by Jim Kerr
Every now and then along comes a car that sets new standards for automotive performance. The 2002 Corvette Z06 is one of those cars. Its forte’ is civilized power. And lots of it! While the 2001 model was fast, Dave Hill, Corvette’s chief engineer, says the 2002 car is “the quickest Vette to date”. That’s a big statement, when you consider all the high performance Corvettes of the 1960’s and 1970’s!
Under the hood you find 405 horses worth of third generation 5.7 litre small block V8. This is 55 more than the regular Corvette, and 20 more than last year’s Corvette Z06. With 400-ft lbs of torque, the Z06 offers outstanding acceleration. Try zero to 60 mph times in 3.9 seconds, or down the quarter mile in 12.4 seconds!
Fire up the engine and you are greeted by a deep throaty rumble from the tuned exhaust. Improved catalytic converter technology has reduced exhaust back pressure 2 psi, and the titanium exhaust system reduces vehicle weight. Even at the engine’s 6600 rpm redline, the engine sounds mellow and powerful.
Power is no good unless you can put it to the ground, and the Z06 does that in spades. Behind the engine is a clutch with 7% more clamping load and 20% thicker flanges to increase durability. The clutch is connected to a precise shifting 6-speed manual gearbox with wider ratios to enhance performance. Huge P295/35ZR-18 rear tires on 18 x 10.5 wheels ensure there is enough traction to use all the power.
An Active Handling system helps control all that power. Traction control, stability control, and brake proportioning control are all combined to enable the driver to experience the car’s power and handling while maintaining vehicle control. The system works smoothly and made even me look good on the autocross course. The system can be switched to “competitive mode” that disengages the traction control without giving up the other system benefits, or it can be switched off completely for tire smoking performance.
Power gets your attention, but it is the ride and handling ability of the Z06 that puts this car in a class with others that cost two, three, or even four times as much! A lot attention was paid to spring rates, stabilizer bars, camber settings and shock rates to improve both ride and handling. On GM’s road course test track, the 2002 Z06 is .5 seconds a lap faster than last year’s car (the 2001 Z06 was incredibly fast!).
Half a second doesn’t sound like much, but in racing terms, it is like comparing a scooter to a jet plane! This car can be thrown into corners, mishandled, and driven roughly, and it still performs very well. Drive it smoothly, and the Z06 rewards you with cornering ability that makes the adrenaline surge.
Ride usually suffers when optimal handling is desired. I expected to be jolted and jarred over every bump and crack, but I wasn’t. I found the Corvette had a comfortable, smooth ride. According to Tadge Juechter, Performance Cars assistant chief engineer, “the 2002 Z06 is a total performance package”. Even though the ride is firm, it gives up nothing in the way of comfort while achieving outstanding performance levels.
Performance also means keeping the driver fresh and alert. Heads-Up Display is standard so drivers do not have to take their eyes off the road. Leather trimmed bucket seats hold one firmly in place and are very comfortable. Automatic air conditioning, six CD in-dash changer, and full power equipment ensure occupants are as refreshed at the end of the journey as the beginning.
Durability was an important part of the Z06 design. Testing included 250 miles of autocross, 24 hours on the racetrack, and driving flat out at 275 kph for a full tank of fuel. Dave Hill says about the 24 hour track test, “It’s one test that is severe enough to give Corvette the robustness our owners expect”.
GM expects about 20% of the estimated 35,000 Corvettes to be built for the 2002 model year will be Z06 models. Make no mistake about it; the Z06 Corvette was designed for serious performance enthusiasts, but it is a car that is easy to live with. Its rock solid stable, comfortable, and above all offers performance that makes ear to ear grins mandatory.
Technical Data: 2002 Corvette Z06
|Type||2-door, 2 passenger sport coupe|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive|
|Engine||5.7 litre OHV V8|
|Horsepower||405 @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque||400 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm|
|Tires||Front: P265/40ZR17, Rear: P295/35ZR18 Goodyear Eagle F-1 SC|
|Curb weight||1414 kg. (3119 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2656 mm (104.5 in.)|
|Length||4566 mm (179.7 in.)|
|Width||1869 mm ( 73.6 in.)|
|Height||1212 mm ( 47.7 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||377 litres (13.3 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 12.3 l/100 km (23 mpg)|
|Hwy: 7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|