2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Alex P

We met those horses, and we abused them in four countries and on two racetracks in three days, and they were clearly built to take it. You can head straight to the autocross with your Z06 and not live in fear of imminent equipment failure. (Speaking of fear, on the track, we found the intermediate Competition mode of the traction control system, which allows some wheel spin but abhors spinouts, to have potentially life-preserving properties.)

The Z06 is not without fault. Interior plastics have come a long way but still have several thousand miles to go. The combination of a cavernous cargo space behind the seats with nineteen-inch Goodyear run-flats almost a foot wide is always going to be sonically punishing in a plastic car. Tire noise is seriously for keeps. Then there is the Z06's Tremec six-speed manual transmission. Its heavy innards are placed just ahead of the rear axle for better weight distribution. It is clearly a more pleasant unit than Corvette gearboxes of the past, boasting shorter throws than C4s and C5s and a less obtrusive first-to-fourth econo-shift. It remains, however, despite the action of a lighter clutch, very much the manly shifting device. Not so much a joy to use but torture no more.

The driveline now emerges as the key irritant, making a nasty noise whenever the LS7 is being lugged. The engine itself is completely amenable to low rpm. But try them, and then up comes the sound of a UFO, an unidentified frying object, a.k.a. drive-line "sizzle." It's reminiscent of the sound of the worn rock-crusher transmissions that are found in old muscle cars and heavy-duty trucks. The Corvette engineers knew what we were talking about when we mentioned it, and they told us that it afflicts only Z06 manual transmissions. They said they were working on it.

Still, you don't have to hit the Rhine wine to see that the Z06-and the standard Corvette with its new six-speed automatic-could do some business in Europe. It's not just Americana, it's an amazing performance achievement.

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