"The Corvette Z06 brings into question the wisdom of paying more than £59,000 in the quest for proper supercar performance"
Think about it. £55,000 doesn't even buy you a base model Porsche 911 with leather seats yet spend that on a Corvette Z06 and you'll have a car that can lap Germany's Nurburgring in a staggering 7 minutes 42 seconds. Of course, it'll help if you're as handy behind the wheel as ex-F1 driver Jan Magnusson, but this is a car that has set a benchmark time two seconds faster than a Pagani Zonda S and eight seconds quicker than a Lamborghini Murcielago. Even a Mercedes McLaren SLR would be ten seconds adrift. Asking prices for these three stragglers? That'll be £340,000, £197,460, and £317,700 respectively. Suddenly you begin to appreciate the scale of the Corvette's achievement. This is by any measure an apocalyptically rapid car and one that should forever put to rest the notion that American sports cars just don't do corners at all well. Given that there is a 7.0-litre V8 lump under the bonnet churning out 512bhp, it is perhaps little surprise that the Z06 is so quick in a straight line. Aiming a car at the horizon and mashing the loud pedal doesn't require a great deal of expertise, however, and this Corvette not only wields the big stick but also uses a lot of high tech engineering to achieve its ends. Take the floor of the car for example. Not always a place to start when assessing a performance car it's true, but as an exemplar of the depth of focus in the Z06, it's as good a place as any. Most sports cars will utilise a pressed steel or sometimes an aluminium section for the floor but the Corvette opts for a wafer of featherweight balsa wood sandwiched between two slivers of carbon fibre.
Whereas a standard Corvette has a hydroformed steel chassis, this one uses an aluminium spaceframe. The standard car uses aluminium for its front suspension crossmember assembly whereas the Z06 junks that for an exotic magnesium setup. The front wings change from glassfibre in the standard 'Vette to carbonfibre in the 06. Both front wings combined - and they're sizeable panels - weigh in at 2.8kg. The fixed roof structure is cast magnesium and adds stiffness without adding weight where its least desirable. All up weight is around 1420kg, roughly about the same as a Ford Focus C-MAX. That 7.0-litre engine is the biggest and most powerful General Motors 'small block' ever built. Success in the GT class at Le Mans has spawned some race-derived technology and the Z06 benefits from a dry-sumped lubrication system, conrods and intakes made of titanium as well as a forged steel crank and pistons. A manual six-speed gearbox is fitted as standard and requires a beefy right arm to guide the stick around the gate - yes all Z06s are left hand drive. You won't need to make a single change to notch off 60mph in 3.9 seconds, just some steely determination and the ability to pick a point that marshals the 470lb/ft of torque such that it generates a mere chirrup of wheelspin from the 275/35 ZR18 tyres at the back. A top speed of 198mph is claimed for the car, eclipsing cars that cost twice as much such as the Lamborghini Gallardo and the Ferrari F430. A small slot at the front of the bonnet is possibly the first clue you'll get that this is no ordinary Corvette. Look a little closer and you'll also see a black splitter that runs under the spoiler to aid aerodynamics. The wheelarches have morphed into something a little wider to accommodate the gumball rubber, something worth bearing in mind if you're squeezing the car through urban width restrictors. The interior looks a good deal more European than 'Vettes of old, even if passengers do get a hugely unsubtle 'Corvette' script emblazoned across the airbag cut out in front of them. The fascia features some brightwork to lift it and some of the minor controls now have some chrome detailing. The steering wheel is smaller than in the standard car, helping to effectively gear the steering effort up a little. The two tone leather seats offer plenty of lateral support but what the cabin lacks in quality it makes up in quantity, both in terms of space and when it comes to standard fit features. Elbow, head and shoulder room is all very good, legroom not quite so stellar. What's refreshing is that the Corvette isn't trying to be self consciously smart. Sit in a BMW 6 series and you end up intimidated by the impenetrable i-Drive and the myriad obscure minor controls. Sit in a Corvette and you just punch a few chubby buttons and get on with it. If you appreciate a car for what it is as much as what it does, it'll be difficult to sell you the Corvette Z06. It can't rival even the most basic Porsche Boxster for handling sensitivity or perceived quality. If you prefer to concentrate on doing rather than having, this Corvette could well be the performance bargain of the year. In short, its capabilities eclipse cars twice, three times, even six times its price. If that doesn't appeal, nothing will.
Facts at a Glance
Facts At A Glance CAR: Chevrolet Corvette Z06 PRICE: £54,995 - on the road INSURANCE GROUP: 20 CO2 EMISSIONS: 350g/km PERFORMANCE: Max Speed 198mph / 0-60mph 3.9s FUEL CONSUMPTION: (urban) 12.4mpg / (extra urban) 28.2mpg / (combined) 19.2mpg STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front airbags / ABS / Traction Control System./ Active Handling WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height 4459/1927/1246mm