There is an ancient Chinese curse that goes something like this: “May you live in interesting times”. The implication being that “interesting” can also equal difficult and patience-testing.
In automotive terms, that could be paraphrased as “May you drive an interesting automobile”, and I can think of no more appropriate candidate than the Corvette ZO6. Interesting? Without a doubt. Difficult to get along with and patience-trying? True also.
Now available with three engine choices and offered as a hardtop coupe or convertible, the ‘Vette is an American icon. It debuted in 1953, and originally had a tweaked straight six engine taken from Chevy’s regular model line-up. Those days are long gone, and my tester, a ZO6 with the LS7 package, and the optional 7.0 litre engine, is good for over 500 horsepower, giving it a 0 – 100 km/h time of well under five seconds and top speed of….well, how much road do you have?
This is truly a fast, tear-it-up automobile and reminds you of that fact every time you slip behind the wheel. It absolutely erupts into life and the six-speed manual transmission is uncompromising and old-school. A six-speed automatic with shift paddles is also available and the manual comes with a launch control feature.
Which leads to interesting-slash-annoying feature number one. At engine speeds under about 1500 rpm, the transmission shifts directly from first to fourth. This is known as “skip shift”, and the output of the V8 engine is so prodigious, it can handle the low-rev load, no problem. However, sometimes the linkage gets hung up and you end up in a kind of gearless no-man’s land and have double-clutch and find your way back to second or third. Originally introduced as a gas-saving feature, the skip shift is of dubious merit.
Speaking of low speeds, because of the massive front tires (P275/35ZR18), maneuvers such as backing up or parking are hellish. The front end of the car simply does not want to turn at low speeds and makes a frightening racket every time you try. The first time I parallel-parked (an adventure in itself), I honestly thought I’d damaged something. These tires are run-flats, by the way.
Moving onto the suspension. GM’s magnetic ride control is standard on the ‘Vette, and it is responsive and infinitely-adjustable. That said, this car has one of the harshest and roughest rides I’ve ever experienced in a street car….and I drove Morgans for years. If you like a buckboard-hard ride, no problem, but don’t expect to be pampered here. And the aforementioned fat tires catch every dimple, rut, and deviation in the road….especially if the pavement is uneven…so you’re continually correcting and compensating with the steering wheel. Needless to say, construction zones are a nightmare.
On the other hand, the 427 engine in the ZO6 is a delight. Massive amounts of power and torque are available almost instantly, and you get a satisfying, anti-social bellow every time you hit the throttle. You can get yourself in trouble with the law here before you can say “skip shift”. This engine is rated at 505 horsepower, which, combined with the car’s 1461-kilogram weight, makes for a serious power-to-weight ratio. Make no mistake, the ZO6 is in the upper stratosphere when it comes to performance and can run with the likes of the Porsche Carrera or Mercedes SL all day.
My Convertible model has a power top accessed via a lower-dashboard mounted button, and a big centre locking handle front and centre. It takes about 20 seconds to deploy and stows neatly away beneath a very cool fiberglass tonneau. I had to wrestle a little with mine when I raised/lowered the top; the centre locking mechanism is very tight and the top itself stopped halfway during deployment. This could be a safety feature.
Other accoutrements with the LS7 version include a special carbon fibre hood ($890), and all the usual modcons, such as heated power seats, push-button start, heads-up display, and XM radio. The ‘Vette is an old-school sports car, no question, but it’s a well-equipped one.
A word about price. The base Convertible starts at about $76,500, but with a few options, such as the 427 engine package ($17,940), and Chevy’s 60th Anniversary Design Package ($2700), which include special white paint, blue leather seats, highlighted brake calipers and other goodies, you’re up and over the hundred-grand mark before you know it.
At this year’s AJAC Test Fest, the Corvette Convertible was one of the candidates in the “Over $50,000 Prestige/Performance Car” category. It didn’t win and lost out to the Porsche 911 Carrera. Not because it’s slower or less agile….it isn’t….but because it’s one of the most uncompromising sports cars on the market. This car is all about performance and speed, and things such as comfort, convenience, and all that other sissy stuff are secondary. I absolutely loved driving it, but wouldn’t want to have it as my daily transportation.
AT A GLANCE
Base Price : $76,600; as tested: $112,635
Engine: 7.0 litre V8
Horsepower: 505 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 470 ft. lb @ 4800 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 14.3 city; 8.3 hwy. Premium fuel
Alternatives: Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet , Mercedes SL Class, Audi R8 Spyder, BMW Z4.