This is the moment I’ve been waiting for
I slide behind the wheel and get myself settled in. With a touch of the push to start button, the 650 horsepower LT4 V8 roars to life. I am ready to drive the 2015 Corvette Z06 at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Nevada.
But first, let’s set the scene:
The heritage of the Z06 dates back to 1963 when those in the know checked the appropriate box on the order form. Only 199 buyers did and what they got was a 1963 Corvette ready to go racing right out the box. The original Z06s featured fuel injected small blocks along with a beefed suspension and big brakes, and a 36-gallon fuel tank for extra fuel capacity over the regular Sting Rays.
Chevrolet brought back the name in 2001 on the C5 and it was the 2006 C6 where Chevy really upped their game, offering 505 horsepower with its 7.0 liter LS7.
And now Chevrolet is back with the Z06 built on the C7 platform. The first thing you notice when you see the Z06 is just how wide it is compared to the Corvette Stingray. To fit those big Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, Chevy increased the rear corners by 3.15 inches and the fronts are 2.2 inches wider than the Stingray. The front grill sports huge duct openings to cool those massive 15.5 inch Brembo carbon ceramic brakes. Chevrolet also brought back a now-familiar Z06 design/engineering feature of the rear brake cooling ducts right behind the doors.
But one of the most distinctive features on the Corvette Z06 are the three levels of aerodynamics available and the range is most definitely mild to wild. The front splitter works in conjunction with the side and rear diffuser to create the most downforce that GM has ever seen in their testing.
Under the hood is a the aforementioned supercharged LT4 V8 with 650 horsepower and 650 lbs-ft torque. The Corvette team listed to its customers by offering the car with either the standard 7-speed manual or the new 8-speed automatic transmission. Other options like Magnetic Selective Ride Control which monitors road conditions and driver input and adjusts the shocks so fast you’ll travel just an inch as 60 mph. The Electronic Limited-Slip Differential (eLSD) is constantly moving torque to the left and right tires on the rear to maximize grip and stability. Both are great for providing a smooth comfortable ride while grocery-getting and both are even better if your tracking the car.
And speaking of the track, that’s were I find myself behind the flat-bottomed wheel of the Corvette Z06 at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch. As the 8-speed is new, we choose an A8-equipped Z06 and waited for our signal to proceed from race control.
Having done the Stingray School at Spring Mountain just two months prior to the Z06 test, I felt very comfortable as we made our way around. But that first foray on the race track was a real eye opener.
First, there was the automatic transmission. What was interesting in that first recon lap was feeling the transmission shifting much like it would do if you were driving normally on regular roads. But that transmission can sense how you are driving and once it determines that “hey, this guy wants to drive fast”, the transmission shifts became longer as the car takes advantage of the available torque. And one you hammer down, those wide-open throttle shifts are crisp and fast.
The other revelation was the Corvette Z06’s Brembo carbon ceramic brakes that are part of the Z07 Performance Package. The stopping power of these brakes cannot be adequately described, but think hitting a brick wall without all the damage. Those Brembo brakes, 6-piston monoblocks up front, 4-piston in the rear, are the Corvette Z06’s pièce de résistance. Chevrolet says they’ll stop the Z06 in less than 100 feet from 60 MPH. Another mind blowing stat: At 25 MPH, the Corvette Z06 can stop in less than a full car length.
On the track, the limits of the Corvette Z06’s performance were far beyond what this driver would muster, but that’s one of the things that makes the Corvette Z06 a great track car. Throttle response is nearly instant. Roaring down that straight at 120 MPH and then making a right-hander at almost 90 MPH, the car magically sticks to the track through its combination of massive downforce and super sticky Michelins.
Following our on-track time with the Corvette Z06, it was time to take a drive through the Nevada desert. Again, our Corvette Z06 of choice was a Z07 with the 8-speed automatic. As we left Pahrumph, Nevada in our rear-view, the road ahead of us was spectacular. There was a section where I swear you could the road go on for miles. We heard of more than auto journalist in our group whose got into three digits, some more significantly than others, and the rumor was a member of the Corvette team got a speeding ticket earlier in the week.
Like the Stingray, the Z06 has same five driving modes that can be selected via a knob on the center console. Driving a 650-hp super car in Eco mode sounds pretty lame (wait until they hear it was an automatic) but the LT4 is one of the first supercharged engines with cylinder deactivation so we gave it try. For like two minutes. The Touring mode provides a very comfortable ride and with the automatic, the drive can be somewhat boring. Switching to Sport mode stiffens up the suspension and steering while giving the exhaust a throtty growl. Finally Race mode provides the coolest graphics on the Corvette’s display, the tightest suspension and the sound from the exhaust is wide open.
The Z06 coupe starts at $79,990 after destination charges and for the most performance, upgrade to the Z07 package and the price is still just $91,000. The Corvette Z06 we drove was nicely optioned and had an MSRP that was just over $103,000.
Chevrolet has been claiming the Corvette Z06 as the most capable Corvette ever made. We found the car to be extremely fast in both straight line and around the track, where its aerodynamics and sticky Michelins offer confidence at every corner. Inside, the car is comfortable and quiet and we loved our Z06s Bose stereo system. For us, the best option bar none are the Brembo Ceramic Brakes from the Z07 package. Paraphrasing, Faris Bueller, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up!”
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[PICS] The 2015 Corvette Z06 Revealed at NAIAS