2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Four Seasons Test

Glenn Paulina
Full Driver Side View

Give some credit to the Active Handling stability system, which features a "Competitive Mode" that turns off the traction control but retains the stability control. The system was refined for 2001 to be quicker-acting and yet less intrusive, and technical editor Don Sherman praised the results: "They nailed those important calibrations."

As awesome as it was, the Z06's track prowess wasn't really a surprise. "We know this is a great car for the track," executive editor Mark Gillies pointed out. "But it's also a very usable sports car. The huge amount of torque means you can be lazy with shifting. The ride is surprisingly compliant, and, though it's a big car, it's easy to place."

Indeed, Big Red's big revelation was how easy this racing car is to live with.

Side Engine View

The first thing one might expect given the Z06's hard-core specification is that the ride would beat you up, but we found it surprisingly supple, although the wide tires made for a good deal of tramlining. Nonetheless, comfortable seats, a roomy interior, and a reasonable luggage compartment made the Z06 a popular choice even for long trips. New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman drove it from New York to Michigan and filed this report: "A red Corvette is probably the stupidest car you could choose for interstate travel. I enjoyed my own police escort for large portions of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Nonetheless, this is a supremely competent long-distance tourer--fast (oh so fast), comfortable, and economical. This last is a real surprise, as you don't usually expect 27 miles per gallon from a 385-horsepower car. Yet at a steady 80 mph, with occasional forays into the triple digits, our Z06 was sipping gas like a Corolla."

The source of the Vette's highway economy, and resultant bladder-stretching range, is its gearing. When you shift into sixth, it's as if you've switched off the ignition. Fifth is an overdrive as well. Happily, the LS6's reserves of torque are deep enough that the Corvette still steps out if you boot it. The sky-high fifth and sixth ratios provoked little carping, but GM's first-to-fourth skip shift still inspires loathing. And even when your shifts are not being guided by an invisible hand, this gearbox is less than fluid. But at least the heavy-duty clutch has humane efforts and is easy to modulate.

The biggest road-trip downer was booming tire noise (particularly with the snows on), mostly a result of the trunk being open to the cabin. As for the cabin ambience, staffers fell firmly in both camps. For everyone who complained about cheesy materials, someone else praised the seats, the gauges, the switches, even the red-and-black color scheme.

If road noise was the Z06's weakness on the highway, then maneuverability was its most pronounced flaw around town. For a two-seater, the Corvette feels pretty huge, never more so than when you've got the wheel cranked at full lock, as the Z06's turning circle is 42.3 feet (curb to curb), three feet larger than a standard Vette's.

Full Front View

In all, a year of nit-picking and abuse didn't much dim our enthusiasm for this big red sports car, and it even revealed some hidden talents. "There's something so soulful and right-on about the Z06 that you can forgive it for its shortcomings," said senior editor Eddie Alterman. "Put the throttle down, and all is forgiven."

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