New for 2001 and replacing last year’s hardtop model, the limited-production Chevrolet Corvette Z06 hardtop is a high-performance derivative with a revised 385 horsepower 5.7 litre ‘LS6’ V8 engine, a special FE4 suspension, unique Goodyear F1 17 inch and 18 inch high-performance tires, a standard 6-speed manual transmission, and Active Handling Control. It’s priced at $65,980, but they’re hard to find – supplies of this model are limited.
‘Z’ is for zoom!
Most contemporary sports cars are faster and better-handling than sports cars of a decade ago, but they’re also quieter, more comfortable and easier to drive. Just about anyone can get into a Honda S2000, a Porsche Boxster or a Jaguar XK8, and drive it with the same ease as a typical family sedan. Somewhere along the line, the pure visceral sensations of traditional sports cars has been lost – the noisy engines, vibrating cabins, stiff suspensions, oil smells wafting from the engine – it’s all been refined and re-refined into something that will please everyone.
The new 2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, I’m happy to say, won’t please everyone. This car is a brute – a contemporary brute – but a brute nevertheless. Like the original 1963 Corvette Sting Ray Z06, the new Z06 is designed to be race-ready right out of the showroom. Compared to the 2001 Corvette hatchback and convertible models, the Z06 hardtop has a lighter curbweight, a more powerful 385 horsepower 5.7 litre ‘LS6 V8 engine, a 6-speed manual transmission with special gear ratios, a performance-tuned FE4 suspension, a lightweight titanium exhaust system, and high performance Goodyear Eagle F1 tires.
It’s got the sensory appeal that has been lost on many high-end sports cars. The exhaust note is loud and racy, the engine rumbles and vibrates at idle, the gear lever has a solid, mechanical feel, the ride is stiff, and it requires real skill to drive well.
It’s not only “the quickest and best handling Corvette ever,” it’s the most exciting sports car on the market.
Easy to spot Z06
It’s not difficult to distinguish the Z06 from other Corvettes. Apart from its ‘hardtop’ bodystyle (which is different from the hatchback coupe and the convertible Corvette models), the Z06 includes air scoops on the rear rocker panels that funnel air to the rear brakes for cooling, centre air inlets on the front bumper, and Z06-specific alloy wheels painted a light-grey metallic colour. In addition, the disc brake calipers are painted red, and the LS6 engine cover is red to differentiate it from the LS1. Also, Z06 emblems are positioned on the front fenders.
The interior includes a special instrument cluster with chequered-flag graphics and a tachometer with a higher 6,500 rpm redline. The Z06’s black leather seats have additional side bolstering for lateral support and the seats have Z06 logos embroidered into the headrests. Optional are red seat inserts, red lower instrument panel, and red inserts in the lower door panels.
More horsepower and torque
While 2001 Corvette coupe and convertible models have the standard LS1 5.7 litre OHV V8 engine (which gets a 5 horsepower boost to 350, and a boost in torque to 375 ft-lb. at 4400 rpm), the Z06 has a specially-tuned version of this engine with 385 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 385 ft-lb. of torque at 4800 rpm.
Improvements to the LS6 engine include a modified aluminum block for better oil distribution, a more aggressive camshaft profile, higher capacity air intake manifold, new high compression cylinder heads (10.5:1 vs. 10.1:1 on the LS1), stronger valve springs, and larger fuel injectors.
Believe it or not, the LS6 engine is also more environmentally friendly.
All Corvettes, including the Z06, are now classified as National Low Emission Vehicles (NLEV), and fuel economy is slightly better. The recommended oil change interval has been extended for all Corvette models from 16,000 kilometres to 24,000 kilometres or 1 year, whichever comes first. This means less dirty oil to be recycled and fewer dirty oil filters going into landfills.
Other Z06 features are a new 6-speed manual transmission with more aggressive gearing for more rapid acceleration, and a unique, less-restrictive titanium exhaust system that is 50-percent lighter than the stainless steel system it replaces.
Some Z06 features were incorporated into the other Corvettes: new intake and exhaust manifolds, a stronger clutch that requires less pedal effort, and a stronger, larger diameter aluminum driveshaft.
The Z06 features a unique FE4 suspension which is not available on other Corvette models. It features a larger front stabilizer bar, stiffer rear leaf spring and revised camber settings.
The Z06’s special forged-aluminum wheels are an inch wider than those used on coupes and convertibles and its new Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires (P265/40ZR17 front, P295/35ZR18 rear) are lighter, wider and stickier than the Eagle F1 GS EMT run-flat tires on the 2001 Corvette coupe and convertible. The four F1 tires weigh 10.6 kilograms (23.4 lb.) less than the run-flat tires. This reduces the ‘unsprung’ weight of the car contributing to better handling and ride.
As the Z06 does not have a spare tire, a puncture sealant and inflator kit is included with the car. However, I’m not sure if this would be effective in case of a major blowout..
All told, the Z06 is 16 kg (36 lb.) lighter than the 2000 model Corvette hardtop, and 53 kg (117 lb.) lighter than the 2001 coupe and convertible.
Second-generation Active Handling system
An important advancement for 2001 is the second-generation Active Handling system and an improved traction control system. In the event of loss of control, the Active Handling System uses acceleration and yaw rate sensors to instruct a computer to automatically brake individual wheels and retard the throttle to regain vehicle control. (This system can be switched off). The previous Active Handling System was considered too intrusive by many drivers, so Corvette engineers upgraded this new system to be more subtle. Active Handling is standard on all Corvettes for 2001.
Getting in to the Corvette Z06 means getting down – this is a low car! Once in to the body-hugging bucket seats, the driver looks over the muscular hood with its raised fender bulges and the raised centre section. Outward visibility is good despite the low driving position. The big rear window in particular provides excellent rear and rear three-quarter vision.
The driver faces large round gauges including a 300 km/h speedometer and a tachometer with a 6500 rpm redline. There’s also oil pressure, coolant, fuel and battery gauges, and a comprehensive trip computer just to the right of the gauges. In the centre dash area is an AM/FM/cassette/CD player and automatic climate control with separate driver and passenger temperature settings (not spartan by any means!)
The one-piece high-back bucket seats have prominent side bolsters for support and the centre tunnel is fairly high. The big gear shift knob is positioned fairly high but is easy to grab. The design and shape of the controls is significantly better than pre-1997 Corvettes, but a storage bin under the centre armrest is rather shallow, and there’s only one cupholder just to the right of the gear lever.
Behind the seats is an open trunk compartment that’s also accessible from outside by a trunklid. With 377 litres of cargo space, the Corvette has as much cargo room as a small sedan! Of course, one of the reasons for this is that the Z06 has no spare tire. A deep well where the spare tire was provides additional trunk space. One problem: since the trunk is open to the passenger compartment, it’s possible for items to be thrown forwards under panic braking – I would recommend installing a net or wall just behind the seats.
Turn the ignition key, and the high-performance LS6 5.7 litre V8 rumbles to life with the distinctive, deep-throated sound that only North American V8’s can offer. The gear shift lever has a large, leather-covered knob that’s easy to grab and has a strong, mechanical feel that compliments the macho appeal of this car. Engage the fairly light clutch and the Z06 rumbles away with an increasingly loud, race-car like sound. The 385 horsepower engine can catapult the Z06 from 0-100 km/h in just over 4 seconds, and the quarter mile in 12 seconds.
The engine has so much torque that you can pull away in fourth or fifth from 30 km/h with ease. On the highway in 6th gear, the engine is doing only 1550 rpm at 100 km/h which explains its reasonable gas consumption. Despite its stiff sport suspension, the Z06 is comfortable enough to take on long highway journeys – and apart from a dull engine rumble and some tire noise coming from behind the driver through the bodywork, the Z06 is quiet on the highway.
Get into the corners, and the Z06 is amazingly flat with virtually no lean and tremendous grip on dry pavement. The variable-assist steering is accurate and well-weighted with quick turn-in response. On wet roads however, the combination of its very wide tires, a lightweight rear-end, and tremendous engine torque conspire to rip the rear-end loose under even mild acceleration when coming out of a corner.
Thank goodness for the new, improved Active Handling system. It will probably save your a_s at least once during the time that you own this car. The new Active Handling System is much less intrusive than the previous version – instead of ‘shutting down’ the engine, and applying the brakes as soon as any wheel slip is detected, the system activates gently just after the rear-end comes loose. The system can be turned off via a button in the cockpit, but this is only advisable if you’re a really, really good driver.
The big four wheel disc brakes equipped with ABS have tremendous stopping power without a lot of pedal effort, and include a new electronic rear brake proportioning system to automatically adjust front/rear braking forces.
For a base price of $65,980, the Z06 offers more horsepower and more performance than anything else in its class. It’s not as refined as some of its German, Japanese, and British competitors, but if you want some sensory excitement that makes even driving down to the local Starbucks an adrenaline-enhanced experience, then the Z06 may be for you.
Corvettes are built in Bowling Green, Kentucky, just opposite the National Corvette Museum. Check out their web-site at www.corvettemuseum.com.
|2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 hardtop|
|Type||2-door, 2-passenger sports car|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive|
|Engine||5.7 litre OHV V8 ‘LS6’|
|Horsepower||385 @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque||385 ft.-lb.@ 4800 rpm|
|Tires||Front: P265/40ZR x 17
Rears: P295/35ZR x 18
(includes puncture sealant and inflator kit)
|Curb weight||1415 kg (3115 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2656 mm (104.5″)|
|Length||4566 mm (179.7″)|
|Width||1869 mm ( 73.6″)|
|Height||1212 mm ( 47.7″)|
|Trunk space||377 litres (13.3 cu.ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City : 12.4 l/100km (23 mpg)|
|Hwy: 7.9 l/100km.(36 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|