All-new in 2005, the sixth-generation Corvette has a mighty addition for 2006: the Z06, a 505 hp monster that is the fastest model in the nameplate’s 53-year history.

Regular Corvettes receive only a few changes for 2006. A six-speed paddle shift automatic transmission is available, there’s a smaller three-spoke steering wheel, and advanced dual-stage frontal air bags with passenger sensing system. There is a new Storm Grey convertible top colour and Titanium Grey interior colour, while new Velocity Yellow Tintcoat and Monterey Red Metallic Tintcoat can be splashed on the outside.

Corvettes come as coupes and convertibles, in one trim line, both with a 400 hp 6.0-litre V8. Both have a base six-speed manual transmission; the four-speed automatic offered in 2005 is gone, replaced with the new six-speed paddle shift automatic. The convertible’s power soft top, an option for U.S. buyers, is standard equipment in Canada.

Features on the Corvette include fog lights, high-intensity discharge xenon headlights, power heated mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming feature, 18-inch front and 19-inch rear aluminum wheels, variable intermittent wipers, automatic dual-zone air conditioning, cargo net, cruise control, garage door opener, keyless ignition with pushbutton start, head-up display (HUD), auto-dimming rearview mirror, driver’s position memory, power telescopic/manual tilt leather-wrapped wheel, perforated leather seats with six-way power driver, six-disc CD/MP3 with seven speakers, and traction control. The coupe comes with a body-colour, one-piece removable roof panel that can be optioned to a transparent one.

An available Z51 Performance Package includes the manual six-speed, firmer springs, stickier tires and extra cooling capacity. The available Magnetic Ride system includes special shock absorbers with suspended iron particles in their fluid; when electrical current is applied, it changes the fluid’s viscosity, for a soft ride on long flat runs and a stiffer, curve-friendly firmness for more challenging terrain. Tires are run-flat, with a soft tread that grips the road, and eliminates the added weight of a spare tire.

The Z06 is strictly a fixed-roof hatchback coupe, with a 7.0-litre V8 and only the six-speed manual; the paddle shift automatic can’t be added. Other exclusive features include five-spoke painted aluminum wheels, a unique front fascia, three-inch dual exhaust, carbon fibre fenders and floor panels, dry sump engine oil system, coolers for oil, power steering, transmission and axle, rear-mounted battery, six-piston high-performance cross-drilled front brakes, four-piston rear brakes, and Z06 seat embroidery. High-intensity discharge lights, fog lamps, leather interior, dual-zone air conditioning, cabin air filtration and head-up display (HUD) with track mode and g-meter are also included.

The Corvette remains an American icon; sure, the Germans and the Japanese built cars that handle better and are more sophisticated, but every now and again, you just need some good-old-fashioned, stinkin’ fast, rock-solid Detroit muscle. The Dodge Viper may seem the logical contender, but they’re not really in the same category; the Corvette is user-friendly to the Viper’s sheer brutality, and it’s around $60,000 less.

If the budget allows, look at the Z06; it’ll do zero to 100 km/h in under four seconds. It’s the largest-displacement small-block engine GM has ever built, set into a magnesium cradle in an aluminum body structure that’s unique to the Z06 and not used on the regular Corvette, which uses welded steel components. The only place GM fell down was on the badging; they should have taken a lesson from Dodge’s Hemi. A 7.0-litre engine is really a 427; if they’d put that legendary number on the fender, they’d never be able to keep them in stock.

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