Full disclosure: although we here at Roadfly.com get a good bit more track time than your average drivers-and we do drive a slew of high-powered hot-rods of all shapes and sizes over the course of a year-we really don’t get a whole lot of time in all-out sports cars. Look at the percentages; for every 9112 we might test, we’re bound to review an Accord, a Sienna and a Santa Fe, a Tahoe and a Titan, and even an Aveo in between. So when we do get a full week behind the wheel of an overpowered, driver-focused, utterly selfish machine-read: Corvette-it’s an event. And let’s just get this out of the way right here and now: Thanks, Chevy, for making this one as good as it was.
Yeah, the Corvette kicks ass. You already knew it and we already knew it, from introductory events and fond remembrances of the testers of years gone by. But the 2006 C6 is unequivocally the best ‘Vette yet-not just for the abundant power and superlative grip, but for the astonishingly high levels of creature comfort and refinement found inside as well. The C6 is everything a Corvette should be, and a lot of things it ever was.
Our blue beast racked up 200-some miles in its seven days with us (averaging 17.3 miles per gallon, and that’s the last we’ll talk of that). We tested it on urban blacktops, deserted country roads, and the occasional parking lot. The 6.0-liter V8 got quite a workout in that time-we always feel sorry for the poor saps who buy these press testers as used cars, no matter how well maintained by the fleets. We drove in the heat of high noon and at the darkest hours of night; in dry weather and wet; at sensible speeds and velocities that would cost us our licenses even in less-fascistic countries. And throughout that time, not once did that stupid, shit-eating grin leave our faces.
Tech specs: 400 horsepower, with a 6,500 RPM redline. Six-speed automatic, with paddle shifters. Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension with Sport and Touring settings. 19″ rims-the optional Competition Grey puppies-wearing 245/40 front and 285/35 rear rubber.
Reality: Japanese Bullet Train. Apollo-class rocket boosters. Brock Yates’ famed, imaginary “raped ape.” Sigh…no imagery we can conjure up can express what this kind of acceleration feels like. Yes, we’ve driven the Viper, and we’ve driven the Z06, but there’s a certain point where “fast” becomes simply a matter of degree; and the 2006 Corvette is the benchmark for the feeling. Go out and wrangle yourself a test-drive, if you’ve never encountered this sort of power before; there’s no substitute for experience.
Your first corner will come up a lot quicker than you expected-the LS6 V8 moves this car faster than your brain can process visual images. And you’ll be going a lot faster than you’ll be thinking you should. Fortunately, if the road isn’t too rough, you can pretty much just turn in and hold on. Feather the throttle to adjust the tail end if you need to; the ‘Vette just won’t let go. Turn on Competition Mode by depressing the Active Handling button twice if you’re hitting serious twisties; otherwise the electronic overlords will just fight you if you’re getting really drift-happy. And stick the suspension into Sport Mode for a little more road feel. (You actually can feel the shocks stiffening up when you twist that knob…that’s what she said!) After a while, you’ll realize that the Corvette makes heroes out of even mediocre drivers, and relax in the knowledge that you’re behind the wheel of one of the most competent cars in history.
Just like the old muscle cars of yore, the Corvette is a blast in a straight line as well. The Active Handling limits wheelspin at launch, but when you’ve got grip and forward momentum it feels like nothing can stop you. Downshifting with the accelerator from part-throttle is a revelation; the car’s demeanor transforms from relaxed cruiser to untamed race car in a split second. At any point above 3,000 r.p.m. or so, the exhaust really makes itself heard; it’s a sonorous basso profundo that’ll set off car alarms from a block away. For all this, though, the C6 Corvette isn’t entirely raw. There’s a level of quietness and composure at cruising speeds that was lacking in earlier efforts.
The Corvette’s creature comforts really do coddle you, in fact-and that’s what’s unexpected about all this. It’s surprisingly viable as a daily-driver. There’s a nav system ($1,600) with an honest-to-goodness touch screen-we think GM’s finally using Lexus’ vendor-that actually works and even saves you time now and again. The heads-up display, with several configurations for road and track use, proffers the necessary four-one-one without requiring that split-second drop of the eyes. The top-level audio system, integrated with the navigation, packs a mp3-ready CD player with nearly brain-melting power. It puts out clear, heavy bass notes, with an optional automatic adjustment for ambient noise-although we did find it topped out several notches short of “too loud.”
Speaking of that heads-up display, aside from duplicating speed and tach info it can be configured to project various displays of oil pressure, battery voltage, and temp readings for your oil, coolant, or differential. It’s the Net-Generation’s version of the chromed tri-gauge kit. And perhaps the neatest trick of all, it’s integrated with a g-meter; your hairiest corner-carving quantified into real terms in real-time. According to that on-board observer, the ‘Vette pulls right up to a full g without breaking loose; above 1.0 or so the tail kicks out-but in Competition Mode it’s still easy to bring back in line.
Gadget-wise, the Corvette also comes with the neat little Driver Information Center that’s seen on most high-level GM vehicles these days. Just like in your wife’s Suburban, it’ll give you tire pressures, fuel economy and range, and so on; plus it allows for customizing such features as the length of time the lights stay on after the engine is shut off, whether the horn beeps upon locking and unlocking, etc. And best of all, for the egomaniacs among us (and what good Corvette owner isn’t?), you can program it to display your name at startup, right after the “CORVETTE-by Chevrolet” animation. How cool is that?
Plus, we loved the pop-off targa roof. (Which fist nicely in the cargo area-who says ‘Vette’s don’t score well on trunk space?) Three levers are all it takes to release the fiberglass panel; it’s light enough for one person to lift, and fits nicely into the trunk. Of course, you can leave it on, if it’s too cold outside for top-down motoring (with the heated seats and well-managed cabin airflow, you’re good above as low as, say, 40 degrees). In place, it’s practically invisible-and utterly silent. Considering the improved aesthetics the removable-roof coupe offers over the convertible-not to mention the several thousand dollar price differential-we figure the droptop to be the less-desirable model of the two.
The seats-both of ‘em-should be nicknamed ‘Webster;’ they define supportive to that degree. In a neat trick we haven’t seen since the old Lincoln LSCs, the side bolsters have a motorized adjustment for tightness. Plus, they’re upholstered in leather that feels as soft as your favorite bomber and should last just as long. The dash and door panels are done up in slick, soft plastics and sexy-looking faux carbon fiber. Switchgear this year is to perfection near (sorry, we couldn’t resist; we already told you about that grin, right?); GM has been advancing in this arena by leaps and bounds. Even the carpet feels luxurious.
Dual-zone climate control and two-level heated seats ensure temperate comfort for all. The steering wheel has a motorized telescoping feature, and along with the seats, retracts when the door is opened. And continuing the personalization potential, there are two driver memory settings that control seat, mirror, and audio preferences with the press of a single button.
We’ve waxed poetic for long enough on the ‘Vette’s virtues, and now we’re at the point where in your average review we’d start up the whining machine. For once, however, we’ve got practically nothing to complain about-we’d tell you to alert the media, but we’re it. You can’t touch this level of performance for anywhere near the money; and for those who wish the ‘Vette was even more luxurious or roomy or efficient, go buy something else.