Friday, December 24, 2010

corvette c6 z06 long-term review update

as some of you will recall, five years ago i was fortunate enough to take delivery of one of the very first c6 corvette z06s to hit the streets.  through this article, that car thrust me into a side gig doing freelance automotive journalism.

five years have passed since i took delivery of that yellow z06, and i figurd my readers might like a long-term update.  in these five years, i've gone through four z06s, a viper, a tahoe, a sportbike, and have come back to the z06 in the form of a black/black 2009.

over the years the c6z has definitely aged well (certainly better than i have).  the only exterior changes have been some wheel design changes, and a ridiculous zr1-wannabe driveway scraper option package for the 2011 model.  yet the z06 remains one of the most muscular, sculpted, purpose-built sports car designs on the market today.  i can't say the same for the interior. while i applauded the accommodations in my texas driver magazine article years ago, today the interior is outclassed.  i've seen better seats in $2k beaters. on the bright side, gm has since added a $4k leather package that wraps your door panels and dashboard in what appears to be a luxuriously stitched rawhide dental chew. oh, and onstar is standard equipment, so your car will remind you that fleeing the law is verboten by shutting down mid-chase.

if you happen to be the type of driver that's always triggering the onstar police-chase shutdown feature, the z06 is a blast.  in fact, i think that when driven hard, the c6z is the most fun car i've driven.  the ls7 engine pipes beautiful v8 music into the cabin as it propels you to supersonic speeds. the brakes, while inadequate for severe track use, are more than enough for anything you'll throw at the car on the street. most important, once you switch off the electronic aids, you'll find that gm tuned the chassis for near-perfect handling.  want undresteer?  give a ham-fisted steering input and you've got it.  want oversteer? finnish flick, trailbrake, or even just a smooth corner entry and overpowered exit will do the trick nicely. the chassis will do anything you want it to, as long as you're on top of your game.  and it will put you into the wall ass-first if you're not.  few manufacturers still have the balls to release a car into the wild with such neutral handling. i raise a glass to the suspension and chassis engineers at gm that tuned this car.

daily driving the z06 at legal speeds, on the other hand, is a bore.  since the z06 is basically a mini-truck frame with a fiberglass go-kart shell wrapped around a huge v8, it doesn't need a lot of gears to go fast. you find yourself cruising at lazy sub-2k rpms most of the time, letting the torques do the work for you. in the rare case you need more oomph, you downshift a gear or two and hope the tires hold.  you never have to work to merge or slice into a hole in traffic - a tap of the throttle does it all.  and then you're back to 1,500rpm, with the world's quietest v8 exhaust note drowned out by the annoying tire drone from the 325mm goodyears.  i think i finally understand why porsche sells so many 911 turbos.  it's heavy, solid as a rock, comfortable, and although it's fast, you have to keep the turbos spooled up to move along.  it's more of a challenge to drive since it doesn't do all the work for you.

should you buy a z06?  that's up to you.  for me, cars are like coffee. i'm more of an addict than a connoisseur, just getting my fix.  i just bought my sixth z06...