Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: September 22, 2019
The seventh-generation C7 Corvette is reaching the end of its tenure, with the new mid-engine C8 Corvette taking the helm early next year. And while we can’t wait to meddle with its new layout, touch its supercar-kissed sheetmetal, and wander into its button-laden cabin, this C7 Z06 is already more than enough for us to handle at the moment - 650 horses, and not a horse more. The Z06 slots below the ZR1 crown jewel, and right above the Stingray and Grand Sport models. But no matter the trim, Corvettes have always been tremendous value, offering supercar levels of performance at a fraction of the price.
Available in both a coupe and convertible, the Z06 houses an infernal 6.2-litre supercharged V8 under the front hood, pushing out a mesmerizing 650 hp and 650 lb-ft through your choice of a 7-speed manual gearbox or optional 8-speed automatic. That’s enough for the Z06 to sprint from 0-96 km/h in an earth-shattering 2.95 seconds, faster than a Porsche 911 GT3. You will also find every kind of dynamic cheat code available for the Corvette to bring the fight to the Porsche 911 and Mercedes AMG GT, like magnetorheological dampers, dry sump oil system, titanium intake valves, optional carbon ceramic brakes, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires. It’s a purpose-built sports car that eats supercars for breakfast, the same ethos that permeates within the Nissan GT-R.
All seems pomp and splendid on paper but out in the real world, the Corvette is not what you would call an easy car to drive. Sure, below three-tenths of the limit it’s as friendly as your neighbourhood squirrel, but begin to explore the depths of that gas pedal and the Corvette can stings like a scorpion. You constantly have to be mindful of that rear end, as it shapes how you drive, play, and input your steering and throttle commands. The Corvette Z06 is neck-snapping quick but it only takes a little bit of effort to turn everything flipside. Caught surprised, and it's unnerving and overly eager attitude is enough to cue expletives you may have never considered.
It’s in this realm of grip and lack of approachability where the Corvette’s more modest price tag explains itself, as it constantly squirms for traction when conditions are anywhere but perfect, making it stupidly difficult to actually utilize all 650 horses. It’s one thing to have a boatload of power, it’s another to control and translate it into forward motion. From the driver’s seat, you just don’t feel as confident laying down the power in the Z06 than other V8 sports cars like the BMW M850i or Jaguar F-Type SVR. That said, there’s something special about the way the Corvette demands respect and teaches restraint. Most modern supercars spoil the driver with sticky tires, clever traction control systems, and an army of driver nannies. The Corvette on the other hand makes you work for your dinner.
The accompanying exhaust is exactly what you would expect from a Corvette: raw, brash, and as American sounding as all-you-can-eat pancakes at Denny’s. The LT4 V8 plays a supercharger tune, and you can hear the whines it makes every time you step on the gas, balancing out the sonorous barks and howls from the combustion wardrum. It’s as hairy-chested of a sports car as it gets, and you can listen to our Exhaust Notes video below to hear it for yourself.
The manual transmission is still the gearbox to have. The optional 8-speed automatic, when left to its own devices, shifts well and intelligently. Step on the gas in top gear and it will quickly shuffle down a few cogs (skipping some too), into a lower ratio and push out an instant tidal wave of torque - no waiting required. Take command via the paddle shifts however, and the Corvette takes an eon to shift, to the point where you end up shifting earlier just to account for that delay. If you aren’t the kind of driver to take the helm and row the boat yourself, stick with the automatic, but if you really want to make the most of that powerband, go with the more rewarding and responsive manual.
The Corvette offers five different driving modes, with the stiffest Track Mode offering its most athletic and taut personality for pink slip challenges. There are a few traction control modes as well but I wouldn’t even touch them unless your name begins with Lewis and ends in Hamilton. Yet, on the softest Tour Mode, the Corvette satisfies its claim of being a cordial, livable, and usable grand tourer that isn’t unbearably stiff on broken roads, and a welcome companion on long distance journeys. The adaptive suspension keeps the chassis calm and collected, and further adding to its GT appeal is a sizable trunk housing an impressive 425 litres of cargo volume. The Competition Sport seats with magnesium frames are well bolstered and despite its skeleton bone aesthetic, are comfortable and supportive. Driver visibility isn’t as bad as the Camaro or Mustang, but the thick B-pillars and lack of a blind spot monitoring system do make lane changes difficult.
The targa styling and removable hardtop roof are a unique feature of the Corvette Coupe, and is something you won’t find in other $100,000 sports cars. You can actually manually remove the roof and store it in the trunk where it has dedicated latches to secure it in place. The roof is light enough for an Average Joe to lift themselves as well - this ain’t no Jeep Wrangler job. With the cabin open to the elements, the Corvette offers that duality in track monster and GT open-top cruiser. Sure you could argue that it’s not as rigid with the roof only held together at three hinge points, but it’s incredibly difficult to detect any faults or loss in rigidity. Scuttle shake and chassis flex are absent, and it takes craters the size of asteroids to unsettle the Z06.
Chevrolet may not always nail down Teutonic levels of fit and finish but they do make some damn good steering wheel designs. Our Corvette’s flat-bottom wheel was beautifully crafted with carbon fibre and suede inserts, and yellow paddle shifters flanking both sides. The driver-centric center console is nothing new, with all the contemporary buttons, dials, and 8-inch touchscreen angled towards the driver and within easy reach. Got some contraband? Good news for prospective Corvette owners, as they have kept that discreet storage cubby hidden behind the retractable infotainment screen, a neat feature unique to GM vehicles.
The Corvette Z06 answers the call as a grand tourer with impressive ergonomics, a removable hardtop roof that opens the cabin to the elements, and a suspension equally worthy of its comfort as well as its performance. The Z06 also makes one hell of a track toy, satisfying enthusiasts with dizzying spells of acceleration, an unapologetic exhaust, and fistfuls of power to embarrass more expensive supercars at just a fraction of the price. If the next-generation C8 Corvette retains this ethos with more balance and approachability from its mid-engine layout, it won’t just be eating supercars for breakfast, it will be a supercar itself. Here’s hoping.
Model: 2019 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Paint Type: Corvette Racing Yellow
Base Price: $103,660
Price as Tested: $110,300
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,519 / 1,966 / 1,234
Curb weight (kg): 1,598
Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged V8
Horsepower: 650 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 650 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 17.6 / 10.3
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 17.7
Tires: P285/30ZR19 front; P335/25ZR20 rear