A luscious layer of hand-stitched leather, upgraded carpet, and Alcantara covers the cost-conscious interior surfaces that are in the Corvette when it leaves GM's Bowling Green, Kentucky, manufacturing plant. The french seams (sewn in Germany) and color coordination are superb. Two gripes: it's a difficult climb over the foot-wide door sills and tall seat bolsters, and access to the seat adjuster is blocked when the door is closed.
The negative side of tuning someone else's well-engineered automobile is that weight inevitably is added. The addition of a supercharger, wider tires, heavier dampers, beefier brakes, a larger volume exhaust system, and a new interior bulks up the factory Z51 Corvette by 150 pounds, bringing the C16 to 3420 pounds. While the more powerful engine has no difficulty eclipsing the base Corvette's performance, leapfrogging the illustrious Z06 (505 hp, 3147 pounds) is a taller order. Both the C16 and the Z06 struggle to staple their horses into the pavement when launched from rest. Light the fuse in either car with more than 1500 rpm registered on the tach, and the rear tires melt down while you wait for evidence of forward momentum.
Walking the fine line between bogging the engine and frying rubber flings the C16 to 60 mph in four seconds flat and through the quarter mile in 12.2 seconds at a heady 125 mph. Z06s, 911 Turbos, Ford GTs, Ferrari F430s, and Dodge Vipers prowl this part of the jungle, so you'll need to practice your footwork before mounting a hunting mission with your C16.
Of course, there's a lot more to life than drag racing. Our measurements show that the C16 can't match a Z06's crack cornering and braking moves, but it does top the Z06 in third-gear passing by more than a second.
Figures aside, Callaway's rendition of the Corvette conducts itself with gentlemanly composure most of the time. The quivering idle and the supercharger's howl when you leg the throttle add a character overlay to the stock car's mild manners. We could, however, do without the booming exhaust resonance that peaks between 60 and 70 mph and then fades away once you reach 75 mph. The C16's brakes feel supremely confident and secure, even when applied at twice the legal speed limit. The steering and chassis balance are well-coordinated and support crisp turn-in moves and near-neutral, hammer-down tight-bend exits.
Thanks to the belt-driven blower beneath the hood blister, there's no waiting for the spurt of torque that's so handy for squirting through temporary holes in traffic. Cocking the tail wide on cue is mere adult's play. A day spent lapping two road courses at the Willow Springs International Raceway revealed a happy-go-lucky chassis that loves to drift through life with smoke boiling off both rear tires and the front wheels twisted to full opposite lock.
Sandwiched neatly between the Z06, which arrived in late 2005, and the factory's 600-plus-hp Corvette SS, due in 2009, the Callaway C16 is another grand chapter in the growing book of enthralling Corvettes.