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One problem with the speed of the Corvette Z06, besides imperiling your driver's license, is that you'll be cheating bystanders out of a long look at a very handsome car. While it is a big, ferocious sports car, it has a svelte mid-section. The hood dips down gracefully in front, while the back flares up like a Le Mans racer from the late 1960s. And it's proved an excellent car in more recent Le Mans races, taking multiple first-place wins in the GT1 class over the past five years.
Surprisingly enough, the Corvette Z06 is also a good tech car. The doors use electronic latches, it has a smart key, and we had it optioned with a navigation system. Bluetooth phone integration isn't available, but OnStar, which has a telephone service, is optional. It comes standard with a heads-up display, something we found very useful, if a bit ugly. Then, of course, there's the performance tech, such as carbon fiber fenders, a dry sump oil system, and a limited slip differential.
Test the tech: GPS rally
A lot of things came to mind when we thought about how to test the Corvette Z06, but very few of them were legal. So we settled on pitting the car against its GPS navigation system in a kind of rally. We would enter a number of locations into the car's navigation and look at the estimated time of arrival. Then we would drive the car to that destination to see how our actual arrival time compared to the navigation's estimated time.
With this test, we could judge the accuracy of the navigation system's arrival times. And, because we tried to undercut the times substantially, we also ended up testing the car's speed and handling. To be sure, our test fell within the bounds of safety and avoided attracting the attention of the highway patrol--certainly a challenge with our "Victory Red" test car.
Our first destination was an address in San Jose, 52 miles away from San Francisco, that the navigation system said we could make in 49 minutes. Easy, we thought, and barreled off to the freeway entrance. Our route was along Interstate 280, a divided freeway with lots of lanes and gentle curves, letting us maintain speeds of about 75mph. The Corvette would have let us go a lot faster, but we know how well this road is patrolled. After an easy cruise, we arrived in San Jose, and were surprised to find we were one minute over the navigation's estimated arrival time. At this point we realized the navigation expected us to drive pretty aggressively.
We found no easy way to set multiple waypoints with this navigation system, so we had to set each new one after arriving at the previous. For our next waypoint, we used the intersection destination option to program in Highway 9 and Skyline Boulevard. The navigation system said we could make it in 20 minutes--a very aggressive time estimate, as Highway 9 climbs up a mountain and has many hairpin turns, a few with a suggested speed of 15mph. We set off for this point, trying to make some time, and had a lot of fun negotiating the tight turns, but were ultimately slowed by other cars. We hit this waypoint 5 minutes over the estimate.
Our next waypoint was close, only 6 and one-half miles down Skyline at its intersection with Alpine Road. The estimate was 12 minutes, but we made it in 8, coming in 4 minutes under. From here we would go down Alpine, a nasty, narrow mountain road, to Highway 84 where it hits Highway 1. We were given a time of 23 minutes to make it, and we really tried to push it. That is, until the very uneven surface of Alpine Road started scraping into our front spoiler. The Corvette Z06 prefers well-paved roads without a lot of dips and rises. Once clear of Alpine Road, we let the car run a bit more, but still arrived 5 minutes over.
Our final runs were from Highway 84 and Highway 1 up to Pacifica, a fairly straight run where we matched the 29 minutes the navigation system gave us, then Pacifica to San Francisco. We were very surprised when the navigation system only gave us 14 minutes to get back to San Francisco, and try as we did, we were still 9 minutes over. We can only assume that the navigation system knows it's in a Corvette, and expects to cover ground fast.
In the cabin
During our GPS rally, we got some extensive experience with the navigation system. We found that its guidance is very good, with nice split-screen options so you can get an overview on one side and good details on upcoming turns on the other. The map resolution is decent, and we like the graphic interface for destination entry, which uses a touchscreen. Entering destinations proved simple enough, whether by specific address, from the map, or with an intersection. Its points-of-interest database is adequate, but not all-inclusive.
The navigation module sits in the center stack, right above a dual-zone climate control system, another tech feature we were surprised to see. The navigation module touchscreen also handles the stereo system. The right spoke of the steering wheel also has buttons for the stereo--a nice feature--and there is a voice command system. In practice, we didn't find voice command particularly useful. For example, when we said "navigation," the system replied that the command wasn't currently available, even with the car parked.