By James Bergeron - It was a Monday, around 11am, my phone rings and I answer it - "Hello?"
"Is this James?"
"Would you like to drive the Z06 on Wednesday?"
"Does a pig roll in sh-- YES!"
Two days later, I walk into Jim Tubman Chevrolet on Bank Street in Ottawa, tell the receptionist my name; they hand me a key and say, "Have fun." I take a quick walk around what can only be referred to from now on as "The Beast".
The 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is the most powerful production GM vehicle ever produced, powered by a 6.2-litre V8 engine that wasn't powerful enough so they bolted a supercharger to it and upped the ante to 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. The window sticker is just as big as the brakes, staring me right in the face: $120,690.
That's a lot of cheddar and they just threw me the keys ... Who am I to question them?
I hop in, fire up the car drive off the lot and give 'er down Hunt Club Road. I stop at the red light with authority as the massive ceramic brake rotors haul The Beast to a stop. I'm sitting there, looking at the leather stitched dash and I spot this older lady waving. I give her a thumbs up, she goes nuts. "NICE CAR!" she exclaims.
As I'm contemplating life at the lights, I think to myself, holy geez I have no license plates on this thing, no paperwork to prove I should be driving it, nothing. Welp ... Today I live dangerously I guess - just as the light turns green and I give the lady a show.
The Z06 starts at a very reasonable (cough) $93,045. For that you get the 650/650 engine, the seven-speed manual transmission with overdrive and a bunch of other stuff like climate control and radio, leather seats - meh, stuff you probably won't care much about in a car like this. The model I tested though, as mentioned, was $120K and it also included the following optional features, which sweetened the deal even further.
The "biggest" feature package was the 3LZ package, which for $9,865 added: navigation, front vision camera, performance data recorder, leather-wrapped interior, front sport bucket seats, memory seats, Bose stereo system and more. Performance-wise, my tester was sporting the massive ceramic brake roots for $8,625 and competition sport bucket seats for $2,295.
The Corvette is no longer a parts bin interior with a huge engine attached to it. GM has really stepped up their game and have designed a quality interior that is luxurious and purposeful - and dare I say world-class? The previously mentioned leather-stitched dash, leather centre console and of course leather seating make the Z06 stand out. The ergonomics are perfect not only for high-performance driving, but even just cruising in the city, I found the seating comfortable, with everything at perfect reach.
The trunk space is surprisingly large for a sports car, heck, nearly a supercar at this rate, making the Corvette a very practical vehicle for everyday duty if you so wish.
Of course all the latest tech is there, and it's easy to use - GM's newer infotainment systems seem to get better every year. Responsive, intuitive with a display that's bright and high-quality. The z06 offers forward, side and rear cameras, so that you can park The Beast without scratching it.
Behind the nav screen is a secret hidden compartment where you can store some valuables or place your phone with the provided USB connection for Apple CarPlay.
As nice as the interior is, and as mean and cool the exterior looks, the heart of The Beast is the biggest story here. Push the start button and the power that this 6.2L V8 engine provides is immediately obvious. At idle there is a lot of rumble from the exhaust, a little shake in the chassis and a lot of excitement from the driver. Rev up the engine to hear the throaty quad exhaust note, and the car shakes from side to side as the 650 lb-ft of torque try to rip the engine out of the chassis.
By default the car starts in Eco driving mode, which offers the oh-so-hated skip-shift function, going from first to fourth gear on gentle starts in order to save some fuel. Although it is a widely panned "feature", The Beast has so much torque that even when it forced the shift to fourth gear, had I not noticed the gigantic "4" displayed in the gauge cluster, I wouldn't have noticed it was happening.
In fact there is so much torque I mistakenly left the dealer lot in third gear without stalling or slipping the clutch! That was also proof to me how tight the gears are together first gear, oddly, has more of a throw left than expected, most likely due to that seventh gear in the box.
With the manual transmission The Best is capable of 0-100km/h run in 3.2 seconds, and boy does it ever feel like it. Mash the throttle - carefully or you'll quickly slip the tires and end up sideways - and the car launches forward with authority and the exhaust roars to life as the exhaust baffles open up to let it sing in sport mode.
This truly is the best Corvette GM has ever built. It has all the pieces to make it a well-refined road-going production race car. If you want to stand out you will be noticed in this car, and you will enjoy every minute you have behind the wheel or simply standing beside it admiring it. Despite the answer seemingly always "Miata" when someone is in search of their next sports car, I have to disagree and say the answer is "Z06".