2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 review:

2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Pricing Unavailable
  • Trim levels Z06
  • Available Engine Gas
  • Body style coupe

Roadshow Editors' Rating

8.4 Overall
  • Cabin tech 7
  • Performance tech 10
  • Design 8

The Good The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 uses carbon fiber and titanium components to keep its overall weight low. Its heads-up display lets drivers see speed and revolutions per minute while keeping their eyes on the road, and it can be optioned with navigation. It gets surprisingly solid fuel economy while producing supercar performance.

The Bad The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is not an all-season car, nor is it meant to be. The interior is still tacky for the price, and space is limited. Anyone seeking quiet, refined comfort is advised to look elsewhere.

The Bottom Line The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 delivers remarkable performance while still offering useful cabin technology. It's a car that can be easily driven around the city and opened up for a thrilling ride on highways.

2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Since its birth 53 years ago, Chevrolet has used the Corvette as its technology leader, and the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 showcases technology developed for endurance racing with the C6-R. Although navigation and a premium audio system are available, the engine, the chassis, and the body are the real stars. With a 0-to-60mph time of 3.7 seconds and a 198mph top speed, as well as the potential to corner at more than 1g on dry pavement, it's the quickest and fastest street-legal Corvette ever.

A quick listing of the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06's performance technology reads like a race-preparation manual: a lightweight aluminum frame with magnesium subframes, a 7.0-liter, dry-sump aluminum-block V-8 engine with 505 horsepower, and fiberglass and carbon-fiber bodywork that is subtly altered to fit over wider wheels and tires. Heavy-duty parts to handle the extra power would have added around 100 pounds to the standard Corvette; the Z06's lightweight modifications result in a car that weighs 140 pounds less and has an additional 105 horsepower.

The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 has two exemplary and useful electronic systems connected with both performance and safety: the heads-up display in front of the driver and Chevrolet's StabiliTrak with Competition mode, a stability-control system that actually allows a reasonable degree of slip angle before gently and unobtrusively decreasing power and applying brakes.

Comparing the standard and Z06 Corvettes reveals crucial bodywork differences. The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 has a fixed roof, as opposed to the Corvette Coupe's removable center section; a completely different front fascia designed for increased downforce; carbon-fiber front fenders (with functional air vents); and wider rear bodywork. There is a large, nonfunctional air scoop in the Z06 hood.

With a base price of $65,000, the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is not inexpensive. But try to modify a standard Corvette to Z06 specs, and watch many times that much money disappear. To get equal or better performance from a four-wheel vehicle, be prepared to spend at least twice as much.

With $1,295 worth of polished alloy wheels, $750 for special paint, and an $800 destination charge, our test car came to $67,845, the best performance-for-dollar deal on four wheels.

The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06's interior doesn't compare to that found in Porsches, BMWs, Jaguars, or Ferraris, but it's come a long way from previous models, which didn't rise much above sub-$15,000 Cavalier standards. Of course, a Corvette has never been a luxury sports car; it's merely a sports car. Which is not to say that the Z06 is spartan--if the keyless fob is in the car, the engine starts with the push of a button, and a good climate-control system keeps occupants comfortable. As opposed to the interior of many import sports cars, the Corvette's is sized for large people. Six-footers fit into the special high-backed leather seats easily. The seats are better than average in comfort, and they hold well in hard cornering. There is also useful, if exposed, luggage space under the rear hatch.

Most options available for the standard Corvette can be ordered for the Z06 model. These include a DVD-based, voice-activated navigation system, a Bose premium audio system, and XM Satellite Radio. Our test car had only the basics: an AM/FM/single-CD audio system. The CD player plays MP3 CDs, displaying track information on a small alphanumeric LCD. Both sound quality and radio reception were solid but got plenty of competition from the quadraphonic exhaust at anything more than a quarter throttle.

The heads-up display in the Corvette shows the driver speed, revolutions per minute, and lateral g-forces.

The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06's best interior feature is the heads-up display (HUD). Pioneered by GM nearly 20 years ago, and only now being used by other manufacturers, the HUD system allows the driver to monitor important information with eyes on the road--very important, given the Z06's acceleration and speed potential. The HUD shows digital speed; revolutions per minute in a race-car-like analog display; and lateral acceleration in g-forces (digitally) on the windshield in front of the driver, in a translucent display under the main line of vision. As with the 2006 BMW 550i we reviewed, the HUD is not distracting and actually very useful.

If driven gently around town, interior noise levels are reasonably low. Pushed even moderately hard, the Z06's interior ambience is pure race car, with plenty of mechanical sounds from the engine, the transmission, and the chassis. This should not displease buyers, as it's pure music to the ears of the enthusiast.

The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is built with a composite body mounted on a separate frame, with a V-8 engine in front driving the rear wheels. Its independent, unequal-length double-wishbone front and rear suspensions use transverse leaf springs. But it's much higher in technology than a cursory reading of those specs would suggest. The Z06's floor pan, front fenders, and front wheelhouses are made of carbon fiber, with the rest of the bodywork being composite plastic. Although the frame design is similar to the standard Corvette's, the Z06's is made from hydroformed aluminum instead of steel to save weight. Both versions use aluminum and magnesium subframes; the Z06 also has a magnesium roof structure for extra rigidity with minimal weight. Transverse leaf suspension may seem like a throwback to the vintage years, but the Corvette's springs are not like any others. Instead of steel, they are made of lightweight composite material, reducing both sprung and unsprung weight. They also have an antiroll effect, aiding the effect of the stabilizer bars. The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 gets a firmer suspension tuning than the standard Corvette, designed to work with its larger wheels and tires--275/35/ZR18s in front and 325/30/ZR19s in the rear. The run-flat Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires eliminate the need for a spare.

The 7.0-liter small-block V-8 is a work of art and engineering.

Why such massive rubber? All the better to handle 505 horsepower at 6,300rpm and 470 pound-feet of torque at 4,800rpm. Like the chassis, the 16-valve, pushrod overhead-valve LS7 V-8 is seemingly archaic but can effectively eliminate all manner of high-tech competition. At 7.0 liters, it's the largest-ever small block in displacement, the same as the classic big block's 427 cubic inches and a size developed in the successful endurance racing program. Although it shares its basic architecture with the 6.0-liter LS2 in other Corvettes, the LS7 has aluminum-alloy block and head castings.

The gearbox is a six-speed manual transmission, with a smooth linkage that makes for easy shifting, although the clutch is appropriately heavier than in a regular Corvette. To get better fuel economy and beat the gas-guzzler tax, the Corvette has a mechanism that forces shifts from first to fourth at low engine speeds. Corvette owners and enthusiasts have long hated it, but it's still in the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. However, it can be easily defeated by just a bit more throttle.

The brakes are impressive, with massive crossdrilled and vented rotors all around: 14 by 1.3 inches in front and 13.4 by 1 inches in back. The front calipers are six-piston, while the rear are four-piston. They are antilock, of course, and the car uses the most advanced form of GM's StabiliTrak stability-enhancement system to help keep all 505 horses under control.

How well does it work? Very--within its limitations. The period that we had the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 was marked by rain. Then more rain, with only one semidry afternoon. Those wide, sticky Goodyears are none too happy in the wet. Damp pavement is passably acceptable, with careful control of the right foot, thanks to StabiliTrak. Running water across the pavement makes its presence known.

Around town, with a light touch on the throttle, the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is completely civilized. Once the trick of defeating the first-to-fourth shift is learned, it's easy to drive, with only moderately heavy steering and clutch effort. It's even reasonably quiet, and the ride comfort is good for what it is.

But get out where the throttle can be opened up, and the Z06 gets more serious. The exhaust note changes from a mild V-8 burble to a vicious metallic howl. The 7.0-liter displacement ensures more-than-adequate torque right off the line, but the real power comes in above 3,000rpm and pulls strongly all the way to the 7,000rpm redline, at least in lower gears. In speed-limited America, second gear is enough to cause serious driver's-license damage. Need statistics? Chevy says 0 to 60mph in 3.7 seconds (in first gear), a quarter mile in 11.7 seconds at 125mph, and a top speed of 198mph. We don't doubt that, but none of those tests were done on public roads in the rain. This car's limits will be far above those of most of its drivers.

Maximum lateral acceleration is allegedly 1.04g, again on dry pavement. Both that and high-speed stability are enhanced by the extra downforce generated by the revised front end and the higher tail.

The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06's StabiliTrak system can be put into Competition mode, which allows more than the usual tire slip before activating brakes and/or engine systems to decrease speed or deal with oversteer or understeer. We had ample opportunity to appreciate its action on wet roads, when even half-throttle in a straight line could break the rear tires loose. It also allows a small amount of wheelspin on hard acceleration for optimum launches.

Because of a tall overdrive sixth gear, as well as abundant torque, a Corvette--even a fire-breathing Z06--can return good highway fuel economy at normal speeds. The 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is rated at 16mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway. We saw 22mpg overall, in mostly city and very subdued back-road driving, with a few attempts at blitzing freeway on-ramps.

As mentioned, active safety equipment in the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 includes exceedingly capable brakes and an excellent stability-control system. Still, with a car that has the capabilities of the Z06, investment in an advanced driving course will be money well spent. Passive safety equipment includes standard front and optional side air bags. Interestingly, OnStar is not available.

Like all Chevrolet products, the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, with six-year/100,000-mile rust-through coverage. Given the number of composite materials and aluminum, as well as unlikelihood of use on salted roads, rust shouldn't be a problem.

Discuss 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06