- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

How sweet it is. The 2006 Corvette ZO6 from the sports at Chevrolet is the best yet. The No. 3 1953 Corvette recently brought $1 million at the famed Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. The new ZO6 may not be worth that yet, but it drives like a million bucks compared with the Blue Flame six-cylinder-powered 1953 version with its “Powerglide” automatic transmission.

I frankly don’t know what could be next, because it was perceived that the C6 Corvette was the ultimate, affordable American sports car. Enter the ZO6, with its fire-breathing, yet docile, powerplant — a 7.0-liter, 505-horsepower LS7 V-8 coupled to a healthy MN6 six-speed, short-throw, manual gearbox for quicker, more precise gear changes — with an improved, albeit still somewhat pesky and annoying first to fourth skip shift override feature.

The 505 horsepower are complemented by a more than substantial 470 foot-pounds of torque. The rear wheels are likely capable of spinning and smoking for days with all the control enhancement gear switched off. The all-new LS7 motor reintroduces the 427-cubic-inch engine to Corvette’s lineup. The original 427 was, of course, a big-block design, while the new LS7, 7.0-liter mill happens to be a small-block V-8 that is lighter, stronger and more technologically advanced.

The ZO6, which originally appeared in 1963, followed by 2001-2004 editions, is literally “race-ready” out of the box, with superior power and handling-related feature upgrades and enhancements. It is equally at home, however, just simply cruising about town in domesticated fashion.

There are three Corvette models available for 2006: the regular two-door hatchback Coupe with a removable roof; the Convertible; and the cream-of-the-crop Z06, which is also a two-door hatchback coupe, but with a fixed roof and different body structure.

The Z06 comes with a unique front fascia with an upper inlet, specific grille, fenders, quarters, rear spoiler and five double spoke wheels in a star pattern.

At a casual glance, the ZO6 appears to be simply another Corvette, but an in-depth perusal of its form reveals it is decidedly different, and definitely displays a racier stance, not to mention capability.

The ZO6 test Corvette was sprayed in one of the new exterior colors, Velocity Yellow tint coat, and featured an Ebony interior with ZO6 seatback embroidery.

The base price was set at $65,000, while the special paint, polished aluminum wheels and destination charges upped the ante to $67,845. A bargain to be sure, when compared with the Dodge SRT-10 Viper, which costs considerably more, and lacks the refinement inherent in the Z06.

The Corvette ZO6 is perhaps one of the best high-performance values available in today’s marketplace.

It is sensuously attractive, surprisingly roomy and comfortable, all while delivering outstanding performance across the board for substantially less than $70,000.

The ZO6 comprises levels of capability and technology unprecedented in Corvette’s 53-year history.

It rips from 0-60 mph in under four seconds, covers the quarter mile in less than 12 seconds, and boasts a track speed of more than 190 mph — not too shabby for showroom stock, and it sounds great, too.

The ZO6 is one inch longer and 3.3 inches wider than the base model and tips the scale at a mere 3,130 pounds (49 pounds under the base example), thanks in part to the all-aluminum frame and suspension components, with some titanium parts thrown in for good measure.

The suspension and braking componentry are race bred (actually, the entire car is), which helps to ensure a solid feel and elevated level of confidence.

The steering is right on center, with instantaneous response, which complements the rapid acceleration capability. The wheel is a new, smaller, three-spoke design that is telescopically adjustable.

The sport seats provide pronounced side bolstering for outstanding lateral support when pushing the car through the twisties in a spirited manner.

There is a head-up display with a track mode and G-meter as standard fare for those who go racing.

In the final analysis, the Corvette ZO6 for 2006 from GM’s Chevrolet division is not simply a race-ready sports car. Nor is it purely a Grand Tourer.

It displays and delivers the best of both worlds in the best production Corvette ever.

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