Those of us that relish in the automotive world know that there rarely seems to be a shortage of news items, press releases, or spy shots of the latest and greatest vehicles to hit the streets and test tracks.
While the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is not exactly the newest item in automobiles, it certainly is one of the best. This past week, Chevrolet invited Corvette Online out to the beautiful grounds of the Spring Mountain Motor Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada to get a taste of what the new supercar is really all about.
The attending Corvette Online team was able to speak at length with many of the people responsible for helping create the new Corvette, and in doing so further educate us on the technology that allows this car to do what it does so well. Everyone from Chevrolet was more then happy to help and answer any questions we had, except for future secrets of course, which we tried.
Z06 and Z07
For those not up to speed on the specs of the new Z06, we can give you a brief summary, at least of the parts that make it perform. The Z06 accelerates from a standstill to 60 mph in a thumping 2.95 seconds when equipped with Chevy’s newest eight-speed automatic, 8L90 paddle-shifted transmission. For those that opt for the more traditional manual gearbox, you can expect a slightly slower time of 3.2 seconds.
The quarter-mile is achieved in 10.95 seconds again with the automatic, beating the manual by a quarter of a second. However, the same top speed is achieved with either gearbox, topping out at 127 mph.
When compared to the standard Z06, the Z07 package, simply put, is a road racer’s dream. The package includes Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and an aerodynamics package that includes side skirts and front and rear diffusers with removable canards in the front and an adjustable rear spoiler sitting just behind the rear deck lid.
Thanks to a combination of theses technologies, a Z07 equipped car will come to a complete stop from 60 mph in 99.6 feet and pull a stomach-wrenching 1.2 g of lateral acceleration on the skid pad.
As far as time behind the wheel is concerned, we were given two separate opportunities. The first was to put about a dozen laps on a Z06 equipped with the Z07 package. A few instructors from the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School took the cars out to warm everything up (fluids, tires, brakes, etc.) and we were glad they did as the temperature was still pretty cool at around 50 degrees in the desert that morning.
We were led around by an instructor for a couple laps to get an idea of the track layout and were given some instructions about braking points and gear selection. Undoubtedly, they were keeping it mellow in an effort to keep all of these beautiful cars on the track. Nonetheless, it was still great to get behind the wheel of the 2015 Z06 and feel that even at a 50 or 60-percent pace, it still out-performs the majority of the cars on the road.
For some folks, racing begins and ends within a quarter-mile. While we can certainly appreciate all forms of motorsports, there are those of us at Corvette Online that prefer a race track with a few more bends and curves in it. While the Z06 is definitely no slouch at the strip, it really shines on the road course, especially with all of the Z07 enhancements. The 650 lb-ft of torque and 650 hp were first noticeable when we hit the back straight where, at one point we broke 130 mph.
Luckily, there were four carbon ceramic brakes waiting to bring this beast down to a reasonable cornering speed, and they did so very quickly. The amount of negative acceleration generated by standing on the pedal was literally breathtaking as your ribcage gets compressed into the safety harness. Surprisingly, the feel of the pedal just never changed; there seemed to be no thermal loss or fade which instilled confidence that the braking force would always be there when you need it.
The new Z06 weighs in at 3,524 pounds, not exactly a featherweight, considering you can find other sports cars well below the 3,000-pound mark at the track. That being said, you simply don’t feel it. The car handles so well and is so perfectly balanced that we never once got the feeling that the Vette was falling into corners and subsequently trying to gather itself back up as it exited a corner. The car handles remarkably, so long as you don’t upset the vehicle by your own mistakes or overpower it out of the corners. It feels flawless.
Thanks to the massive Michelin tires measuring at 285/30ZR19 in the front and 335/25ZR20 in the rear, the car has exceptional grip. The tires really stuck well, especially considering how cold the track was for those of us that ran in the morning media session. In speaking with some of the guys from Chevrolet, there is even more involved aerodynamically then you could imagine. To give you a couple examples, the Z06 is able to flow more air through the front intake with the grill installed than with it simply removed. Considering the lack of advanced degrees in physics, we don’t exactly know why, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
To remove all of this air, the heat exchanger in the Z06’s hood contains a row of louvers. While you wouldn’t realize looking at it in passing, each individual louver is sitting at a slightly different angle, optimizing the amount of hot air removed from the engine compartment.
Again the Z07 package really shines when it comes to road racing, thanks to the increase in aerodynamics. While they don’t come in to play much with the tighter corners, you could certainly feel how settled the car was as you pushed past the 100 mph mark. The rear wicker bridge undoubtedly was contributing with how calm the rear end felt, especially under high-speed braking.
The Performance Traction Management (PTM) system offers five different settings for a variety of track conditions and drivers. Once you are inside of “Track Mode” you have five settings to choose from, all of which intervene by means of torque reduction and brake application at varying levels.
This enables a driver new to performance driving to start in the most conservative setting, and move up as their skills progress, ultimately ending up at the final setting with no computer intervention.
Considering Chevrolet’s generosity in allowing us to drive these cars on a track, we decided to keep the PTM on the lower settings, and decided to keep the drive relatively mellow. However, we were still able to feel the majority of what the amazing new Z06 has to offer for the track. We would absolutely love the opportunity to spend some quality time behind the wheel and to see just how much of a supercar Chevrolet has really created.
The second part of the driving experience didn’t require a helmet or a race track. We were given separate Z06s configured with a range of trim levels, transmissions, and carbon fiber aesthetics. We then went for a beautiful drive through the Nevada and California deserts, bordering the infamous Death Valley, which added up to around a 90-mile loop.
Chevrolet’s goal for this portion of the exercise was that we would see an additional side of the Z06 off the road course. Driving the Z06 on public roads really drove home the point that the Z06 wasn’t just built to tear up the track, but it can also be well-mannered enough to get to and from the track, take downtown for a Saturday night out, and drive to work on Monday.
The first feature we toyed with was the magnetic ride control. Since you can adjust this on the fly, it is very easy to feel the difference as you move the selection knob back and forth. The road we were driving on certainly had its rough sections which were picture perfect for testing. With “Tour Mode” selected, the car is still rigid enough to be a sports car, but not unpleasant by any means. The two hours we spent in the car were very comfortable and we definitely could have happily continued driving through the rough, sun-beaten desert roads.
Switching the PTM knob into one of the five track modes however, makes for a different experience altogether. The car instantly becomes rigid and responsive, letting you know just how smooth or rough of a road surface you are on. That being said, we wouldn’t have it any other way. This type of stiffness and responsiveness is exactly what you want for track driving, and we absolutely loved it. Considering we were now on the street, with many miles ahead, it wasn’t long before we reached down, restoring the comfort of our Z06.
There were two other features we thought were pretty neat. One was that the steering and exhaust are adjustable. The system defaults to aligning exhaust and noise choices with the PTM. You can, however, go into the settings with the touch-sensitive LCD and customize them to your liking. Being that we can seldom leave well enough alone, we just had to play with the settings.
Both the exhaust and steering are adjustable, even as you are driving (just like the magnetic ride control system), so you can instantly compare any differences. The exhaust has a “Stealth Mode” which does a remarkable job at quieting the massive LT4. It still makes a decent exhaust note under full-throttle acceleration, but it’s nearly silent while cruising at highway speeds. This mode may be quite useful to those of you who, for one reason or another, need to quietly drive towards or away from a residence under the cover of darkness.
Perhaps we were not able to fully appreciate the “Track Mode” exhaust notes when on the track thanks to our helmets, but it is ferocious. We were pleasantly surprised with both the volume level and sound quality inside the cockpit during full-throttle acceleration on the highway.
The steering is adjustable by ratio, giving the driver a more forgiving vehicle on the road, making the Corvette comfortable to drive and a little more passive. The wheel then transforms into a precision tool for the track allowing corner steering angles without getting crossed up and having to reposition your hands, so long as you stay on your line, that is.
So is the Z06 still a street car? Yes, it can be as much of a street car as its more tamely outfitted cousin, the Stingray, whenever you want or need it to. True, it can only transport two adults, but it still has ample cargo area for trips to the grocery or hardware store, or even a few duffle bags for weekend trips – golf anyone?
That being said, we think owners will truly be doing both the car and themselves an immense disservice if they don’t make time to run their Z06 on the track, and all the more so if equipped with the incredible Z07 package. With these added features, this car is easily in the top one-percent of performance cars on the road today, yet maintains a laundry list of luxuries that are often stripped away in the quest for more speed and agility.
Since the day we drove these cars on the track at Spring Mountain, when asked to describe the new Z06 in one sentence, we simply respond, “a luxurious, street legal road race car.”