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5-Oh-5: A race-grade Corvette

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5-Oh-5: A race-grade Corvette

The Corvette Z06 has carbon fiber fenders and floor panels, dual mode four-inch exhaust tips and a blood sport attitude.

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POSTED July 18, 2012 6:29 p.m.

The tires are so sticky, so soft for grip that pebbles and road grit stick to the near slick-like face of the tires, then fling off in ticking melodies as the 505-hp Corvette Z06 moves out.

But this wasn't just any Z06; it was race-grade and featured for a Corvette shoot-out on the cover of Road & Track in April. The Z06, with its 7.0-liter V-8, is a serious tool, a dual-purpose Vette ‑ the kind of car you can drive to the track or slalom and home, and maybe not even change the tires. The Z06 has carbon fiber fenders and floor panels, dual mode four-inch exhaust tips and a blood sport attitude.

It has a starting price of $76,500, but this was a Chevrolet Centennial Edition to celebrate 100 years of Chevrolet and the end of the C6 model. The test car was a fully optioned, carbon black Z06 3LZ with a sticker of $101,760. Compare that to $50,575 for the base Corvette with 430-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 and 16/26 fuel economy with the six-speed manual.

This tribute model is available in Carlisle Blue and Carbon Flash Metallic with satin graphics that showcase a ghost image of Louis Chevrolet on several emblems.

Among the extras were the lightweight black spider-design wheels and ceramic Brembo brakes with red calipers • with 14.1-inch vented and cross-drilled front discs and 13.4-inch rear. The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup runflats are so wide at the rear, they look like black barrels and are little more than street versions of track tires. Also on the tester was the Carbon Fiber package, $3,995, which includes a carbon fiber roof, rocker extensions, front splitter and ZR1-style rear spoiler.

The interior has red stitching, and when paired with the premium package, $8,815, adds a leather-wrapped interior with ultrasuede inserts for grip and touch.

With 470-foot-pounds of torque, the Z06 will do 0-60 in 3.7 seconds • in first gear. The 7.0-liter is hand-assembled, and owners can pay to build their own engine. It gets bolted together with a forged steel crankshaft, racing-derived high-flow cylinder heads with lightweight titanium intake valves and connecting rods. There is a race-style dry-sump oil system to keep the lifeblood circulated in fast-track cornering and lightweight, four-into-one headers.

It is an intimidating car in stance and sound. And yes, it can be your daily driver, but with some cautions. The Sport setting is a true performance-grade stiffening of the suspension. I winced when clomping over rough road and then learned to drive around potholes and broken road.

The curb weight is a trim 3,191 pounds, but this is still a big car. And size is a consideration. The low-riding Z06 is 14.6-feet long and more than six feet wide. A chin spoiler scrapes easily on driveways. The front doors are long • 55 inches • and that can make the driver think twice about mall parking. And it's 10 feet from the driver's seat to the tip of the front carbon splitter. When pulling into head-in parking, the driver seat is parallel to the back door of big sedans, and by then, he or she could have just crunched that splitter into the parking curb. Ouch.

But hit the start button, and the focus is clear. The cylinders fire off with intensity. The short-throw gear box has accommodating shift points, and the power hits hard at 4,800 rpm, generating a vicious, industrial-strength tone. The faster the driving, the more intense the Z06 becomes, almost poised to take flight.

This is a good sendoff of the C6, but what would Corvette enthusiasts change about their sports car? The C7 goes on sale early next year.

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