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Expert Reviews 1 of 4
By Jim Flammang
April 15, 2002
Vehicle Overview More power is the byword for the 2002 Chevrolet Corvette at least for the top-performing Z06 coupe, which debuted last year. Chevrolets regular 5.7-liter LS1 V-8 engine stands pat at 350 horsepower, but the LS6 edition in the Z06 coupe has gained 20 hp and now cranks out 405 horses. That makes the 2002 Z06 the quickest, most powerful Corvette ever.
A head-up display is now standard on the Z06. This feature projects the vehicles speed and other information onto the windshield. The Z06 has also traded in its forged-aluminum wheels for a cast-aluminum style. Magnesium wheels are no longer offered. Suspension improvements for the Z06 include revised rear-shock valving and new aluminum front stabilizer bar links. An in-dash CD player is installed in all models for 2002.
Chevrolets fiberglass-bodied two-seater has been an American sports car icon since its debut in 1953. The Z06 is the latest special-edition model, which delivers even more performance than a regular Corvette. Intended to honor Zora Arkus-Duntov, the first Corvette chief engineer, Chevrolet says the Z06 is ready for the racetrack.
This Corvette generation went on sale in 1997. Corvettes still come in coupe and convertible body styles, with a standard four-speed-automatic transmission and an optional six-speed-manual gearbox. Only the six-speed unit goes into the Z06. Chevrolet sold 33,655 Corvettes during 2001, which represents an increase from the 31,208 units that went to customers in the previous year, according to Automotive News.
Exterior Just like its predecessors of the last five decades, the Corvette is constructed of fiberglass. It comes in three body styles: a hatchback coupe with a removable center roof panel; a fixed-roof Z06 coupe; and a convertible with a glass rear window, defogger and manually folding top. Several styling cues play a major role in carrying on the Corvette tradition, such as side air scoops, hidden headlights and quad taillights.
The Z06 coupe features functional bodyside brake ducting, unique Z06 seat embroidery and special alloy wheels with wider tires than usual P265/40ZR17 up front and P295/35ZR18 at the rear, compared to the P245/45ZR17 front and P275/40ZR18 rear tires on other Corvettes. Run-flat tires are equipped on regular Corvettes; they are capable of going as fast as 200 mph even when punctured and airless. The Z06 gets extended-mobility rubber and a can of liquid tire sealer in the trunk. No Corvettes have a spare tire because it would take up too much space.
The hatchback and convertible models have a choice of three suspensions: the base FE1 Suspension, optional Z51 Performance Handling Package or optional Selective Real-Time Damping. In the latter, the driver chooses from three preset levels of ride firmness. The Z06 coupes come with an FE4 Suspension a separate system that aims to produce ultimate handling.
All Corvettes ride a 104.5-inch wheelbase, measure 179.7 inches long and stand 47.7 inches high. Each model is equipped with an enhanced, second-generation electronic stability system called Active Handling. This dual-function system can apply braking force to individual wheels and also retard engine power in an attempt to keep the Corvette on course through swift turns.
Interior Ever since 1953, Corvettes have been strictly two-seaters. Todays bucket seats are clad in black leather. Snug-fit sport seats are optional. Interior storage space is at a premium, apart from a small glove box and a console bin. Standard equipment includes full analog gauges, a low-tire-pressure warning system, six-way power drivers seat, CD stereo system, theft-deterrent system, heated power mirrors, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, and power windows and door locks.
In addition to the more potent engine, the Z06 gets dual-zone automatic climate control and a Bose CD stereo system. Options include a head-up instrument display, which is standard on the Z06. Cargo capacity is 24.8 cubic feet in the coupe, 13.9 cubic feet in the convertible and 13.3 cubic feet in the Z06.
Under the Hood All Corvettes carry 5.7-liter V-8 engines. The basic LS1 version produces 350 hp. A four-speed-automatic transmission is standard, and a six-speed manual is available as an option. The engine in the Z06 produces 405 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque and comes only with a six-speed-manual transmission. That LS6 engine features a modified aluminum block, a more aggressive camshaft profile, new high-compression cylinder heads and a less-restrictive titanium exhaust system.
Safety Antilock brakes, traction control and dual front airbags are standard. Side-impact airbags are not available. The Corvettes Active Handling system applies brakes as needed to maintain traction on either wet or dry surfaces.
Driving Impressions Evenin regular form, the Corvette is fast, tight and eager on the road. It delivers all the exuberance that an enthusiast could expect, plus a surprisingly diverse array of creature comforts. It demonstrates that traditional, muscular, rear-wheel-drive sports cars dont necessarily go hand in hand with discomfort or austerity.
The Corvette has a decidedly heavy feel, but that sensation isnt as prevalent as in the past. Acceleration from a standstill is nothing short of superlative raucous, but reasonably refined at the same time. Response for passing and merging is no less energizing and enthusiastic. Manipulating the six-speed-manual gearbox which is mounted atop the console takes some effort, and shifting into reverse can be difficult. Once that fact is accepted, the driver can just sit back and enjoy the experience.
If anything, the Corvettes handling is even more striking than its performance. Even on coarse pavement, this two-seater hangs tight at all times. Braking is quick and sure, even from high speeds. The 2002 Corvette rides better than some rival sports cars and more peacefully than most earlier models, which tended to be harsh and jarring. Engine sounds are loud but satisfying just as they should be for a car of this caliber. Road noise is definitely noticeable and can grow annoying on longer journeys. The seats are wonderfully supportive yet supremely comfortable, with abundant headroom and elbowroom and good legroom available in this sports car.
The Corvette has a reputation that dates back nearly half a century. The Z06 adds greater capabilities to what is already one of the strongest, best-handling sports cars on the market. Most people will be more than satisfied with a plain Corvette. But tromp on its gas pedal once and the extra dollars for a Z06 seem to be worth the price. And if you notice how it behaves on twisting roads, the Z06 starts to feel like a virtual bargain.