Payne: Road trip! In a Corvette Z06
Think of the 650 horsepower, 650 pound-feet of torque Corvette Z06 as Indominus Rex in “Jurassic World,” the latest installment in the dino-zoo movie series. “Big Nasty” (as its mad scientist creators like to call it) is a hybrid of a number of fearsome predators: The power of a Dodge Hellcat, the handling of a Jaguar F-Type, the sumptuous interior of a Porsche 911, the smart tech of a Cadillac CTS.
And it’s probably too ferocious to be freed from captivity.
After reviewing the Z06’s performance capability in the controlled confines of Spring Mountain Raceway outside of Las Vegas earlier this year, I have since lived with the beast for a two weeks in both convertible and coupe livery. It’s not unlike being a Jurassic World zookeeper. Everyone wants to see it. Few should be allowed to bridle it. It can bite your head off if you’re not too careful. This thing is 3,500 pounds of smart, fast, bone-crunching power.
Turn it on and the big V-8 gurgles menacingly like I-Rex at rest. Let it off its leash over 3,000 RPM and it bellows like a predator at feeding time. Birds scatter. 9-1-1 switchboards light up. Like I-Rex it’s and nimble as a Velociraptor, as ferocious as a T-Rex, as smart as a homo sapiens.
How smart? “Driving Mode” within its instrument panel allows you to set “Engine Sound Management” to AUTO, TOUR, SPORT, TRACK, or STEALTH. Yes, stealth. So you sneak up on an unsuspecting rival – an Audi, perhaps – with the quiet of a hybrid-electric Prius, then press TRACK and unleash the monster’s full fury. It’s diabolical.
I took a red and black hardtop on a road trip to Lexington, Ohio where I would be racing my own race car at the Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. On the way I picked up my son, a fellow racer, at Metro airport. A similar adventure in the all-but-trunkless Alfa 4C would be impossible. In a Porsche Cayman it would require planning (what can we fit in the small trunk and frunk?). The ‘Vette was a piece of cake. The giant hatch – did I-Rex also get Volkswagen GTI DNA? – easily fits two suitcases, drivers suits, computer bags, books, and more.
The hardest part of our three-hour journey was not getting arrested.
The temptation to unleash the 650 horses is all but irresistible. Yet we were aware that the red raptor’s infrared footprint was on the radar of every warden in revenue-hungry Ohio. (Ohio state motto: “Pull over”). We confined our antics to on-ramps where the Z06 would explode like a rocket off Cape Canaveral’s pad in second gear, reaching a howling 125 mph in 4th as we merged onto the highway.
At the track, the ‘Vette got almost as much attention as nearby, historic Ford GT40s and Gulf Mirage prototypes. But for subtle changes like wider fenders, wider rubber, more air scoops, and a different grille cage, the Z06 looks little different than Papa Stingray. But the sharp-eyed tourists know the difference. They’d heard about Corvette World’s latest attraction.
What’s it like? What’s the zero-60? What’s it eat?
The interior is sumptuous with heated/cooled leather seats, stitched console, carbon-fiber trim, and a heads up display that shows engine RPM, shift point, speed, and nearby Porsche prey (just kidding about that last part). The driver-centric console gives you everything at your fingertips. Or you can simply ask via a voice recognition button on the steering wheel (yes, the beast’s interior is that quiet). Touchscreen instrument panel, voice recognition, two cup-holders, Mode selector. But the passenger side is hardly an afterthought. It’s its own cocoon. Mrs. Payne loves it – and she’s usually petrified about getting into sports cars with my lead foot.
Two “oh, crap!” handles. Its own climate system. I suspect that if Z06 crashed, the passenger seat would self-eject like an Apollo space capsule and land safely with a parachute.
An $80,000 supercar is not without its flaws. Due to a quirk in the vehicle’s geometry, the 10-inch front tires will audibly squirm when turned on a tight radius. On wet pavement it’s annoying. The manual shifter is trouble – with 7 gears it’s easy to get lost in three gates. As much as I prefer manuals I’d opt for the tidier, 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters (which posts better performance numbers anyway). Other niggles: My clutch foot occasionally got hung up in the floor material, and the chassis isn’t as well-engineered as Euro-competitors.
Oh, yes. And if you punch it, the 650 pounds of torque can quickly become a handful.
Is there anything on four wheels more awe-inspiring than a Z06? Chevy has created the premier hybrid of affordability, comfort, and raw sports car performance. Just be careful who gets the keys when this monster is let out of captivity.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @HenryEPayne. See all his work at HenryPayne.com
2015 Corvette Z06
Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, two-passenger sports car
Price: $78,000 base ($85,565 removable hardtop as tested; $94,235 convertible as tested)
Power plant: 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8
Power: 650 horsepower, 650 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed manual (as tested); Eight-speed automatic with steering-mounted paddle shifters
Performance: 0-60 mph: 2.95 seconds with automatic; 3.2 seconds with manual (manufacturer). Top speed: 185 mph
Weight: 3,524 pounds
Fuel economy: EPA 13 mpg city/23 mpg highway (automatic); 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway (manual as tested)
Highs: Wicked styling; Awesome power
Lows: Difficult manual shifter; Power is dynamite in wrong hands