With the introduction of the C6 Corvette a few years ago, Chevrolet really upped the ante in the world of affordable supercar performance. This is especially true of the ZO6 model, which can hang with the big boys in the upper echelon of performance machines. Additionally, its retail price tag will only make you take out a second mortgage, rather than hawking everything you own, including your first-born child.
For 2007, Chevy didn't exactly reinvent the wheel with the Corvette, but the auto giant definitely refined the rough edges of the previous two model years. As with any new platform, be it automotive or anything else, the first year is usually spent working out the bugs, and trying to make improvements that will give future models better performance over past versions. Improvements can even trickle down from the 24 Hours of LeMans-winning Corvettes, like the decision with the C6 to use non-retractable headlights, something that undoubtedly caused a rusty taste in the back of Corvette purists' mouths (before the C6, the last time a Corvette didn't have the flip-up lights was 1962).
Our first victim in this tale of dueling Vettes is the coupe. It arrived equipped from GM with all the normal things you'd find in a straight-off-the-assembly-line model: the superior LS2 6.0L powerplant (which puts out a claimed 400 hp); GM's active handling system; computer-controlled traction control (which can, thank the gods, be turned off at the touch of a button); and speed-sensitive steering (which applies more force as the speed rises).
Both test cars were also equipped with the optional six-speed automatic, which, since 2006, have had easy-to-operate paddle shifters. However, in most situations, we left the shifting to the auto box, which lets you rev the car to your heart's content. Add to that powertrain the 3LT package, which includes a host of luxury-type items (Bose 7-speaker stereo, XM Satellite Radio, head-up display, and adjustable leather sport seats).
The real amazing part of the powertrain has to be the LS2 364ci V-8, making power that propels the '07 from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. On the Super Chevy-approved dragstrip, Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, the maroon-colored machine turned in a best time of 12.74 at 113 mph in the quarter-mile (that run was made at 3 p.m., with an outside temperature approaching 90 F).
This time was achieved with the transmission doing all the work itself. Attempts to better this e.t. by shifting ourselves with the paddles proved fruitless. On the road course, the paddles work great. They just don't shift quickly enough to make a difference in the quarter-mile. Once in a while you may get lucky and guess the proper shift point and go quicker, but this will be the exception, not the norm. Perhaps for 2008, the engineers will have gotten it perfect.
Also hindering dragstrip performance was Chevy's electronic torque management ninnies. Slapping the throttle to the floor produced nary a hint of wheelspin. You could feel the hesitation as the power came on progressively. This probably cost a few tenths. Our best 60-ft time was a 2.01 (done repeatedly), though our best e.t. came with a 2.03 short time. Still, we remember not too long ago when you needed a limited edition (and horribly expensive) 405-horse ZR-1 to run 12.8 or 12.9. Now the base Corvette coupe will eclipse these times.
Over on the Raceway Park road course, the C6 handled very predictably-with all the traction control assist (we like to refer to them as cheating) mechanisms turned off, the car ran around the track consistently in the 1.26 range, with a best of 1.25.09. (For comparison sake, our 2006 ZO6 test machine ran 1.21.92, with most laps in the low 1.22s.) This is extremely good considering that the car comes from the factory on run-flat tires-skins that are great for cruising, but not the optimal selection for proper corner carving.
That being said, if there's a slight push at corner entry, it's nothing a little trail-braking can't solve. As for a corner exit understeer problem, it's nothing the ample amounts of power-on oversteer can't solve. In reality, this car is just the right balance (for a car that sees mostly street driving) for just about any enthusiast.