Raising a bar set very high by its predecessor, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is undoubtedly the most sophisticated sports car ever produced by General Motors - let alone virtually any automaker.
The Z06 ushers in a host of new technologies for GM's flagship sports car: An eight-speed automatic gearbox, a trick Performance Data Recorder system, a new 6.2-liter supercharged engine and Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup tires developed specifically for the highest-performance seventh-generation Corvette announced yet.
The Z06 features the same aluminum space frame as the regular Corvette Stingray, but that's not to say that GM simply slapped some high-performance tires and stiffer springs on the Z06 and called it a day. Underneath the Z06's hood sits an all-new LT4 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine rated at 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft. of torque. Like the standard Corvette's V8, it also now includes continuously variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation (to reduce fuel consumption) and direct injection.
Supplying that extra boost is a 1.7-liter Eaton R1740 TVS supercharger that actually spins 5,000 rpm faster than the outgoing Corvette ZR1's unit. Other high-tech features include stronger aluminum cylinder heads, titanium intake valves, forged aluminum pistons and stainless steel exhaust headers. A larger capacity dry-sump oiling system is also included.
The V8 can be mated either to a seven-speed manual transmission or a new eight-speed automatic unit with paddle shifters. Instead of fitting the 'Vette with a dual-clutch unit, the automaker's engineers worked to give the eight-speed gearbox "world class shift-response times." GM says that upshifts - at wide-open-throttle - are executed at eight-hundredths of a second quicker than those in the dual clutch-equipped Porsche 911.
Despite boasting two extra gears, the transmission takes up the same amount of space as the six-speed automatic unit currently used in the Corvette Stingray. Moreover, the eight-cog unit weighs about 8 pounds less than the six-speed.
Looking the Part
Though the Z06 is unmistakably an evolution of the Stingray, it boasts a number of subtle differences. To accommodate its 285/30-19 front and 335/25-20 rear Z-rated Michelin Pilot Sport (or Sport Cup with the Z07 package) tires, the 'Vette's fenders were extended 2.2 inches up front (to counter 1.5 inch wider tires) and 3.15 inches at the rear (to counter 2 inch wider tires).
A unique rear fascia appears identical at first to the standard Stingray, but the Z06's tail lamps are three inches further apart to accommodate the extra width.
Three downforce levels are available: Standard Z06, a range-topping Z07 package (described below) and, in the middle, a carbon fiber aero package that adds aviation-style winglets to a unique front splitter, rocker panels and a taller rear spoiler all composed of, you guessed it, carbon fiber.
Up front, the Z06's front fascia mesh pattern not only looks unique, it actually provides better airflow to the supercharger's heat exchanger. GM says that the grill actually provides better airflow as-is than if it is removed entirely. More airflow-enhancing elements include a larger hood vent, fender vents and "air blade" style cooling ducts on the rear fenders to keep the transmission cool.
Inside, the Z06 packs a driver-focused interior that stands out from the stock Stingray thanks to a flat-bottomed D-shaped steering wheel, model-specific color schemes and a choice of either GT "comfort" and Competition Sport seats.
All Z06 models come with an eight-inch color touch screen that runs Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system. MyLink groups the car's navigation (if equipped), entertainment and connectivity into a single unit.
MyLink includes a Text Message Alert function that reads incoming text messages out loud and Siri Eyes Free compatibility.
In spite of its performance-focused vocation, the Z06 offers a respectable 15 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Z06 is offered in 1LZ, 2LZ and 3LZ trim levels.
1LZ models come standard with an eight-inch color touch screen, keyless entry and go, a premium Bose sound system, a rear-view camera and a power steering column.
Stepping up to the 2LZ model adds a ten-speaker sound system with a bass box, a heads-up display as well as heated and ventilated seats.
Finally, 3LZ models gain navigation and suede microfiber upholstery on the headliner, the sunvisors and the A-pillar.
Z06 vs. Z07
Buyers after a more hardcore car can select a track-capable extra-cost package called Z07.
Aside from the name change, the Z07 adds Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires, larger and carbon ceramic brakes and a number of downforce-enhanching aero bits. Chief among those aerodynamic add-ons is an adjustable rear spoiler that, GM says, gives the 'Vette the most aerodynamic downforce of any vehicle the automaker has ever built.
Performance Data Recorder
The Z06 is available with an optional Performance Data Recorder that captures not only a driver's perspective of the road ahead, but also a host of telemetry data for review at a later date.
Mounted into the windshield header trim near the rearview mirror, the system's 720p HD camera records everything the driver sees directly in front. Audio is picked up via a dedicated microphone inside the Corvette's camera, allowing drivers to narrate their own trip if they want.
Additionally, the system records data on an SD card that lets drivers replay their experiences either on the vehicle's instrument cluster (when parked) or on a computer or TV screen at a later date.
Four modes include three data overlay screens, which look something like a video game display:
Track mode - includes speed, RPM, g-force, lap times and even a location-based map discerned from the car's GPS and Bing-enabled satellite maps.
Sport mode - a more limited display with speed and g-force.
Performance mode - designed to show performance metrics like 0-60 mph runs, 1/4 mile sprints and 0-100 mph runs.
Touring mode - A simple video and audio-only replay.
Using Track mode, drivers can view corner traces, cornering force and vehicle speed to analyze their driving habits
The Z06 comes standard with dual front and side airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
In terms of performance, the Porsche 911 Turbo, the Dodge Viper SRT, the Nissan GT-R and the Audi R8 V10 can all be cross-shopped against the Corvette Z06.