Review: 2019 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Destroyer of worlds.
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Will break its rear tires loose at any speed.
- What’s Bad: Will break its rear tires loose at any speed.
Drive a lot of powerful cars and you get desensitized to speed and torque. Remember the first time you watched The Walking Dead? I do. And I nearly hurled my dinner all over the couch. But by the end of the season, brains and entrails spattered all over the countryside just didn’t have the same stomach-churning impact.
It’s the same reason why 400 hp might seem like a lot—and it is, don’t get me wrong—but it just doesn’t feel like that much when you’ve driven something with 600 or 700 hp.
These Super Saiyan power levels, once reserved for racecars have become a common thing today.
So when I got an opportunity to drive the Corvette Z06, I thought more of the same was in store. I knew it was powerful but as I said, I’ve driven lots of fast cars so how different could this one be?
It turns out, lots. Lots different.
Over the last six decades, the ‘Vette has made blue-collar dreams come true. Offering eight-cylinder power, exotic low-slung looks, and an intimate 2-seater cabin for far less money than rivals from Europe (think Porsche 911).
A little rough around the edges the Corvette’s calling card has always been attainable performance over ultimate refinement. But the seventh generation (C7), introduced in 2014, decided that some refinement was a good thing, especially as prices started to creep closer to the six-figure mark.
Lots of attention was paid to the interior, and rightfully so. Previous Corvette plastics and switchgear felt like they were supplied by Rubbermaid, but the C7 bucked this trend by blessing the cabin with more premium materials, soft-touch plastics, and a new modern infotainment system. More importantly the seats—a big deal in a sports car—were completely redesigned and actually held you in place when cornering. Even the ride was vastly improved and Corvette drivers no longer required weekly osteopath visits to make sure everything was still aligned.
But now the C7 is at the end of its line, and the upcoming 2020 C8 has flipped the Corvette story 180 degrees. Literally. The engine has moved behind the driver in the name of performance and progress but what this new shift has really done (or hopes to do) is take the appeal of the Corvette from “Ok Boomer” to “Ok Zoomer”.
The Z06 should be the C7’s swan song were it not for the even more manic 755-horse ZR1. I’m all for more horsepower but take a ride in the “lesser” Z06 and you’ll be left trying to figure out why more power was necessary in the first place.
Starting with Chevy’s legendary small-block V8, the Z06 adds a 1.7-litre Eaton supercharger on top, creating the basis for what is known internally as the LT4. This 6.2-litre boosted firebomb produces a staggering 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. Figures that Chevy were so proud of they put it on a badge and then stuck it right on the dashboard. So in case you or your passengers needed a reminder of what was under the hood all you’d have to do is look at that badge.
Or you could just hit the gas and that would remind you. But you’d better be prepared for the onslaught of pavement buckling torque unleashed with a healthy bootful of throttle in a Corvette Z06. Even if you’re used to big power cars this one is not like the others.
Perhaps it’s because it weighs slightly under 1600 kilos and only has power going to the rear contact patches. Or perhaps it’s the way they tuned the thing to deliver its torque. But whatever it is, it isn’t subtle. That 650 lb-ft of twist seems to get unleashed all at once liquefying the steamroller 335-section rear Michelins with such fury that it would make the late Jack LaLanne proud. Even with good weather and all the safety nannies on, the Z06 struggles to put its power down with anything more than 25 per cent throttle. The rear end squirms and slithers fighting to find the smallest scraps of grip, but once hooked up acceleration is relentless and mind-numbing.
There are multiple driving modes on hand: Tour is the default “everyday” setting; there’s sport for more fun and a more lenient traction control system, and Track, which gets multiple settings of its own. There’s even an Eco Mode, which in a 650 hp sports car is like ordering 3 Big Macs with extra cheese and bacon and then getting a diet Coke. For the majority of my time in the Z06, I set it to Sport and left it there.
The standard transmission is, well, a standard. More specifically it’s a 7-speed manual and a great companion to the powertrain. Aside from letting you row your own gears, it delivers short positive throws, and more importantly, makes you an integral part of the driving equation. My tester, however, was equipped with the optional ($1990) 8-speed automatic with cool yellow paddles matching the bright Racing Yellow paint job. However, pulling either paddle was met with a long pause before actually delivering the gear I wanted. Even in the raciest track mode. Unfortunate, as it takes away a lot of the engagement factor. Left to its own devices, on the other hand, the 8-speed banged off shifts with greater urgency but it still lags behind the ‘boxes from BMW and Porsche.
But it mattered not, because with the LT4 engine the Z06 is a destroyer of worlds. It will put a massive smile on your face and drain all colour from your passenger’s. It is an axe murderer if you’re not careful but a puppy when you just want to run out for some milk. Show some self-control with the gas pedal and even with the exhaust set to full loud, only a slight burble intrudes into the cabin. And thanks to the standard magnetic dampers the ride remains civilized. But I still wouldn’t mistake this for a grand tourer. Longer drives will still wear out anyone over 19, and someone that young probably doesn’t know what a Corvette is anyway.
The competition seats are extremely supportive and perfect for the track but are about as comfortable as being thrown down a flight of stairs. The good thing is that the standard seats will hold you in place just fine and are an order of magnitude more friendly to your backside. Definitely take both for a test run before spending the cash on the sportier thrones.
You’ll definitely appreciate the extra support from either seat, though, as this Corvette is a master of corners with nearly limitless grip that you couldn’t possibly explore on the street. Capable of generating well over a G in the corners with zero body roll and precise, talkative steering the Z06 is a pleasure to pilot and having experienced one on the track it’s capable of generating lap times that would put exotic cars costing three times as much to shame. But that’s only if you respect the power that it has. Try to push too hard or run out of talent and the Z06 will bite. When you have this much torque and power, restraint is the name of the game, unless your name is Randy Pobst.
But that’s where this Corvette’s appeal lies. It can scramble from rest to 60 mph (96 km/h) in under 3 seconds when you want it to but is also just as happy chugging along at 1200 rpm on the highway returning economy numbers in the low 10 litres per 100 km range. It doesn’t have back seats, so it’s not exactly a practical device, but you get an enormous parcel shelf that doubles as storage for the removable roof panel. It has exotic car looks with a sports car price tag and even when loaded with options, some of which are unnecessary like the carbon fibre add-ons, it still costs less than a 911 Carerra S.
The Z06 will impress you, but it might also try to kill you when you’re not paying attention. This and the ZR1 are the last of the big-power front-engine ‘Vettes and while the new C8 has been reported to offer even more performance thanks to its mid-engine layout we think some of the hooliganism of the original Corvette formula will be lost to history, just like its manual transmission. As cars get tamer and easier to drive they lose that sense of excitement and thrill that the Z06 offers in bucket loads. For that reason, if for nothing else, the Corvette Z06 deserves to be celebrated.
2019 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
BODY STYLE: 2-door, 2 passenger sports car
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
ENGINE: 6.2-L supercharged V8; 650 hp @ 6400 rpm; 650 lb-ft torque @ 3600 rpm
TRANSMISSION : 8-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium Gasoline in L/100 km) 17.2 city; 10.1 highway; 14.0 combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 14.5 L / 100 KM
CARGO CAPACITY: 425 litres
PRICE: $ 93,795 (base); $122,300 (as-tested)
WEBSITE: Chevrolet Corvette