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GM sold 1500 allnew Corvette Z06s in December
<p><strong>GM sold 1,500 all-new Corvette Z06s in December.</strong></p>

Corvette Z06 Tutorial: Know Your Limits

The 650-hp supercar is capable of sprinting to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and traversing a quarter-mile in less than 11 seconds. If you don&rsquo;t know your limitations as a driver, or passenger, the Z06 will.

PAHRUMP, NV – My man-card has held up pretty well over the years. I was afraid of heights but then took a job that requires more flight miles logged than the Wright Brothers, combined. Also went up in a hot air balloon and kept my eyes open.

I held it together riding shotgun while Brad Keselowski from Team Penske lapped Charlotte Motor Speedway in his Sprint Cup stock car at 180 mph (290 km/h).

I’m less proud of my recent bout with motion sickness while riding along with Alex MacDonald, a General Motors chassis engineer (and weekend racer) who wanted to demonstrate the extreme capabilities of Chevrolet’s all-new Corvette Z06.

I like speed, and track days always are fun, exhilarating and educational, but the Z06 and its more aerodynamic brother, the Z07, took me to a place I’ve rarely been.

The 650-hp supercar, with the optional 8-speed automatic transmission, is capable of sprinting to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 2.9 seconds and traversing a quarter-mile (0.4 km) in less than 11 seconds. Dialing up triple-digit velocities is as easy as playing a kick drum. Just put the foot down and feel the rhythm.

MacDonald knows this coupe well and does an expert job plunging deep into corners and then working out the Brembo ceramic brakes (part of an $8,000 performance package) to keep it all under control.

Everything is going swimmingly until the S-turns at the Spring Mountain Motor Resort track, which throws in dramatic elevation changes for kicks. First time through is when I notice something amiss.

Then MacDonald amps up the speed. By the second time through the switchbacks, I had to ask for relief to spare the cleaning crew of a messy job.

Did I also mention the Z06 and Z07 can accelerate laterally with a stomach-churning 1.19 g? Aided by its magnetic ride control adjusting dampers with lightning speed to road imperfections and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 run-flats, the car holds the line so precisely at high speeds that a passenger can take a beating.

It all worked out, and I was glad to get back behind the wheel and push the coupe at my own pace, reveling in the sonorous exhaust note and wide-open throttle runs on the long straightaway and fully appreciating the electronic stability wizardry that keeps the rubber on the road.

Z06 Beats ZR1 in More Ways Than One

The seventh-generation Corvette launched just over a year ago, well ahead of the Z06, but the high-performance credentials were baked into the base Stingray’s lightweight hydroformed aluminum frame to accommodate as much power as the Z06 can muster.

The supercharged pushrod LT4 6.2L V-8 under the carbon-fiber vented hood delivers 650 lb.-ft. (881 Nm) of torque at 3,600 rpm, channeled to the rear wheels by a standard 7-speed manual transmission (with active rev matching) for those not opting for the automatic.

Even though the shortlived (and more expensive) Corvette ZR1 represented GM’s high-water mark for factory-ready raceability when it launched in 2009, the Z06 beats the 638-hp ZR1’s time around Virginia International Raceway by 4.3 seconds, as well as GM’s Milford road course at the Michigan proving grounds.

Improved aerodynamics play a big part, while helping cool the front and rear brakes.

Wind-tunnel testing affirmed the ZR1 exhibited the least lift in the long history of the Corvette. As the new Z06 and Z07 arrive, that measure is cut in half, meaning improved stability as strategically placed splitters, winglets and vents channel air away from the composite and carbon-fiber body panels to improve stability.

Instead of allowing lift, the new car is tailored to create lots of downforce, thanks to the injection-molded rear spoiler and other carbon-fiber bits. The Z07 package adds larger winglets at the front and a larger adjustable see-through rear spoiler.

The downforce is doing its job at speeds as low as 70 mph (113 km/h). A Z06 with the aero package achieves 180 lbs. (82 kg) of downforce at 150 mph (241 km/h), but the more slippery Z07 hunkers down even more as 350 lbs. (159 kg) compress the suspension at the same speed. That’s like Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh sitting on the back end, curling a 45-lb. (20-kg) dumbell.

Oddly enough, although the Z07 has better aero, GM engineers say the base Z06 likely would reach a higher top speed, estimated by Car and Driver at 185 mph (298 km/h).

Relative to the base Stingray, the Z06 is 1.6 ins. (40 mm) wider at the back and 1.1 ins. (28 mm) pudgier at the rear. The hood opening is 1.4 ins. (35 mm) wider, and the taillamps are pushed out 1.4 ins. on each side for added visual effect.

Finally, Convertible Z06 Available

So who’s buying the Z06? The standard Stingray is a sexy, admirably capable 455-hp car available with a base price of $55,000. The Z06 is all about the power and aggressive chassis settings and tires and starts at $78,000. It’s a track car, plain and simple. Buying it with no intention of racing seems ludicrous.

But it will happen, especially now that a convertible joins the Z06 lineup for the first time ever. (In truth, there was one convertible Z06 made in 1963, the first year a Z06 could be ordered on the sly at dealerships as a regular production option code.)

Despite the novelty of the drop-top, Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter expects 80% of customers to pick the coupe, even though the historical average for all Corvettes is one-third convertible.

The convertible is 60 lbs. (27 kg) heavier than the coupe and has two-thirds the rear cargo area.

Likewise, the Z06 historically only offered a manual transmission. Based on pent-up demand for an automatic drivetrain, Juechter is banking on two-thirds of Z06 customers to pick the self-shifter.

The Corvette always has been unique as a 2-seat muscle car with few competitors, and the Z06 places the nameplate amid even more rarefied, even exotic, company.

Juechter considers the Porsche 911 Turbo S, with a starting price of $182,700, to be the closest rival. But he knows the Z06 also competes with fast boats and motorcycles for discretionary income.

Relative to a 911 Turbo S, the high-strung Vette is a bargain to start at $78k, but keep in mind that most Z06s go out the door for close to $100,000, equipped with the Brembo brakes, fancy tires and suspension, performance data recorder, black aluminum wheels and navigation.

Except for the microsuede inserts on the seats, steering wheel and shifter, most of that additional content is dedicated to track capability rather than, say, an upgraded interior.

Predicting sales volume is a tricky business. In December, the first month in the market, GM delivered a stout 1,500 Z06s, and that was before the automatic transmission was available. Still, Juechter knows that torrid pace won’t extend well into the future.

“We are ‘capacitizing’ for volumes of 8,000 to 12,000 vehicles,” he tells WardsAuto. That’s a pretty good clip, one never seen for past generations of the Z06.

The truth will reveal itself, as it often does with this car.

I know my limitations as a driver. Now the Corvette Z06 knows them, too.

[email protected]

'15 CHEVROLET CORVETTE Z06 Specifications

Vehicle type Two-door, 2-seat, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive hatchback coupe
Engine 6.2L supercharged LT4 direct-injection OHV all-aluminum V-8
Power (SAE net) 650 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Torque 650 lb.-ft. (881 Nm) @ 3,600 rpm
Bore x stroke (mm) 103.25 x 92
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Transmission 7-speed manual
Wheelbase 106.7 ins. (2,710 mm)
Overall length 177.9 ins. (4,518 mm)
Overall width 77.4 ins. (1,965 mm)
Overall height 48.6 ins. (1,235 mm)
Curb weight 3,524 lbs. (1,598 kg)
Base price $78,000 ($94,770 as tested)
Fuel economy 15/22 mpg (15.6-10.6 L/100 km) city/hwy
Competition Porsche 911 Turbo S
Pros Cons
Even more presence than standard Stingray More enjoyable as driver than passenger
Loads of power, fun on track day Some buyers will never track it
Aero package creates lots of downforce Be prepared for parking scrapes on splitter


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