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The 2001 Z06

The Corvette Team Builds On Zora’s Legacy To Produce The Quickest, Most Responsive Corvette Ever

Ronnie Hartman Sep 1, 2000

Step By Step

We all recognized how significantly the Corvette improved with the introduction of the C5 in 1997. Now, just a few short years later, Chevrolet has raised the bar again. For 2001, enthusiasts can look forward to increased agility, refinement, and yes—performance! The convertible and the coupe have been enhanced with 21st-century technology in very significant doses, but the biggest thrill for performance mongers will undoubtedly be the new hardtop, officially renamed the Z06 in honor of Zora’s performance package from 1963 (see accompanying story). Not since the ZR-1 has there been so much to get excited about. The Corvette team had promised when it first introduced the C5 hardtop that it would be targeted for future performance development, and the Z06 is proof they meant business.

There has been much speculation all year about improved performance for 2001, and GM has delivered. The new convertible and coupe’s standard LS1 V-8 produces 350 hp, up from 345, but the low end of the torque curve is where the engineers have really worked this year’s magic. They opened up the intake system and tweaked the camshaft profile to produce more takeoff and passing power. The automatic with the standard rear-axle ratio will do 0-60 in 4.9 seconds; the six-speed in 4.5 seconds flat. And the Z06? Just 4 short seconds, and the quarter-mile in 12.6. And, of course, refinements abound.

Second-Generation Active Handling

The Active Handling system, an option introduced part way through the 1998 production year, is not only greatly enhanced, but standard on all 2001 models. Corvette engineers knew better than to design a system that would intrude on performance enthusiasts’ fun, so they’ve designed one that won’t even be noticeable to most. Smart, but never intrusive, the system calculates the car’s intended path, its actual path and road conditions, using onboard sensors and sophisticated calibration algorithms. Sensitive to the driver’s over-correction or under-correction, it steps in only when things get out of hand, adroitly bringing the vehicle back into balance in emergency situations. The system balances rear brake pressure to prevent lockup, and offers better rear brake stability under light braking and high lateral acceleration conditions. In conjunction with the traction-control system, Active Handling enhances power and handling while exerting control over excessive wheelspin, which the average driver should appreciate.

Of course, few enthusiasts consider themselves “average” drivers, but the truly advanced can switch off the traction-control element of the system by choosing Competitive Mode (which can now be activated without coming to a full stop) to enjoy a little rear wheelspin during competitive driving events. At the great unveiling on April 30, Chief Engineer Dave Hill assured us that the system is designed to accurately assess the driver’s ability, so if you’re really good, you don’t have to worry about it cramping your style. As he took the wheel at the festivities at Mid Ohio, the smile on Dave’s face said it didn’t cramp his. It obviously gave him great satisfaction to put this car through its paces. When these cars get into enthusiasts’ hands, you’ll hear that this Corvette was worth waiting for.

A More Refined C5

Although rated first in appeal the past three years, the new Corvette takes technology and aesthetics into the 21st century, too. All 2001 models will get the stronger, larger-diameter aluminum driveshaft developed for the Z06, and those who order manual transmissions will note decreased pedal effort with the new, stronger clutch designed with greater clamping power to handle Z06’s increased torque. Other refinements include smoother, quieter city driving, thanks to a new alternator clutch pulley that allows a reduction of engine idle speed on automatic-equipped models; optional driver-side and interior rear-view electrochromic mirrors which respond to and dim glare automatically; and even reduced maintenance costs and improved environmental considerations. Recommended oil-change intervals are now 15,000 miles (or one year), and fuel economy has improved a full mile per gallon with both automatic and manual transmissions. (Was anyone actually complaining about fuel economy?) All 2001 Corvettes meet the toughest new environmental requirements.

All 2001 models are quieter inside, but convertible owners will be especially impressed by the wind and road noise reduction afforded by this year’s new door and roof seals, strategically placed sound-absorbing baffles, and the beefier, better-tailored, five-layer cloth top.

The plain-Jane C5 exhaust gets new chrome-flashed tips, which certainly improves appearance, while the Z06 gets a revolutionary and completely new exhaust system (more about that later).

Another enhancement for 2001 is a new, lighter, more heat resistant Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) battery capable of being run down and recharged more times than a standard lead acid battery.

Two new colors will be introduced for the 2001 model year. Speedway White replaces Arctic White, and a brighter Quicksilver replaces Sebring Silver. Z06—Pinnacle Of Performance

Apply any yardstick you like to the new Z06 for 2001, and you’ll measure a winner. Like its 1963 counterpart, it’s race ready, right off the production line. The new LS6 engine, based on the 5.7L LS1, delivers 385 hp (at 6,000 rpm) and 385 lb-ft of torque (at 4,800 rpm). The LS6 designation again references past accomplishments—Zora’s legendary big-block from 1971, only this time we can count on production of more than 188 of them!

You’ll be able to spot a Z06 easily, even on the move. In addition to the “Z06” emblazoned on both sides, you’ll see functional air inlets on the front fascia that deliver cool air to the improved intake system, and airscoops on both rear rocker panels for better brake cooling. And it would be hard to miss the red disc-brake calipers. That’s the outside. Lift the hood and you’ll find red beauty covers on the LS6 engine. The interior offers a different instrument panel which, among other things, highlights the new, higher 6,500-rpm redline. The Z06 logo is embroidered in the standard black headrests, and the seats have additional side bolstering to keep occupants firmly anchored during those full-G maneuvers. There’s an eye-popping option for the interior, too, that includes Torch Red accents on the seats. Otherwise, it’s basically the same great C5 styling.

There are other goodies, but enough about cosmetics. The new LS6’s aluminum block has been modified to better manage crankcase pressures and return oil from the upper part of the engine quicker under high-speed conditions. Higher-compression cylinder heads (10.5:1) with improved porting deliver additional air to the combustion chambers, while larger fuel injectors provide additional doses of fuel. Don’t bother doing the math—you’ll measure it by the seat of your pants.

Another item unique to the Z06 is its all-new exhaust system, manufactured entirely of titanium. This less-restrictive system reduces exhaust gas backpressure while weighing in at 50 percent less than its predecessor. This is the first-ever application of this metal in a mass-production vehicle. It’s important to note that with time and exercise, the silvery metal matures to various blue tones, ensuring a distinctive look beyond its brand new one.

But that’s not all. The Z06 has its own special M12 six-speed transmission. More aggressive gearing increases torque multiplication for faster acceleration and more usable torque at higher speeds. It’ll do 0-60 in 4 seconds flat, and the quarter-mile in an impressive 12 seconds. It comes with built-in self protection, too. If things cook up too much, a temperature sensor will alert the driver to let things cool off before damage occurs.

The FE4 suspension system, exclusive to the Z06, maximizes high-speed driving control utilizing a larger front stabilizer bar, stiffer rear leaf spring, and revised camber settings. Negative camber “flattens” the tires for greater grip in the corners, a big advantage on the track. Wider wheels and tires also help improve the Z06’s grip. Wider front and rear than on the coupe and convertible, the wheels are painted light gray metallic and have a look all their own, nicely showcasing the Z06 red brake calipers. At the same time, they are the most mass-efficient aluminum Corvette wheels ever.

Goodyear has developed a wider tire for the Z06—an inch wider front and rear. The four Goodyear Eagle F1 SC (Supercar) tires are 23 pounds lighter than those on the coupe or convertible, and the asymmetric tread pattern enhances both wet and dry cornering. Because they aren’t run-flats, the Z06 is equipped with a Tire Inflator Kit that can seal punctures up to 5 mm in diameter. Z06 wheels do not allow for the tire-pressure monitoring feature found in the other C5 models, but that’s a small price to pay for the performance benefit.

GM went to great lengths to take weight off the Z06, even to the point of fashioning a thinner, lighter windshield and rear backlight. Options are limited to maintain weight loss, but dual-zone electronic temperature control is standard. Even so, improvements to this year’s hardtop combined to shave 38 pounds off its total curb weight, leaving it a svelte 3,115 pounds. It’s 95 pounds lighter than the 2001 convertible, and 99 pounds lighter than the coupe!

How does the power-to-weight ratio stack up against the competition? The pounds-to-horsepower ratio is 8.09—better by a long shot than the 2000 BMW M [series] (12.1), the Audi TT (11.8), and the Porsche Boxter (11.4). Better, even, than Ferrari’s Modena (8.21) and the Porsche Turbo (8.19). We couldn’t find more recent stats on the Viper, but the ’99 lines up at 7.51. (2001 coupe and convertible ratio is 9.18 hp/lbs.)

No Need To Wait Any Longer

The finicky Corvette team made sure that all the test Corvettes, not just the Z06, underwent grueling trials to ensure showroom-to-racetrack capabilities. Those tests included 250 miles of full-bore autocrossing, 24 hours of competition-level road course driving, and running at top speed (175 mph) till the tanks ran dry, which typically took about 30 minutes. Afterward, they were taken apart and inspected for damage and wear, so any weaknesses could be corrected. Quality control has become more important, and they aim to deliver a product that will please the most discriminating buyer. If you’ve been holding off, waiting for the rumored improvements, get in line for a 2001 Corvette. You won’t be disappointed.

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