2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Racetrack sophisticate

"The supercharged V8 feels sharp, revvy and always insistent" said David

"It can accelerate to 100 kilometers an hour in just 3.1 seconds"

"Comparing, the handling is favorable - like a Ferrari 458"

"Drifting the car like a champ is easy in the Z06"

It's heresy, I tell you, heresy. It's not enough that a lowly Chevrolet must now be considered a supercar, even more blasphemous is that Chevy is at its most "super" when hooked up to an automatic transmission.

The car is the latest rendition of Corvette's topflight Z06. That's hardly a revelation; if any Chevy were to be deemed super, it would have to be the iconic Corvette. But, it is a little more shocking that the transmission in question is not one of those newfangled PDK units with their dual clutches and pre-selected gear-changing mechanisms, but rather a plain, old torque-converted slush box.

Nor is it just in a straight line that GM's new eight speed 8L90 automatic is superior to the also available seven speed manual, but also around Spring Mountain Motor Resort's 2.4 kilometer racetrack, where the combination of precise gear selection algorithms and bullet-quick shifting have the auto box shifting gears perfectly. Indeed, so adroit does the 8L90's computer match gears and revs that the Z06 is quicker, more manageable and more fun left in fully automatic mode. Use the paddle shifters if you must, but you'll be slower for it. The 2015 Z06 truly is, in every sense of the word, the first automatic transmission supercar.

Meanwhile, the 6.2 liter supercharged LT4 V8 boasts 650 horsepower, 650 pound feet of torque and, when hooked up to the eight speed, can accelerate to 100 kilometers an hour in just 3.1 seconds. The quarter mile arrives in a truly startling 10.95 seconds as long as you're letting the transmission shift itself; it's a slightly longer 11.2 seconds for the seven speed manual.

More impressive, however, is its comportment; there's little of the brutishness of the old ZR1 left, despite sharing much the same general specification. The old ZR1 was a drag racer; the previous, naturally aspirated Z06 the racetrack sophisticates. The 2015 Z06 combines the best of both.

The same applies to the Corvette's chassis, which, with the same subtlety of operation as the engine, is really what garners the new Z06 supercar status. Though the general specs remain the same - aluminum space frame chassis mated to a double wishbone suspension controlled by magneto-rheological dampers - it is the unseen structural changes that make the difference. Thanks to more laser welding and a completely revamped transmission tunnel layout, the bottom is now fully enclosed for greater torsional rigidity and the chassis is some 56 percent stiffer.

The improvements are dramatic. The C7 Vette is still a large car; its traditional front-engine/rear-drive layout forcing a greater distance between front and rear wheels. Yet, thanks to some judicious re-cambering of the front suspension geometry and the super-gummy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s that make up part of the track-oriented Z07 package, the Vette's turn-in is razor sharp. My onboard Performance Data Recorder was consistently recording cornering acceleration peaking at 1.3 g's, the front tires never once giving up their limpet-like grip on the track's decreasing radius turns.

Ensuring that neither the chassis nor rear tires are overwhelmed is the work of the Performance Traction Management system. It is simply the very best electronic stability control system in the sports car world. Depending on the setting chosen, and there are many to choose from, PTM will either allow a little or a lot of tail-wagging oversteer, always kept in perfect check, unless you're spectacularly inept, by the combination of sensors and computers. Drifting the car like a champ is easy in the Z06, there being none of the sudden chopping of throttle that plagues many other high powered coupes. Factor in carbon ceramic brakes (in the Z07 package) and the adjustable suspension's uncanny ability to almost completely eliminate roll and you have the first Corvette that deserves to be compared to the Lamborghinis and Ferraris.

Performance foibles are few. The base model, with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires and ordinary steel disc brakes, seems a tad soft and squidgy when pushed. But, then, it really isn't meant for track abuse. As well, the seven speed manual, despite the addition of rev matching on downshifts, feels, like all manuals do these days, a bit archaic. And the autobox, for all of its prowess in automatic mode, is a little vague when downshifting using the paddle shifters.

But these are minor downsides compared with torque that makes even a Porsche 911 Turbo envious, an exhaust note that out-snarls an SLS and handling I have been comparing so favorably to a Ferrari 458.

Verdict
The best news of all? The base Z06 in the United States costs between USD $79,995-$83,995. Even the all-singing, all-dancing Z07-packaged, automatic version barely breaks USD $88,000. That's amazingly inexpensive considering the performance. The 88 large won't get you the 911 Carrera S's 400 hp, and the only 458 you could get for that money would have to be delivered in the dark of night.

Now that is truly super.

Pros: incredible value, supercar performance, PTM the best sporting vehicle stability control system in the world
Cons: still very American looking, but when are we getting a mid-engined Vette?
Rivals: SRT Viper, Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Huracan, Audi R8
Engine: 6.2L, V8 supercharged, 650 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 881 Nm @ 3,600 rpm
Transmission: 7 speed manual
Performance: 0-100 kph: 3.1 sec, 13L /100 km, top speed: 320+ kph
Chassis: 1,598 kg
One word: Real
4.5 stars

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