Wednesday, November 30, 2005

DRIVEN: 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

By Russ Bond
Photos courtesy Russ Bond and GM Canada

Ever heard the saying, “Couldn’t drive a nail in a snowbank,” or “can’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag

This is how I feel right now – I am in car guy hell! And I’m not exaggerating!

Picture this if you will. A nice little place in the country, a quaint circular gravel driveway, a Le Mans blue Corvette – not just any Corvette, but a Z06, the monster of monsters – and... wait for it... three inches of snow. Yes, friggin’ snow, for the last flippin’ four days.

Yes, there is a 505hp dream machine stuck in my driveway. What are the odds? It is just killing me to see it sitting there. I want to use all six gears; I want to feel the monster brakes like I did at Shannonville a few weeks ago. I want to get looks as I rumble through town. I want to feel like the king of the world. But right now, I am a hostage in my own house.

I have driven the ‘regular’ Corvette C6, and from my brief taste of the Z06 at Test Fest, I can tell you it is a vastly different machine, which to me is the best thing about the Z06. It will never be confused with a C6. A C6.R maybe, but not a C6.

Often manufacturers will make sport or performance models that, on a good day, might beat the base model. The Z06 will make a mess out of what is already a great car: the C6. The horsepower difference alone tells you GM was serious. Going from the 400hp LS2 in the C6, to the 505-hp 7.0 Liter LS7 aluminum block engine with a dry sump system in the Z06 is a serious jump.

GM has also taken the time to make the rest of the Z06 blend in with that jump in horsepower. Just about everything is upgraded to give more performance, and GM makes good use of extensive racecar technology and lightweight components – such as carbon-fibre front fenders, wheelhouses, and floorboards (with balsa core).That makes it actually 22 kg lighter than the C6; 1421kg total. It also features massive six-piston front and four-piston rear disc brakes – stopping is not an issue, unless of course it’s snowing!

Chevrolet did all this without taking away from the daily drivability – a huge plus. The Z06 is as refined as the C6 on daily commutes or just tooling around the countryside. Inside the differences are minor, other than the speed at which that the world passes the windshield.

The gearbox seems much better, especially in feel compared to previous models. The torque is brute force in action and yet on the highway at 130 km/h, it is running at about 1,200 rpm. So, if you want to cruise, it is perfect. If you want to race, track day, or do spirited driving, it is perfect. If you want to look good doing both, it’s perfect. Are you seeing a trend here?

Before it started to snow, I went for a brief shopping trip in it. No problem, pop the hatch and there is a good amount of space. Heater works great, the satellite radio – which has great comedy channels by the way – is a good traveling companion, and the Z06 is fairly easy to park. Watch the splitter on the front, though, as it won’t clear the cement stops, and the nose is longer than you think.

But sadly, all I can see is it covered in snow out the front window of my house as I sit here and type this.

With a price tag under $100,000, the Z06 is like stealing candy from a baby. There is no way that if you buy one you would have to feel that you’ve taken GM to the cleaners. This performance of a true supercar with these looks at this price – something doesn’t add up here. Seriously – the Z06 could easily be priced at $150,000 and they’d sell just as many.

There is no competition for it at that price. Nothing even remotely compares, and for the minor jump in price from the C6, you should seriously consider ‘upgrading’ – if you can find one.

Speaking of which, availability might be the Z06’s biggest problem. It might well be a case of ‘who you know’ in order to get one. [I do happen to know Peter Klutt at Legendary Motorcar has a red one in stock,]

Never, ever, would I say that I thought a Corvette Z06 would be an eyesore, but, sadly, it is just that. It’s killing me that it is so close, and yet so far away. Why me? I have the key, I am allowed to drive it. I didn’t know my mother was Mother Nature, and apparently she is a little pissed at me.