Car and Driver Technical Editor Michael Austin recently put Chevrolet’s best Corvettes – the ZR1 and the Z06 – against one another, giving us what he loves about the Corvette but at the same time telling us what it needs to do to remain relevant as it enters its seventh generation.
He recently pushed the two flagship Corvettes to their limits at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in Desert Center, California and came away impressed but at the same disappointed.
“The ZR1 has always been kind of a showpiece,” Austin says. “It’s the car you want for Woodward Avenue or any stoplight races, and yeah, it’s quicker and faster than the Z06. But it’s just kind of a little bit of flaunting, like you know you’ve got this clear lens on the hood that shows plastic and the top of the intercooler which is really showing nothing really. It’s a lot like wearing transparent pants. When you’re packing this much power, you don’t need transparent pants – people are gonna know.”
Austin actually prefers the less expensive Z06. “It’s a little bit lighter,” he says. “The engine feels more responsive. Some of that’s just the noise it makes; it revs higher and it seems like when you put your foot down, the throttle is a lot more meaty.”
In fact, he says, “that’s what makes the Z06 my favorite Corvette, because it just has this noise all the time. It makes you always want to floor it and let off real quick and hear that cackle from the exhaust.”
Austin believes the Z06 is a better value than the ZR1. “Its base price is $76,575, which is not really a number you associate with value, but it’s a lot less than the ZR1,” he says.
However, by the time you check all the option boxes on a Z06, get ready for sticker shock, according to Austin. “It’s got the ZR1-style carbon body kit, has the carbon ceramic brakes, it has the magnetic ride performance management, all told it’s like $24,000 worth of options. Hmmmm, a $100,000 Z06 is a little iffy.”
Austin believes the exterior of the highly anticipated next generation of the Corvette won’t be radically different, but he’s hoping the interior is.
“The Corvette always gets benchmarked against cars like the Porsche Carrera and the Nissan GT-R, which are way more expensive, but still you can’t help but make the comparison,” Austin says. “And that’s one place the Corvette has always fallen short.”
And at least one more time before the C7 comes out, a magazine writer has to complain about the Corvette’s seats, calling them “really, really terrible.” Austin also hates the “relic” of a radio in the C6.
Besides “newer, better” seats in the C7 and an improved entertainment system, Austin predicts “a lot more room” in the center tunnel and “maybe even a little more” storage in the center console.
Austin even believes this may be the last of the mighty ZR1s. “We’re not even sure if it’s gonna come back, and I’m gonna make the most of the time I have left in the ZR1, doing mostly stupid stuff.”
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