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2012 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Despite its age, the Chevrolet Corvette is one of the greatest sports cars in the world. There's a wide range of models that can fit a variety of budgets from the entry-level Corvette coupe up to the monstrous ZR1. I prefer the Grand Sport because it offers the right mix of performance and cost and it feels a little more special than a regular Corvette coupe. The super-high-performance ZR1 is reserved for those with deep pockets and, hopefully, plenty of experience with high-performance sports cars.
It's a little known fact that Chevrolet has a full range of distinctly different sports cars all masquerading under the Corvette name. The base car and the Grand Sport are akin to a Porsche 911. They are livable, straightforward sports cars. The $110,000 Corvette ZR1 has the demeanor of the Ferrari 458 Italia. It possesses finesse and fluidity in the context of obscene power. This fiery Z06, then, is the ZR1's antithesis. It is a Lamborghini to the ZR1's Ferrari. It is unruly, brutish -- and awesome.

With 470 lb-ft of torque on tap, the Z06 nonchalantly lopes through the city at 600 rpm. Pressed into duty, it squirms and squeals and screams to a 505-hp peak at 6300 rpm. The Z06's prevailing character is brash and aggressive, but it also packs some slick, sophisticated technology. Sport mode for the magnetically controlled adjustable dampers is so stiff that it's best left for track time, which is fine since the tour mode keeps body control intact while removing the punishing edge over rough roads.
As imposing and impressive as the Z06 is, it isn't without fault. The clutch is fickle creeping and creeping in and out of parking spots often brings the scent of burnt friction surface. The fuel-saving skip-shift feature that forces you from first gear to fourth gear during slow acceleration is more obtrusive than what you get in the Camaro. The steering could be tighter and more responsive on center and the optional Michelin Pilot Sport Cup ZP tires fitted to our tester have no business being on a street-driven car. The new sport seats and steering wheel are welcome improvements, leaving the cheap center stack as the only sore thumb that stands out inside this Corvette. Then again, Lamborghinis aren't exactly compromise-free, which makes all of these imperfections seem so right.
Thank you, Eric Tingwall, for saying it: these tires are pretty ridiculous for a street car! When they're cold, you can barely turn the front wheels to pull out of a parking space or out of your driveway. The first time I drove the car, I thought there was something wrong at the front axle. These Pilots may be absolutely spectacular on the track, but if you've got $100K for a high-performance Corvette and you intend to drive it on the road much at all, you might prefer to have a separate set of track tires and something more compliant for street use.

Tires aside, this is a phenomenal performance machine, offering extraordinary acceleration, superb body control, smooth power delivery, and a great engine/exhaust soundtrack, with great burble on the overrun. The Z06 corners like crazy. Because the Z06 is a more pure Corvette model without a lot of sound insulation, you can hear every expansion joint on the freeway, but in tour mode they are not at all harsh.
I thought about the Z06 on November 3, when I attended a screening of the GM-commissioned documentary "Chevy 100," marking the centennial of the Chevrolet brand. Given that Louis Chevrolet was himself a balls-out racer guy in his day, it seems entirely appropriate that the Corvette Z06 is the recipient of some 100th-anniversary love. I suspect this particular model might have a bit of future collector value.
This is a brutish sports car, and is definitely not something you would want to drive every day. The tires are far too aggressive for street use, and because they're so wide, they tend to follow every groove in the road, meaning it can be a bit of a chore to keep this Corvette from wandering around in its lane. The suspension is super stiff, especially when set to sport. Changing to the touring setting helps slightly, but "touring" is really not part of this car's lexicon.

I have to disagree somewhat with Eric on the center stack. For the most part, the control buttons on the center stack are well laid out and labeled, and they don't look too cheap to me. However, they are let down by a navigation system that is not at all up to date compared with what you find in several other competitors. The most egregious flaw of the interior is the very large "Corvette" stitched across the dash in front of the passenger. GM should know by now that the Corvette is a good enough car that it can stand on its own without having to advertise itself every time you enter the cockpit.


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