2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 first drive

Willie Grace | 11/24/2014, 1:23 p.m. | Updated on 11/24/2014, 1:23 p.m.
“I don’t see any cones … ” observes sports-car racing champion, Cadillac factory driver and Autoweek road-test ringer Andy Pilgrim, ...
A unique hood and grille, as well as flared fenders, differentiate the Z06 from mere Stingrays.

ON SALE: December

BASE PRICE: $78,995 (Z07 $90,985)

DRIVETRAIN: 6.2-liter supercharged V8; seven-speed manual

OUTPUT: 650 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 650 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm

CURB WEIGHT: 3,524 lb

0-60 MPH: 3.3 sec (AW)

FUEL ECONOMY: 13/23/16 (automatic transmission; manual TBD)

(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

NEW Z06 TAKES PERFORMANCE TO A STUNNING NEW LEVEL, ESPECIALLY ON THE TRACK

“I don’t see any cones … ” observes sports-car racing champion, Cadillac factory driver and Autoweek road-test ringer Andy Pilgrim, eying the Road Atlanta circuit as the SUV carrying us toward the paddock crests an access road. “This will be interesting.”

No cones mean no chicanes installed temporarily at the blistering 2.54-mile road course that rises and falls into a terrorizing bevy of quick, blind corners. “Interesting” is Pilgrim-speak, translated loosely, for, “Don’t be stupid when you get out there. Slow your hands down, and don’t get over your head. You don’t want to be that guy.”

At least, that’s what we hear as a realization manifests: The Corvette team is about to turn us loose, relatively unchecked, around this place in its new 2015 Z06.

A brief recap: The quickest series-production Corvette in history goes on sale in December with a new LT4 6.2-liter supercharged V8 producing 650 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, and 650-lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600. Chevrolet says the base version reaches 195 mph, and 186 mph when equipped with full aerodynamics (keep reading). Our own testing of a seven-speed manual gearbox model yielded 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds, and the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds at 123.8 mph; Corvette engineers say an 8L90 eight-speed-automatic equipped car does 2.95 and 10.95, respectively.

Built on the same aluminum frame as the C7 Corvette Stingray, the 2015 Z06 is 20-percent stiffer than the C6 Z06, according to Chevy. This allows the coupe to come standard with a removable roof; a true convertible arrives in early 2015 and neither require additional chassis reinforcements to handle their increased performance beyond the Stingray.

One look at power, torque and acceleration numbers means the LT4 might be reason enough to place your order. Other than the block, it’s effectively an all-new engine, with different aluminum heads, titanium intake valves and forged aluminum pistons among the upgrades over the Stingray’s LT1. A 1.7-liter Eaton supercharger with shorter rotors spins up to 20,000 rpm, 5,000 more than the C6 ZR1’s supercharger. Power and torque delivery borders on devastating, as a loud, glorious exhaust note roars throughout the rev range on wide open throttle. There is almost no supercharger whine polluting the aural sensation either inside or outside the cockpit; you hear it only when listening hard for it, and even then only on partial throttle and not during hard driving.

Yet for all the Z06’s snorting on-paper capability, it rides and behaves on public roads as comfortably and docile as any new Corvette. Base Z06 spring rates within the standard, industry-leading magnetically adjustable suspension are just slightly higher than the Stingray’s, so ride quality remains excellent for an extreme performance car. Drive the Z06 plebeian-like on the street, even with the stiffer Z07 package (more on that shortly), and you might be hard-pressed to feel much difference between it and the standard car. Of course, this first drive occurred on reasonably well-maintained Georgia roads, so we'll wait to see how it fares as a daily driver for those who live with it on, for example, the battle-scarred routes snaking around its Detroit birthplace.