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Z06 takes Corvette power up another notch

March 11, 2005|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

Chevrolet has significantly shortened the distance between the race track and your driveway with its ultimate-road-warrior Corvette Z06.

Easily the most potent production car ever assembled under the General Motors banner, the Z06 is the closest thing so far to a full-blown racing machine that can be legally driven on the street. Applying many of the lessons learned competing in endurance events throughout Europe and North America for the past three years has seen to that.

Chevy's blending of ideas and technology inspired by its Corvette C5-R race-car program with the strictly-for-the-street Corvette coupe model was initiated in 2001. The end-result Z06 model (the name originates from a very limited run of Corvette race cars built in 1963) was certainly capable, but its designers primarily focused on modifications to the existing engine, brakes and suspension components to give it more performance.

That was then. The new second-generation Z06, based on the new C6 platform, comes with far more specialized mechanical, structural and body components than could previously be imagined.

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The chassis has been developed using lightweight aluminum plus a special magnesium cradle to which the engine and front suspension are attached. The resulting architecture creates a super stiff platform to optimize handling.

The skin of the Z06 is equally exotic, with the three-pound front fenders and their inner liners made from lightweight carbon fiber. The most obvious visual differences between the ZO6 and regular-strength Corvettes are the enlarged air ducts that help cool the massive front and rear disc brakes, an extra opening atop the front fascia as well as a different chin-spoiler. The rear deck and wheel openings have also been revised (the car is actually three inches wider than standard 'Vettes) to squeeze in the 13-inch-wide rear tires.

The fixed roof of the Z06 not only pares weight, it makes the body more rigid and aerodynamic.

On the inside the unique three-spoke steering wheel is slightly smaller and thinner for better grip and the two-tone leather covered seats come with bigger side bolsters.

What really separates the new Z06 from the rest of the 'Vettes is its 7.0-liter (427-cubic-inch) small-block 7.0-liter OHV V-8, dubbed the LS7, that generates 500 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft. of torque. Compare that to 400 horses and 400 lb.-ft. of torque produced by the 6.0-liter (360-cubic-inch) motor found in "base" Corvettes.

The LS7 uses titanium for some of its internal pieces and a separate eight-quart oil reservoir that replaces the traditional pan to provide better high-rpm lubrication. The only transmission choice for Z06 buyers is a six-speed manual.

With 100 more horsepower and weighing slightly less than a base Corvette, Chevrolet claims the Z06 will charge to 60 mph in less than four seconds and reach an estimated top speed of 190-plus mph

While other manufacturers claim that their exotic offerings are race-proven, the ingredients that have gone into the Z06 are exactly that. And for an estimated base price of around $65,000, buyers will get the kind of over-the-top performance previously reserved for sports cars costing much more.

When the Z06 becomes available in the summer, it's doubtful that anyone will be heading to the nearest race track after the deal is sealed. Be comforted, however, knowing that this mount comes oh-so-close to providing the same competition-bred content and pulse quickening driving pleasure without all those corporate sponsor logos cluttering up the bodywork.

Copyright 2005, Wheelbase Communications

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