- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

Already a very special sports car in the hearts of Americans, the Chevrolet Corvette becomes even more so for 2002.
The top-of-the-line Corvette Z06 for 2002 is even more powerful and quicker than its 2001 predecessor, which ranked as the quickest production Corvette ever.
Besides engine modifications, the new two-seater also adds handling refinements.
"We could have chosen to remain satisfied with our achievements for 2001," conceded Dave Hill, performance cars vehicle line executive and chief Corvette engineer. "Instead, we set our sights on breaking the 400-horsepower barrier."
Thus, the new Z06 offers 405 horsepower, compared with 385 horses in the 2001 Corvette Z06. Torque rises to 400 foot-pounds at 4,800 rpm from 385 at 4,800 rpm in the 2001 model, and 0-to-60-mph now takes just 3.9 seconds.
"When you hear customers talking about wanting more power, what they really mean is that they want more torque," Mr. Hill said.
"It's torque that gets you going, whether launching from a standstill, or accelerating out of a corner," he said. "At 385, last year's Z06 was already in an elite class. For 2002, we've upped the ante. The result is one that must be experienced to be appreciated."
Indeed, the Z06 test car was positively addictive. Just a gentle nudge on the accelerator and the car sprang forward with a ferocity that pushed driver and rider back into their well-bolstered seats.
And this was before I even sought the full Z06 experience out on the highway.
The six-speed manual transmission, standard on this model of Corvette but an option on other Corvettes, is well-matched, allowing quick shifting that brings out the best power in each gear.
But I rarely used sixth gear, preferring to play in the high-rev ranges.
This was not just because of how readily accessible the engine power was. This also was because it maximized the Z06's deep and relatively loud engine sounds emanating from the car's titanium mufflers.
The engine improvements didn't require a huge reworking of what was already a historic Chevrolet powertrain. Remember, this is a car with a pushrod V-8 under the hood, not some newfangled four-valve, overhead-cam engine.
As Sam Winegarden, chief engineer for GM Powertrain's small block team, put it: "It's just one more step in a long and very storied and successful history of the small block."
Specifically, engineers installed new, lighter-weight, hollow-stem valves and a higher-lift camshaft. The air cleaner is a new, low-restriction design, too. A new catalyst arrangement also contributes to the power boost.
Note that the Z06's preferred fuel, for maximum performance, is premium unleaded. But, Mr. Winegarden noted, "it operates just fine with regular." The electronic spark control system adapts to it, he said, though there is "a slight degradation in performance."
"The two areas where a little performance is lost is at low-speed, heavy-load and then at top end. Driving around town you won't really notice," Mr. Winegarden said. "On the track, yes, but around town just use a little more pedal because there's a lot there."
Thankfully, drivers who do get their foot into it also find the new Z06 has surprisingly competent road manners, where more modifications occurred for 2002.
The Z06-specific FE4 high-performance suspension has a larger front stabilizer bar now, a stiffer rear leaf spring and shock absorbers with new valving.
In addition, front brakes on the Z06 use a new, high-performance pad.
Tires also are Z06-tailored and are Z-rated, Goodyear Eagle F1 SC Asymmetric Tread 17-inchers in the front and 18-inchers in the back.
Their considerable grip was palpable during the test drive as was the considerable road noise.
I took highway entrance ramp curves at serious speeds, yet found the Z06 stuck doggedly to its line. It was unflappable in abrupt emergency maneuvers.
But I also appreciated how a Sunday-afternoon drive could feel nicely damped and not punishing in this Corvette, while still conveying a tightly controlled demeanor.
It still takes some effort to squeeze down into the Corvette bucket seats, but the ergonomics inside the 2002 models are much better today than in some previous versions.
Watch as you pull into parking spaces. With its extremely long front end, the Corvette is very easy to ram into and over concrete parking blocks.
In fact, the front end tends to drag even on slight inclines at the entrances to parking lots and driveways.
You'll need to look closely to see the subtle Z06 badging for 2002. There's a 405 denoting the new horsepower integrated into the Z06 logo.
"We realize that the Z06 is not for everyone," said Tadge Juechter, performance cars assistant chief engineer.
"But, for the extreme performance enthusiasts, the race-bred 2002 Z06 provides them with a vehicle that challenges the threshold of performance and handling, with absolutely no compromises."


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