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2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 review:

2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

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The one really high-tech performance item on the Corvette Z06 was the magnetic ride system, which constantly monitored the way the car was reacting to the road and driving style, adjusting the viscosity of the shock fluid to compensate. A knob on the console let us select from a Sport or a Touring setting.

The six-speed manual takes some strength to shift.

With the suspension in Sport, the ride is hard, and on anything less than perfect pavement, it felt like we were getting hit repeatedly with a bag full of oranges. Putting the car in Touring mode, everything loosened up just a little, so that it felt like the bag hitting us was full of hamsters.

The Corvette Z06 is not a car you want to jump in for a quick trip to the grocery store. The trip might be quick, but this is not an easy driver. We had to be careful modulating clutch and gas just to get it going. Lacking a hill-start feature, we had to bring all of our San Francisco driving skill to bear when sitting in traffic on a steep hill, waiting for a light to turn.

Driving in traffic was sheer torture, the shifter requiring serious strength to run it through the gears, the engine burbling along loudly, and the differential audibly grinding behind the cabin. The knowledge of what the car could be doing, given the right conditions, made traffic driving all that much worse.

Heating up
The stitched leather lining the cabin helped us appreciate the big price tag for the car, but we weren't crazy about the cabin's ergonomics. With the seat adjusted for good clutch operation, our knees were up again the underside of the dash. Much of the sound deadening and heat protection also seems to have been removed for the Z06.

We could feel the heat from the front firewall and the transmission tunnel. Chevrolet thoughtfully put a USB port in the console hatch, useful for plugging in an iPod, but we don't recommend using it. We left an iPod Touch in the console, spent a good day out driving, and suddenly the stereo wouldn't recognize the iPod as an audio source. Opening the hatch, we found the iPod was too hot to handle, which must have caused it to shut down.

This is one of the worst-looking maps we've seen in a long time.

That iPod connection and OnStar's telematics service are the two most advanced cabin tech features. The stereo, with a decent-sounding Bose seven-speaker system, offered only terrestrial and XM radio, and a single-CD slot hidden behind the navigation screen. The iPod interface was slow to show artist and album names. But the audio system doesn't matter too much in this car, as it is usually drowned out by road noise.

The navigation system is not worth the option price. It looked like something that came from a time before GPS even existed. DVD-based, the route calculations were slow and the maps had awful resolution. Forget about traffic information or text to speech.

Our car also came with a no-frills Bluetooth phone system, a strictly voice-command system with no onscreen feedback. This one is initially a little tricky to figure out, as you have to press and hold the voice command button on the steering wheel. Pressing it once merely mutes the stereo.

The Corvette Z06's most useful feature for track driving is its head up display, a projection on the windshield with different modes. In Track mode it shows speed, tach, and g-forces. Standard driving mode is a more limited display, with just speed and tach.

In sum
Track performance is really the 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06's purpose, its big, 7-liter engine allowing precise throttle control but not much efficiency. The six-speed manual isn't the smoothest shifting gearbox, but the one-four shunt is a smart feature. The magnetic-ride technology is an advanced piece of performance tech, along with the ceramic brakes.

This Corvette looks good. It's a low-down powerful sports car with a unique design. It won't be mistaken for anything else. We had some issues with legroom in the cabin, but other than that, the ergonomics are good, with a decent amount of space under the hatch, which is also accessible from inside the cabin. The cabin tech interface drags the whole design score down, with its haphazard buttons and blocky graphics.

The only saving grace for cabin tech is OnStar and the head up display, both useful and unique features. The Corvette Z06 is one of the few cars we would recommend not getting with the navigation system. The audio system is passable, but nothing to brag about.

Tech specs
Model 2011 Chevrolet Corvette
Trim Z06
Power train 7-liter V-8, six-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy 15 mpg city/24 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 14.5 mpg
Navigation DVD-based
Bluetooth phone support Optional
Disc player MP3-compatible single-CD
MP3 player support iPod integration
Other digital audio USB drive, satellite radio
Audio system Bose seven-speaker system
Driver aids Head up display, telematics system
Base price $74,305
Price as tested $98,010

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