 and the C3 (third generation) just didn’t have the same panache. Then came the 70s gas crisis resulting in compromised performance and some dismal engineering. The forth generation, beginning in 1984 had plenty of problems but looked pretty good. Finally, in 1997, the fifth generation Corvette was introduced simultaneously at the Los Angeles and Detroit auto shows to rave reviews. I thought it was a little hippy and the seam between the tail piece and the rear body was ill-fit, but otherwise the C5 was a vast improvement over the C4 and a big step in the right direction. Now, this new C6 is a vast improvement over that. In fact, it’s a wonderful sports car, in every way. So, I’m a believer again.

My recent Corvette reconnection began with a trip to the Corvette factory and museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Along the way we stopped in Northern Ohio to write about the last ’67 Sting Ray. Then I snagged an assignment from Corvette Magazine to write about the Katech Corvette, an aftermarket tuner version of the new high-performance Z06 commissioned by famous race car builder Dick Barbour. That led to a visit to the GM Performance Build Center where the Z06 engines are made one at a time, and finally a visit to the Pratt & Miller shop where the C6-R race cars are built. I’m now immersed in Corvette culture.

I’ve had a lot of help on this project. Friend, neighbor and press corps colleague, Bob Benko, who has a 1990 ZR1, the 90s version of an ultra high-performance ‘Vette, brought his car out for a comparison. Tony “Zippy” Vernogis, Corvette Museum ambassador and dedicated enthusiast, provided more background info than I could ever use and he let me drive his sexy yellow one. And, Gary Witzenburg, journalist and Sting Ray owner put me onto the Corvette Magazine assignment which led to everything else.

The good folks at GM delivered my red Z06 test car on a Monday afternoon. Having recently poured over the Katech tuner Z06 there were no real surprises, just the thrill of looking forward to spending some quality time with one. Of course, I wasted no time in getting it on the road. Just let me say right up front that this is by far the fastest car I’ve ever driven on the road. I don’t mean just in terms of top speed. I’ve driven a NASCAR trainer on Michigan International Speedway at 150. I mean in terms of acceleration. Zero to 60 in the blink of an eye. For those who say all that horsepower is wasted because you can’t use it, I say, “Bunk!” There are long straight country roads where full-throttle sprints will get the adrenalin pumping.

Speaking of horsepower, how does 505 grab you? For those who haven’t had the thrill of driving a car with that much uuumph let me just describe it for you. With a nice straight stretch of country road, nothing but short corn and soy beans at the roadsides, I ease onto the throttle in first gear. My goal is not to squeal the tires or abuse the car, I just want to feel the thrust. At about 2,000-rpm I put the go-pedal to the floor and the g-force mashes me back into the seat . . . hard. I let out a little gasp. The deep burble of the engine becomes a monstrous, but controlled, roar as we approach red line. A quick shift into second and back on full throttle the speedo is approaching 80-mph, all in an instant. I feel the unmistakable tingle of adrenalin course through my torso. Wow!

In order to experience the thrill of sustained high speed I guess you’d have to have access to a race track or perhaps the wide open spaces of the west, but in my view not one of those horses is wasted.

Bob showed up shortly and we went out to photograph the cars together. It is amazing what 16 years difference in age makes with these ultra performance sport cars. Bob’s ’90 seems like an old classic beside the new Z06.

The bottom line assessment of the Z06, and the regular Corvette as well, is that it is, by far, the most high-performance sports car for the money. Compare the Vette with Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, or any ride you like. The Z06 offers a hand-built 427-cubic-inch, normally aspirated, push-rod V8 that blow the doors off just about anything else.