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Published on Mon, Jul 3, 2006
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By JOHN GRAFMAN
Mother Nature is funny. She is testing the water with variations that on the surface can be outlandishly unthinkable. A few thrive and flourish. On the flip side, most ideas don't make the grade. Conjoined twins are one of Nature's rarities that usually doesn't survive well. Can two entities share the same body?
Automakers often create combinations that attempt to meld differing characteristics into one vehicle. One example, the sport utility vehicle (an oxymoron), tries to blend sporting attributes with a utilitarian purpose. Some pull this off better than others. Typically, the bias swings to one end of the spectrum or the other when melding two opposing types of cars.
Along comes Chevrolet with the all-powerful Corvette. Decades of refinement have proven this to be a machine built for one reason, and one reason only: To go fast! The newest version of the American sports car proves it's more than just a one trick pony. The Z06 is not just a land rocket able to surprise even jaded speed junkies, it can actually deliver better fuel economy than many a car that touts this as its forte.
The Z06 is a Corvette with an emphasis on power. The visual cues are there, but the untrained eye might not realize this is a significantly amped up version of the garden variety Vette. An additional intake and grille in front, added ducting on the sides, and a rear spoiler do mark this as beyond ordinary to those who know better. Some of the more subtle changes on the exterior include front splitter, front and rear wheel opening extensions and even aluminized stainless-steel, dual-mode 3-inch exhaust with 4-inch polished stainless steel tips . Even those who don't readily pick up on the differences can't miss that the Z06 is eye candy. While Z06's are more plentiful than any Ferrari, it does capture the imagination of onlookers just the same.
What isn't so visible is that the Z06 Corvette is actually two cars in one. Conjoined with the brutish power provided in the 505 horsepower sports car is a miserly economical car. I wouldn't believe it either myself except I've actually witnessed this firsthand.
Is this some weird science, or Mother Nature playing some game? The answer lies in the shared mechanicals of the conjoined twin. As a byproduct of the transmission allowing for a 198 mph top speed is a car that can turn less than 1,500 rpm while cruising at 70 mph. I can't certify personally that the Vette will close in on 200 miles per hour, but I testify achieving an outstanding 29 mpg on the 5 and 55 freeways from Burbank to Newport Beach. That's better than ten percent above the posted mileage rating!
No truer words were spoken than "your mileage may vary". Unbelievable numbers are within the realm of possibility given the right circumstances. The figure quoted in my fifty-mile trip is the result of no variation in traffic flow (11:00 pm on a Sunday night) and moderate air temperatures. On the flip side of the coin, I only managed a meager mid teens driving up the 405 earlier in the day - no doubt due to stop-and-go traffic during the heat of mid-day.
Nobody will consider buying a Z06 because of its great gas mileage, but rather how quick a mile marker can blaze on by. The twin is a car with few peers. This is the fastest Corvette in the 53-year history of the car. This is the quickest of the quick. The Z06's new LS7 7.0L engines delivers 505 horsepower in an approximately 3,130-pound package - a combination that delivers supercar like 0-60 performance of 3.7 seconds in first gear , quarter-mile times of 11.7 seconds at 125 mph and a top speed of 198 mph (as recorded on Germany's Autobahn). It also provides maximum lateral acceleration of 1.04 g and 60-0 braking in 111.3 feet. It circuited Germany 's famed Nurburgring in a time of 7:43.
In a short period of time I witness all of the potential this affords. I may seem like a mild-mannered editor at L.A.'s finest, but danger is my business.
I like to cover familiar ground in each car driven, so as to get a handle on what it can and can't do. The Z06 manages to scale the steepest of hills thrown at it without any hesitation, as if the ground is as flat as a pancake. The incline provides a raked seating angle combined with the massive thrust, the engine pushes out the rear tires without trouble. The whole experience feels akin to Slim Pickens atop of the missile in the movie Dr. Strangelove .
Any squeeze of the accelerator produces a rush that blurs the landscape like something created in Photoshop. Everything happens urgently, especially in town where speeds are designed for the low end of the limitations most cars provide. This forces any real usage of the potential provided onto the highways. A good poke on the gas from a standstill is a visceral thrill. But even giving a jab to the pedal on the right while at cruising speed will bring immediate and unending gobs of thrust, which squishes me into the seat.
Engineers developed in the Z06 a totally unique vehicle with powertrain, body structure and chassis system features that are distinct from other Corvette models. Furthermore, the Z06 has a different body structure compared to Corvette Coupe and Convertible. The Z06 is heavily influenced by the racing efforts that have been undertaken, and the results speak for themselves.
The heart of this beast is a LS7 short block 7.0-liter/427-cubic-inch Gen IV V-8 with lightweight reciprocating components. This engine generates 505 horsepower at 6300 rpm, 470 pound-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm, a 7000 rpm redline, titanium intake valves, dry-sump engine lubrication system, aluminum structure with one-piece hydroformed perimeter rails frame, magnesium roof panel, fixed roof design optimizes body rigidity and aerodynamics, carbon-fiber composite front fenders, unique front fascia incorporating a larger grille, cold-air scoop and lower air splitter, massive cross-drilled front and rear disc brakes, engine, transmission and differential oil coolers; and steering cooler, rear-mounted battery to improve weight distribution, and a track that's an additional three inches wider than other Corvette models.
A couple quick examples of the LS7 engine race-bred technology are its use of titanium connecting rods. They weigh almost 30 percent less than the rods in the typical Corvette. Besides lightweight, which enhances high-rpm performance and rpm range, titanium makes the rods extremely durable. The LS7's CNC-ported aluminum cylinder heads are all-new and designed to meet the high airflow demands of the engine's 7.0-liter displacement, as it ingests approximately 100 cubic feet more air per minute than the 6.0-liter LS2 motor. That's an 18-percent increase in airflow!
GM took the additional time and expense to create a unique aluminum body structure for optimum stiffness and lightweight in the fixed-roof bodystyle. Perimeter rails are one-piece hydroformed aluminum members featuring cast suspension nodes, which replace many welded steel components on other Corvette models. Other castings, stampings and extrusions are combined into the innovative structure with state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies.
Advanced structural composites featuring carbon fiber are bonded to the aluminum structure. The wider front wheelhouses, for example, are carbon composites and the passenger compartment floors combine carbon-fiber skins with an ultra-lightweight balsa wood core.
Another weight-saving design is the use of a new magnesium cradle that serves as the attachment point for the engine and some front suspension components. Magnesium is lighter than aluminum yet incredibly strong. The magnesium cradle helps improve the front-to-rear weight distribution, as do carbon-fiber front fenders and wheelhouses.
The improvements throughout the 2006 Z06 go on and on. Engineers can undoubtedly talk about the various changes for days, but at the end of the day it's all about the driving experience - the sum total of the minutia that produces an incredible experience. The cat-like reflexes in handling, stick-like-glue road grip, inescapable roar of the engine, and real-world creature comforts make this an extraordinary $65,000 car.
The reality is with a little refinement to the interior, a price tag north of six figures wouldn't seem out of step especially if this had some exotic brand name slapped on the rear. I am an avid fan of the heads-up display on the windshield when driving giving vital details to me without ever looking away from the roadway. With the super firm suspension, especially on rough broken up roads, adjusting the interior controls like the stereo or nav system with the touch screen can be a bit difficult. The solution is to forgo the audio system in favor of the exhaust note, and know where you're going and dispense with the global-positioning system.
The overall fit and finish is getting better. As the market place is constantly working toward perfection, so must Chevrolet regardless of how brilliant the performance aspects of the Corvette are. Small issues, like the center console storage that can fry an egg or melt a PDA currently exist and can still use refinement.
The packaging on this version is incredible, with a very comfortable seating position and easy to reach controls - albeit some have their view blocked by the steering wheel. Even the cargo area is impressive, able to hold a number of travel bags if pressed into service. I prefer the uncluttered lack of controls on the steering wheel (other than a horn). All the needed controls are readily available in close reach, but really shouldn't be played with while driving hard. Likewise, fiddling with any controls that Chevy might have put on the steering wheel will have been more of a nuisance rather than convenient. But one must keep in mind that the Z06 is meant to be a sports car, not a grand tourer.
Piloting the Z06 around town is a bit like trying to hide an elephant in your backyard. This car is enough to make anyone just a bit nervous. Flashy styling is its calling card. Restrained driving behavior of the overly eager powertrain is a necessity to avoiding constant run-ins with the law. This might not be the car to drive if trying to maintain a low profile.
Maybe this is what Mother Nature meant a conjoined twin to be; One body providing a home to two personalities. Co-existing together are the entities of Power and Economy. Not only are these twins not separate, they are far from equal. Between Power and Economy, one is the dominant force among the two. And let me tell you, the smiles seen on both drivers and passengers in a Z06 aren't simply from snubbing OPEC.
An exotic sports car for pennies on the dollar.
Find out more at www.chevrolet.com
Price: Base $64,890, as tested $71,485
Engine type: LS7 7.0-liter/427-cubic-inch Gen IV V-8 cast aluminum, block and cylinder head cast aluminum, overhead valve, 2 valves per cylinder, compression ratio11:1
Horsepower: 505 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 470 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive
Transmission type: 6-speed manual
Suspension: Front: short/long arm ( SLA ) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper & lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf spring, monotube shock absorber
Rear: short/long arm ( SLA ) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper & lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf spring, monotube shock absorber
Wheels and tires: Front : 18 X 9.5 P275/35ZR18, Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar Extended Mobility Rear: 19 X 12 P325/30ZR19, Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar Extended Mobility
Brakes: Front: cross-drilled rotors, discs 14 x 1.3 diameter, 6-piston calipers Rear: cross-drilled rotors discs 13.4 x 1 diameter, 4-piston calipers
ABS, electronic traction control; active handling
Overall length: 175.6"Overall width: 75.9" Overall height: 49" Curb weight (lbs): 3,130
EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 16/26
Top Speed, mph: 198 0-60 mph: 3.7 0-100 mph: 11.7 60-0 mph: 111.3'