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Published on Sun, Nov 21, 2010
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By John Grafman Not all cars are created equal. We might live in a democracy, but this doesn’t apply to cars. So, in order to keep balance in the universe, nature steps in to level the playing field. I found this out the hard way. The 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is easily at the pinnacle of sports car performance. Without even breaking a sweat, the two-door with a LS7 7.0-liter engine, and 505 horses churns out 0-60, or for that matter 0-100 mph stats that humble all but a select few. Those that aren’t humbled are trying really hard to be competitive. But this story takes a strange, and abnormal turn right from the start. Southern California is well-known for its dry, desert conditions. 99 percent of the time that’s exactly what we have here. In fact, we have been enjoying sunny, or at least dry skies, for what seems like forever. But all of that changed the day we took the keys for the Z06.
What seems to be the favorite activity of romping on the power on dry streets and breaking the tires away from its tenacious grip becomes a different story in the wet. In the dry, the fat rubber is a major suspension component in keeping this car planted squarely on terra firma. But, the heavy right foot and proper selection of the six-speed manual can get this car to burn rubber effortlessly. Even on steep onramps, where the weight is shifted onto the rear due to the incline, the Corvette can get the tail to wiggle loose. So, it really doesn’t need to have the added incentive of wet surfaces to get the Chevy into situations that require full attention from the driver. Yet, day-after-day, that’s what we faced. All told, the skies opened up and poured down liquid sunshine for nine straight days. What’s a Corvette driver to do? Nearly every car publication talks about driving a slow car faster. That’s just human nature, but it does require a modest amount of talent. However, the effort required driving an earthbound rocket like the Z06 slowly takes constant focus. It’s just not natural.
It only takes a few moments on the slicker than snot streets to realize that this would be a challenge. Besides trying to modulate the accelerator to avoid unwanted spinning of the tires, there was another issue to face, a small issue. Small is a relative term, and in this case it the relative distance between the ground and the bottom of the Corvette with the Z06 Ultimate Performance Package. The bad news is this is so low at 4.8 inches that a puddle takes on the appearance of a pond, and pebbles start looking like obstacles that need to be avoided. And parking blocks, forget about it, those might as well be brick walls. On top of the dominating powertrain, this model comes complete with an abundance of standard features. A few standouts are the limited slip differential, run-flat tires with pressure monitors, aluminum frame structure, keyless access with push button start, carbon fiber fenders and floor panels, high intensity discharge xenon headlamps, dual zone air conditioning, auto-dimming mirrors, and in this weather the intermittent wipers are certainly welcome.
One of the hidden gems on this is the fuel economy. Now, if one has a heavy foot the fuel dumps into the engine at a rate similar to water pouring into a bathtub. However, use of the cruise control and a 6th gear, as well as keeping the car at or near the speed limit on the freeway, can far exceed the stated 24-highway mpg by about 20 percent. Power and economy don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and this proves it. In the cost-plus column the Ultimate Performance Package makes a good car great. Brembo ceramic brakes complete with dark gray calipers, fit nicely inside the package’s wheels, 19 inches up front and 20 in the rear. The 20-spoke aluminum competition gray color rims are a pleasing departure from the looks of the stock Vette, and tip off the aficionado that this is not a base model. The last element is the magnetic selective ride control, which the driver can switch from a comfort setting to a performance mode. This bit of high tech is really incredible, allowing an electrical current to alter the viscosity inside the shock. The magnetic selective ride control is the Holy Grail in suspension adjustments. Forget about air suspensions. This is the right stuff. And, no reliance on compressors and so forth.
On the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana we had the opportunity to test this out in dry conditions just a months prior. In a nutshell, these optional packages are not just to pry some greenbacks from your wallet. These wring every last ounce of performance out of this American near-supercar. This is obvious in just a few heartbeats with 60 mph coming up in a scant 3.7 seconds. Mind you, this is achievable in first gear! This elevates the ability of nearly any driver. Unlike many other so-called sports cars that don’t have a low profile, this never feels out of sorts. There is feedback from the rear tires indicating that grip is running in short supply, when it gets to that point. Of course, if the driver doesn’t take action then it gets ugly quickly. The construction of the Z06 is another part of the mosaic that creates such a hyper car. The make-up of the car includes composite and carbon-fiber body panels, hydroformed aluminum frame with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis components. Reduced weight and increased strength are the hallmark of a winning race car.
The Z06 carbon fiber package is also very at-home on the track. The benefit of weight reduction, especially from the upper portion of the car does translate to less roll, and higher speeds. This amounts to a stellar 1.0g maximum latitude on the skid pad. Fortunately this comes with a racing-style dry-sump oiling system that provides adequate oil pressure during high-load cornering. This also has a balanced weight distribution of 50/50 front to rear. On the flip side, painting the carbon fiber splitter, rockers, and roof panel black, unlike on the ZR1 where the pieces are unpainted, really seems to go against the grain of the material, which is as beautiful from an aesthetic point of view as it is from a technical viewpoint. However, the ultra low air splitter in the front is always going to be a problem with driveways and beat up streets, let alone curbs and inattentive valets. Perhaps painted black pieces are best after all. A can of krylon can hide a world of sins. Another option package that changes ones perception of a Chevy is the 3LZ premium equipment group. While not cheap at over $7,000, this includes almost any goodie a driver that’s used to premium autos will want. This extensive list contains such favorites as a custom wrapped interior that defies conventional expectations of a Corvette.
Additionally, a bevy of less noticeable features round out the group like adjustable sport bucket seats with perforated leather inserts, and heated power seats all around, a Bose seven-speaker system, ninth months of free XM Radio, memory package, universal home remote, power telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth for mobile phones, and even the obligatory luggage shade and cargo net. The total cost of the factory upgrades come in at over 22K, which pushes the price to just shy of six figures without tax or license (but destination charges are included). Compared to other cars in this genre, the Z06 is still a very affordable choice. Still, some small issues need to be addressed—the most noticeable of which is a mismatched interior passenger door panel that didn’t align properly with the dash. While not the end of the world, and correctable, one hopes for better in a car that costs this much. Also, the faux carbon fiber accents need to go.
On the flip side, this car still has a supercar appearance. Perhaps the success of this car is its own worst enemy. As so many Vettes are purchased, it starts to look just a bit too common. The Z06 does have some design cues to signal that this isn’t the garden variety Corvette. Nevertheless, most of those untrained eyes won’t catch these. Consequently, this just doesn’t seem rarified enough to get the attention it deserves. Of course, it goes without saying that most of the others on the road will only be seeing the tail end of the Z06, so good luck to them in identifying this. SUMMARY JUDGMENT A tough car to beat, at least on a dry day, and worth every penny! For more info go to chevy.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Price Base: $74,305 As tested: $98,010.00 Engine type LS7 7-litre (427 cubic inch) V8, DOHC, 2 valves/cylinder, cast aluminum block/head EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 15/24 Horsepower: 505 @ 6,300 rpm Torque: 470 lb.-ft @ 4,800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed close ratio manual, with dual disc clutch technology, launch control Suspension Front: short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf spring, monotube shock absorber; Magnetic Ride Control w/ Z07 pk Rear: short/long arm (SLA) double wishbone, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite leaf spring, monotube shock absorber; Magnetic Ride Control w/ Z07 pkg Wheels and tires Front: Standard: 19 x 10” in sterling silver, competition gray and chrome, 285/30ZR19Goodyear F1 Supercar Rear: 20 x 12” in sterling silver, competition gray and chrome, 335/25ZR20 Goodyear F1 Supercar Brakes Front: Brembo carbon-ceramic vented discs 14 x 1.3” diameter, ABS with six-piston calipers, cross-drilled rotors Rear: Brembo carbon-ceramic vented discs 13.4 x 1” diameter, ABS with four-piston calipers, cross-drilled rotors; ceramic rotors w/ Z07 pkg. Electronic Traction Control; Active Handling Dimensions Overall length: 175.6 inches, 4,460 mm Overall width: 75.9 inches, 1,929 mm Overall height: 48.7 inches, 1,236 mm Curb weight: 3,175 lb. 1,440 Performance 0-60 mph: 3.7 Top Speed: 198 mph