Nearing its 60th birthday, the Chevrolet Corvette is arguably the most highly recognized and popular production sports car built in North America. The current-generation Corvette debuted in 2005, with the carmaker amending the vehicle with various trims and tweaks in recent years.
For 2011, Chevy introduced a mid-step between the base model Z06 and top-of-the line ZR1. It’s a Z06 featuring for the first time an upgrade offering select ZR1 features like an adaptive suspension, grippier Michelin tires and a carbon fiber package.
The result is a trio of impressive statistics: 505 horsepower, a top speed of 198 mph and the designation as the lightest Corvette at 3,178 pounds.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
After reviewing around 300 cars and trucks since 2003, two have attracted extraordinary attention — the 2008 Audi A8 W12 Quattro and my just completed week with the 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06.
The Audi A8 defines performance, luxury sedan. Friends who have little interest in cars except as efficient transportation fawned over the Audi A8. It’s the size of spacious, plush small apartment. And it’s a sedan for cruising down the open road, preferably somewhere in Europe.
The 2011 Corvette Z06 is a high-performance sports car enthusiast’s dream. Push the ignition button, hear the growl. Its presence entering freeways and maneuvering through traffic impresses the hard to impress. Drivers of entry level cars strain to pass the Corvette seemingly just to know (and maybe tell friends) they “beat a ‘Vette.”
Truth be told, I prefer comfort to speed and efficiency to performance in cars. But during my weekly drive with the Z06, I was increasingly torn. Corvettes are ridiculous machines begging to showcase their mechanical testosterone. There’s no finesse, no elegance. Then again, a lot can be accomplished with 505 horsepower, carbon fiber, ceramic brakes, a beautifully menacing profile and a healthy dose of attitude.
My weekly test drive was the Z06 equipped with three option packages — 3LZ ($7,170.00) Ultimate (9,495.00) and Carbon Fiber ($3,995.00). The options turn the “base” model Z06 into a wonderland of performance, electronic wizardry and state-of-the-art convenience.
As a result, casual onlookers or first-time Corvette drivers (like me) were curious if slightly overwhelmed and disinterested. Corvette enthusiasts (including Corvette-owning friends) couldn’t get enough of the beast.
The lack of a spare (the Z06 has run-flat tires) helps explain a rarity in sports cars — a vast trunk. Is there a sports car with a larger cargo area?
The raised carbon fiber hood. Give the designer a raise. It’s perfect.
Exterior color. Sometimes tradition isn’t the best option. Black, red and yellow Corvettes move aside. The Supersonic Blue Metallic exterior (available for the first time in 2011) assumes the color option leadership role.
Exterior design. Close your eyes and envision a modern-day sports car. I’m thinking it’s a Corvette. It’s chiseled. It’s so brutally handsome (thanks, Don Henley/Glenn Frey), it turns heads even among those who believe cars are necessary evils.
Push-button interior door “handles.”
Head-up mph windshield display.
The need to crank up the radio a notch or two higher than normal. Why? It’ll be required if you want to hear what’s playing. Road, tire and wind noise are plentiful and constant.
Not too many sports cars are easy to enter or exit. The Corvette has the most severe ingress and egress of any car I’ve driven, with the exception of a Hummer.
Keen aerodynamics is crucial in fast cars. That’s understood. But the carbon fiber front-fascia splitter’s extraordinarily low ground clearance (4.8 inches) presents a constant concern over any speed bump, driveway or curb. It’s a major deterrent to any consideration of the Z06 as a daily driver.
In a car approaching $100,000 are comfortable seats too much to expect?
Rough ride. Know the term “every bump in the road?” You will now.
Facts & Figures: 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 3.7 seconds.
Airbags: drive and passenger front and side-impact.
Antilock brakes: Standard.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 15 mpg (city), 24 mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: Not tested.
Engine: 7.0-liter, 505 horsepower V8
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $74,305.00
Price as tested: $98,010.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Drivetrain; 5 years/100,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/ 100,000 miles.
Manufacturer’s website: www.chevrolet.com
What Others Say:
“Quick steering, tenacious smooth-road grip, and little cornering lean make Corvette, and particularly the ZR1, among the world’s best-handling cars. But in fast turns, the Z06, more than the ZR1, requires careful use of the throttle, or the rear end will fishtail.” —- Consumer Guide.
“I was regularly prompted to bully my way through traffic to find the wide-open spots where I could press pedal to metal and risk a vehicular impound. And, while doing so, enjoy the upward counting of the digital speedometer reflecting in the windshield. Looking down at the car’s fuel economy was, however, a buzz kill. I was averaging 13.5 miles per gallon.” —- Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times.
“Let’s start with the CFZ carbon-fiber package. It looks mean, but it’s also a huge pain in the butt. The extended front lip scrapes on everything, and the carbon-fiber roof panel doesn’t shed enough weight to make a noticeable difference in acceleration. If you’re not going to drive your Corvette at speeds where it will try to lift — I’m guessing 150 MPH plus — all the aero kit really does is make an expensive scraping sound on moderately-raked driveways and speed bumps.” —- Aaron Gold, About.com Cars.
What The Wife Says:
“It’s a race horse that’s not content giving pony rides. My two favorite features are the push button doors and the perfectly positioned mph readout. I also like the ease of reverse gear.”
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“It’s beautiful. It’s fast. It commands attention. But does any driver want their car to determine how they live their daily life?” If you love the Z06, live near or take vacations near racetracks. That’s where the car belongs and where it deserves to be driven without reservation or hesitation.”