EXPERT REVIEW

KansasCity.com's view

The gut-thumping acceleration of the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 plastered such a big smile on my face that my jaws got tired.

Even though the Z06 looks a lot like a regular ‘Vette, close inspection reveals this racing-inspired version is a much different car. The rear fenders have bigger flares, scoops in front of the rear wheels direct air to the brakes and the front spoiler is lower. Light, open-spoke wheels, 18-inch in front and 19-inch in back, give a good view of the cross-drilled brake discs and six-piston front calipers.

But what really matters is the 505-horsepower lump under the hood. The 7.0-liter, all-aluminum engine is architecturally similar to the regular Corvette LS2 V-8, but the block has been enlarged from 6.0 liters. A dry-sump lubrication system keeps oil flowing properly under racing conditions, and the connecting rods and valves are made from titanium, a material normally reserved for racing cars.

This special ‘Vette is meant for racing as well as hard-core enthusiasts. It’s a great example of just how Corvette engineers have been able to expand the standard car’s performance envelope.

In spite of its $64,890 base price, the Z06 is definitely a bargain because it offers more performance per dollar than almost any car I know. For example, it storms to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds, has a top track speed of 198 mph and still gets 26 miles per gallon on the highway. It knifes through turns with scalpel-like precision, and the brakes are tremendous.

Some cars that cost two, three or four times as much don’t offer this level of performance and comfort. The Z06 is nearly $20,000 less than a Dodge Viper, yet it is marginally quicker and considerably more refined.

Even though the Z06 has 505 horsepower, it is content being driven sedately. It never bucks or protests a modest pace. As you would expect, the ride is firm but not tooth-jarringly stiff. Take it dancing on some curvy country roads and it is the perfect partner. On a track in the hands of an expert driver, it is capable of astonishing performance. It makes ordinary drivers look better than they really are.

Although the Z06 has a host of electronic controls to help keep it securely on the road, its power is so explosive that it demands all of your attention all the time. The foolhardy need not apply.

The Z06’s interior is not much different from a regular Corvette. The seats have deeper bolsters for better support, and the color of the dash trim is titanium rather than silver. The seats could profit from more lateral support, but that would make them harder to exit. A head-up display projects the speedometer and tachometer readings on the windshield so the driver can see vital information without taking his eyes off the road.

The test car was equipped with convenience items such as dual-zone climate control, heated seats, navigation system, satellite radio and six-disc CD player.

Front and side airbags are standard, as are anti-lock brakes, traction control and a vehicle stability control system that has a competition-driving mode for track use.

Price

The test car’s base price was $64,890. Options included side airbags, premium audio system, navigation system, telescoping steering wheel, polished wheels, luggage shade and satellite radio. The sticker price was $71,485.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles.

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Engine: 7.0-liter, 505-hp V-8

Transmission: Six-speed

Rear-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 105.7 inches

Curb weight: 3,130 lbs.

Base price: $64,890

As driven: $71,485

Mpg rating: 16 city, 26 hwy. At A Glance

Point: The Z06 is the finest Corvette yet. It has racetrack manners and sport-sedan civility. The 7.0-liter engine is a wellspring of power and torque, yet it isn’t finicky or rough. It has world-class performance at a reasonable price, and that’s a combination that will always be a winner.

Counterpoint: The seats could profit from more lateral support.

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