Being a patriotic group, we weren't about to let these furriners run wild on our soil without providing an American alternative. Designed and conceived in the early 1950s as a response to all those fufu Jaguars and MGs that had been garnering attention on the coasts, the Corvette has consistently been Detroit's most effective import fighter simply by offering more. More power, more performance, and more noise for a bargain price. Case in point, the 430-hp base Corvette would have been the second most powerful car in this group, but the Chevy's price advantage was such that we were able to supersize the engine to 7.0 liters and still keep the base prices close. As we roll onto the track, we feel some trepidation, and with good reason. The Z06 sends more power to its rear wheels than the GT-R does to all four, and it weighs some 700 pounds less. It also sounds much, much nastier, the deceptively civil idle giving way under full throttle to a fury that road test coordinator Mike Ofiara describes as "scaryloudmake-mewannacry."
Still, most of our jitters were unfounded. Just as Porsche has managed to restrain the 911's most dangerous tendencies, so, too, have Chevy engineers relentlessly improved the Corvette. The latest batch of refinements for the 2011 Z06 comes courtesy of big-brother ZR1 and can be ordered as the Z06 Carbon Limited Edition. The new package includes carbon-ceramic brake rotors, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires, carbon-fiber ZR1 aero and body components, and some interior tweaks. With the fatter tires, the Z06 claws tenaciously in corners, the rears breaking traction only under injudicious applications of power. The Z06 does get a bit hairy in bumpy corners, where it's easy to apply too much power and find yourself doing a noisy, smoky pirouette. Shifting is another issue, as the gas and brake pedals are poorly spaced for quick blips down into second gear and the beefy shifter makes it easy to miss the change back into third. For this reason, it's best to stay in third the entire run. And that's just fine by the brawny V-8. Even with the granny shifting, the Vette manages the second fastest lap of the group. "Given enough time, I could probably get the Z06 to lap fastest, but the GT-R's computers make it easy to get great times right out of the box," Cammisa notes.
After a full morning at the track, the cars are none the worse for the wear, but the people are all sunburned and starving. Eventually, we want to be back in Los Angeles, as we have the noble goal of parking near the beach, taking pictures, and looking fabulous, but we're in no rush to sit in traffic. So, we meander southwestward through the Angeles National Forest.