PROs: Obscenely fast, outstanding carbon ceramic brakes, a truly useful super car that can be driven daily.
CONs: Sub-par interior, handling may be twitchy for some, shaking off that old Corvette stigma.
FINAL THOUGHT: The 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is a hammer of an automobile that gives you all the super car performance you’ll ever need in a package that costs a hell of a lot less then its competitors.
When I found out that I was going to take possession of a 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 with the Ultimate Performance Package for a week, I was more then a little excited. You see I’m a big Corvette fan as I truly believe that out of all the sports cars on the market today, the Corvette gives you the best bang for your buck. They pack gobs of power, handle like rock stars, have a traditional front engine rear-drive layout and lets face it, look aggressive as hell. It used to be that the Corvette had a reputation as a mid-life crises machine that was only purchased by balding baby boomers wearing gold chains. Now, while that may have been true years and years ago, I’m here to tell you to forget it, because truth be told, this car kicks some serious ass.
The current version of the Corvette, the C6, debuted back in 2005 and with it came a new found respect from driving enthusiasts the world over. Then in 2006 the engineers over at Chevrolet decided to hunker down, turn their brain boxes up to eleven and build us the baddest Corvette ever. It was called the Z06 and came stock with a 505 hp 7.0-liter LS7 V8 which put power down to the pavement through a traditional 6-speed manual gearbox. It also topped out at just under 200 mph, went from 0-60 in just under 4 seconds and pulled 1.0 g on the skid pad. Also keep in mind that those numbers were very similar to cars costing 3 times as much.
Over the past few years I’ve been very fortunate as I have been able to get quite a bit of seat time behind the wheel of the Z06. I’ve thrashed them on the racetrack, driven them cross country and even toured the Corvette factory plant down in Bowling Green, Kentucky. What that all means is that I know these cars pretty damn well, so rest assured that you’re about to get one honest review. Odds are that if you know what the Z06 is, then you also know about his younger, hornier brother, the Corvette ZR1. This crazy bastard made his first appearance in 2009 and although it packed the same good looks as the Z06, the ZR1 had a decidedly nastier attitude by way of taking a fierce amount of steroids.
On the surface you may think these two cars are similar, but one look under the hood of a ZR1 and at its wider stance and you’ll see that these two cars are very different. As mentioned the ZR1 came out in 2009 and when its performance numbers were released the super car world not only jumped up and took notice, but ran for cover. With 638 hp, magnetic ride control, the same carbon ceramic brakes as a Ferrari FXX and a top speed of 205 mph, the Corvette ZR1 literally rewrote the book on what an American sports car could be. For 2011 Chevrolet has decided to once again up the ante, but not in the traditional sense. You see they still offer the Corvette Z06, but now you can get it with the Z07 Ultimate Performance Package as well as the Z06 Carbon Fiber Package. That means that this particular Z06 came equipped with the ZR1’s carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon-fiber body panels, magnetic selective ride control and 20-spoke staggered aluminum 19 and 20 inch wheels, BUT retained that magical, naturally aspirated 7.0-liter LS7 V8.
I’m going to cut right to the chase here in regards to the Corvette’s interior as it has been a bone of contention with just about every Corvette owner on the planet. Chevrolet knows that the Vette’s interior needs to be updated, believe me. I’ve spoken to their engineers and designers and they’ve said that is the number one complaint given about the car. The reality is, if this was a $30,000 car the interior would be perfectly acceptable, but it’s not, it’s a car that stickers in at just under 100k.
The seats for example simply do not have enough bolstering to hold you in when you encounter high g-forces on the track. I found that my big ass was sliding all over the place when I pushed the car hard into turns and when you’re coming into a corner at 100 + mph, that is not a good thing. Sure the seats are done up in a nice double-stitched leather, but they just don’t feel like they belong in a car of this caliber. My bet is that Corvette is going to take an entry out of the Cadillac CTS-V playbook and stuff those AWESOME Recaro’s into the Vette’. They do that and they’ll have Vette’ guys jumping for joy. They also have to do something about the steering wheel as that sucker is exactly the same as the one that you’d find in a $15,000 Chevrolet Cobalt – not cool. Again, my hope is that they hit up Cadillac and yank out the awesome and super grippy suede ones from the CTS-V’s. Now those steering wheels are worthy of some serious track duty.
The dash and center stack of the Corvette are actually beautifully laid out, showing you everything you need and nothing you don’t. A big analog tachometer and speedometer greet you, as do oil pressure, fuel, battery and temperature gauges. I love the fact that GM kept these babies analog and didn’t go over to digital. On that note however, there is a wonderful heads up digital display. Now some of you may think that having two tach’s and two speedo’s is redundant, but honestly, I loved it. On the Corvettes that I’ve tracked, having the HUD was a godsend for the simple fact that I never had to take my eyes off the track. It’s a system that works and one that I hope the engineers don’t do away with. The Corvette, regardless of model, is also one of the few super cars that you can literally drive everyday. They’re super reliable, are plenty comfortable and have loads of room under that massive hatch. Plus and get this, they’ll get around 25-30 mpg when loping along on the highway in 6th gear… crazy right?
As for the driving experience in this baby… well people, this is what the Corvette Z06 is all about. You see this is one of those rare cars where what you see, IS what you get. It’s down home American muscle personified and I loved every minute of driving it. From a power perspective the 505 hp / 470 lb-ft. of torque LS7 has the power to simply rip the tires from the pavement. Take the traction control off and you’ll find yourself shredding rubber through 1st, 2nd and well into 3rd gear. There’s no fade in power either as the Z06 pulls hard all the way up to its 7000 rpm red line. Keep your foot in it through all six gears and you’ll find yourself seeing 198 mph. That’s not too shabby for a car built in Kentucky.
The magnetic ride control though is where you really see the difference over a stock suspension-ed Z06. Keep the suspension setting on touring and the Corvette will reward you with a ride that is actually a vast improvement over the jarring ride of the stock model. Then, if you want to get a bit more aggressive simply switch it over to sport mode and instantly you’ll feel everything from the steering to the suspension firm up. It’s a great system and one that GM has been employing on more and more models. I have to admit though, that the Corvette does feel big. It’s long nose, raised front haunches and wide track keep you on your toes when driving around town. With a ground clearance of only 4.8 inches it’s also REALLY low, so you’d better be prepared to replace that front carbon fiber splitter at some point (just so you know).
Steering response on the Z06 is instantaneous and wonderfully crisp, although when pushed hard some may find it to be a bit of a handful. Personally though, I loved it. Oh, and lets not forget those massive carbon ceramic rotors shod with 6-pot Brembo calipers. Stab the brake pedal at speed and you’ll swear that your eyeballs are going to plaster themselves against the windshield. In fact stopping from 60-0 comes in just under 100 feet thanks to a svelte curb weight of just under 3200 lbs.
This car, spec’d out the way it was, came in at just a hair over $98,000. That’s big money people, especially when you consider that a new 2011 Corvette ZR1, a car with another 130 hp, stickers in at just over 10k more. So that then begs the question – is the 2011 Corvette Z06 with the Ultimate Performance Package and Z06 Carbon Fiber Package worth the money? My answer… yes and no. Having had time in both Z06 and ZR1 Corvettes, I’d have to say that the Z06, as spec’d out as it is here, is an easier car to handle as you’ve got all the power you’ll ever need and it’s not as nutzo as the ZR1. With that being said though, there’s also the argument that having 638 supercharged hp on tap is friggin’ super macho, which, lets face it, it is. I think the deciding factor at the end of the day though will be that you’d have to decide what you’re actually going to use the car for. I think for street duty I’d go with the ZR1, but as a full on track animal, I’d take the Z06 as you would be able to utilize more of its overall potential.
Oh, and one last thing. The other thing you’ve got to consider when buying a car like this is how, when you open the garage door, does it make you feel. For me, lets just say a picture says a thousand words. I mean in hindsight I should have just posted this up first and said, “2011 Corvette Z06: 100% Pure American Fire Power” – and scrapped the whole damn review.