With the 2007 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, the name of the game is acceleration. The car is blindingly fast--when you stomp the accelerator, the world gets blurry. The Z06 has been clocked at 3.5 seconds from 0 to 60mph, which is super-car territory. Driving on public roads, this acceleration means you can pull in between fast-moving traffic or pass on two-lane highways with little worry.
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 have 20 minutes to make it over 11 miles of winding mountain roads.
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.
With a navigation system and automatic climate control, the Corvette Z06 has more cabin tech than you might expect.
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.
With the navigation system present, you lose the 6 CD changer, which is part of the 2LZ Preferred Equipment package, in favor of a single disc slot behind the screen. Both the changer and the single disc slot read MP3 CDs, but we found it skipped a lot of tracks on the burned CDs we played. Certain songs wouldn't appear in the track listing, nor would they play when we chose a particular folder, suggesting the CD player is picky when it comes to media.
We also had XM satellite radio included, and found the interface for it and standard broadcast radio particularly nice. Presets are shown in big buttons on the screen, with six presets per page. This head unit connects to a seven-speaker Bose audio system, which has two speakers in each door, two speakers in the cargo area, behind the seats, and a subwoofer. The system sounded pretty good when the car was stationary, but quickly gets overwhelmed by cabin noise when underway.
While driving, there is plenty of noise from the engine, the tires, and the body panels, which rattle a bit. Although by some standards the cabin is luxuriously appointed, Chevrolet opted to keep the weight down by not surrounding the car with sound-dampening materials. For anyone interested in a Corvette Z06, this trade-off is worthwhile.
Under the hood
Measures taken to lighten the car become apparent when you first open the doors. They move easily, without any heaviness. Carbon-fiber front fenders and cabin floor help the Z06 shed about 50 pounds from the standard Corvette's 3,217-pound curb weight.
But the most noticeable performance element of the Corvette Z06 is the massive 7-liter, 505 horsepower LS7 V-8 engine. With 470 pounds-per-foot of torque at 4,800rpm, the naturally aspirated LS7 engine pushes the Corvette to 60mph from a stop in 3.5 seconds. It is a truly singular feeling to mash the accelerator, work through a few gears, and watch as the world starts to fly by at an unbelievable pace.
The heads-up display is invaluable for keeping your eyes on the road.
Given the Corvette Z06's performance, one of its most useful tech features is the heads-up display. This display projects the car's speed and a graphic of an analog tachometer on the front windshield. The display's position is adjustable, so you can put it close to your forward line of sight, or keep it closer to the hood. It has a number of different modes that show additional information, such as oil temperature and lateral G-forces. In practice, we found it works extremely well, and we relied on it to quickly to check our speed.
The six-speed, manual transmission has good gear ratios and we like the short throws on the shifter, but it doesn't feel as precise as the transmission in the Honda S2000. It also has an annoying little feature that skips a few gears when you shift at low RPMs. For example, if you're rolling along in traffic and try to shift from second to third, it will shunt you up to fifth. With its high horsepower, the engine doesn't have a problem moving the car at 1,500rpm in fifth gear; this feature is designed to avoid the gas guzzler tax, as it sort of games the EPA testing. You can also defeat it by running the RPMs up between shifts.
The massive 7-liter LS7 engine is a thing of beauty.
Even with this upshift feature, the Corvette Z06 only gets 14mpg in the city and 24mpg on the highway in the revised EPA testing. During our time with the car, we got 14.5mpg. Along with its minimal LEV II emissions rating from the California Air Resources Board, it's not exactly a green car.
But it's also not a car on which you would rack up a lot of miles, as it's not all that practical for commuting or grocery runs. No, the Corvette Z06 is best used on a day off, when you can take it over windy mountain roads. The car's wide tires and low center of gravity contribute to excellent handling, taking us around hard corners at speed effortlessly, with no wheel slip or hops. We were often surprised at the car's speed in a corner, because it didn't feel that fast.
The 2007 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 has a base price of $69,175. Our test car came with the 2LZ Preferred Equipment package ($3,485), chrome aluminum wheels ($1,995), and the navigation system ($1,750). With an $825 destination charge, the car priced out to $77,230. Given the performance of the Corvette Z06 and its tech features, the price is very good.
We've reviewed a few two-seaters, such as the Honda S2000 and the Mazda MX-5, but nothing with an engine this large. In technology and engine power, the Corvette Z06 is more akin to the BMW M5 or the Audi A6. But it lacks some of the refined technology and luxury elements of these sedans, ultimately putting the Corvette Z06 in a class by itself.