Test Drive: 2006 Z06 - Silver Corvette C6

Once again, we drive the Z the way Chevy intended: hard

Vemp_0611_04_z 2006_c6_z06_test_drive Front_view_low 1/19

My job as VETTE's Web editor and staff photographer can be veryrewarding. This was especially true when the magazine staff had thechance to spend a week with the very last '06 Z06 in the GM press fleet.This Machine Silver beauty had seemingly made the rounds through everyautomotive press outlet in the eastern hemisphere, arriving on ourdoorstep just before its mandated retirement from service. Upon itsarrival, Editor Heath, former Associate Editor James Miles, and I madeour way to the parking lot to give "our" new toy the once-over. Likemost car guys, we started by pushing all the buttons, opening all thedoors and hatches, peering under the hood at the apocalyptic LS7, andgenerally drooling all over everything.

Vemp_0611_03_z 2006_c6_z06_test_drive Emblem_detail 2/19

Out on the streets, we saw more than a few heads turn (including a groupof street racers on the prowl) at the sight of the diminutive Z06 badgeand the "505 HP" inscribed above it. Note the pulverized love-bugentrails.

First dibs on driving naturally went to our illustrious editor andvocabulary scholar. My turn came a few days later, after shooting theZ06 in the confines of the Primedia Tampa photo studio and testing thestructural integrity of the car's hood (more on that later). I stoodlooking at the car before getting in, just soaking in the fact that Iwas holding the keys to one of the baddest pieces of Detroit muscle everto roll off an assembly line. It was almost as if the ghosts of HarleyEarl, Zora Arkus-Duntov, and Ed Cole appeared like Obi-Wan Kenobi. Theonly thing they said? "Have fun." [Are you sure "For the love of God,don't crash it" wasn't in there somewhere?--Ed.]

One of the first things I noticed about the car was how easily I couldget my 6-foot-2-inch frame in and out of Z06's cabin. Second was the greatvisibility the C6 has, with all-around vision requiring very few serioushead turns before changing lanes. The shifter was tight (and a littleclunky, which may have come from some of the abuse the car had seen),but the feel of shifting through the six gears was neverthelessspectacular.

But you've read stuff like this in other stories. Let's get to the funpart.

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Ah, yes, the heart of the beast. This marks the first time since 1969that GM has put a 427 in a passenger car. With apologies to Dan Aykroyd,this engine will suck the paint off your house and give your family apermanent orange Afro when it screams by.

After going to help a friend install a new radiator in his '65 L78Vette, I proceeded to drive the wheels off the Z. Despite myoverwhelming urge to shove the throttle through the floorboard everysecond, the car was easy to drive at the leisurely pace dictated by thehorsepower-challenged cars around me. The abundant torque of the LS7made cruising at 35 mph no sweat, but when speed was needed, a quickstab of the gas--usually without upshifting--launched the car down theroad like the proverbial bat out of hell.

As some of our colleagues who are allied with other auto manufacturerscan tell you, there's simply no substitute for the tire-scorchinglow-rpm grunt of a pushrod V-8. According to our dyno graphs, the Z06was channeling 380 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels at just above2,500 rpm. That means that with a solid launch, the car is virtuallyunbeatable from a standstill. And once above 100 mph, the Z06 is asstable as a "normal" car at 45. It was also deeply cool to be screamingthrough the streets of Tampa in only Third gear, knowing that I hadthree more gears to help me propel myself somewhere past warp speed, orinto the local jail. (For those of you who live near the Autobahn or ownyour own racetrack, Chevy lists the car's top speed as 198 mph.) Anotherinteresting thing we noticed was that even with the traction-controlsystem on, the Z still has enough power to get squirrelly in certainconditions. Turn the traction control off, and you'd better make sureyou've got an extra pair of pants with you.

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When was the last time you saw three scorchingly hot women on the hoodof a Corvette? We've already looked, and that Whitesnake video only hadone girl . . . and a Jaguar.

Maneuvering the Z06 on Tampa's roadways revealed that it had the kind ofgrip and handing accuracy usually found in a race car. The car turnedtightly around every turn, the rack-and-pinion unit giving great drivingfeel without any mushiness or "wander." The suspension, however, wasalso surprisingly compliant. I didn't get any sense of theteeth-rattling ride that typically comes with high-performance cars likethis. Even over the expansion joints of the Gandy Boulevard Bridge, anotorious local street racers' hangout (not that we'd engage in anythinglike that), the car was as smooth as silk.

Looking back on the experience, I realize that I got to (a) shoot threeextremely gorgeous ladies with an equally hot car, (b) drive said carlike there was no tomorrow, and (c) avoid arrest while doing it. To sumup the new Z06 and the sort of fun it facilitates (and I know EditorHeath will edit this): ****-ing awesome!

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