2008 Chevy Corvette Z06 – Click above for high-res image gallery

I received an Indy 500 poster on my birthday in 1986 that featured a Yellow C4 Corvette pace car leading the pack. My dad hung the poster above my bed, and I can honestly say that I stared at it every night for years. The Corvette was my dream car for my entire childhood, but as an adult I turned my attention to European rides like the Porsche 911 and the Ferrari 360 Modena.

When the C6 Corvette hit the scene for the 2005 model year, the Bow Tie brand's halo vehicle again had me pining for some General Motors muscle. GM gave the base Vette the same 400 horsepower as the C5 Z06, and I figured it was all the power I could ever want. That is, until the 2006 Z06 came along. The Z06 was kicking ass on the track and in enthusiast magazines, and it was toppling competition that far exceeded the Corvette's $70,000 price of entry. We never had the Z06 in the Autoblog Garage, so we were more than happy to take it off Chevy's hands for a week. Hit the jump to see if the Z06 met our lofty expectations from childhood.

All photos copyright ©2008 Chris Shunk, Sam Abuelsamid/Weblogs, Inc.

Our Velocity Yellow Tintcoat 2008 Corvette Z06 came with the optional 3LT package that includes upgraded leather interior surfaces and a $82,665 price tag. Available options were limited to the Navigation system and upgraded 18-inch aluminum wheels, and the brilliant yellow paint job came at a $750 price premium over the other available colors.

The Z06 Corvette has several visual cues that differentiates it from the base Vette. The changes start up front with a carbon fiber chin spoiler, slightly modified front air dam, and a real working air vent in the hood. The Z06 also has a side vent to cool the massive SBRP325/30ZR19 Eagle F1 rear tires, and the front wheel vent and fenders are also wider to accommodate the larger SBRP275/35ZR18 tires up front. Dimensionally, the Z06 is a full three inches wider and one inch longer than the base C6, yet a steady diet of carbon fiber and aluminum helps it weigh 3,132 lbs – 47 lbs. less than the standard Vette.

Cosmetic changes to the Z06 are nice, but the biggest upgrade for the Z06 comes under the hood. The General bored and stroked its iconic small block V8 to a cavernous 7.0 liters and upped the power quotient to 505 ponies and 470 lb-ft of torque. Compression was increased from 10.7:1 to 11:1 and the small block hits its peak power output at 6,300 rpm, compared to the 6.2-liter's 5,900 rpm.

Does the Z06's extra pop translate to track supremacy? Oh yeah. Enthusiast mags have routinely clocked the Z06 going from 0-60 mph in 3.7-3.9 seconds, and its top speed is quoted at nearly 200 mph. We don't typically run 0-60 tests and we never go 197 mph on public roads, but we can still say that the Z06 is freaky fast. In real world terms, the base Corvette will make you say "Wow, very nice", while jamming the accelerator on the Z06 will result in something more along the lines of "Whoa, what the #$!@%... YEAH!"

Then there is the sound. That wonderful sound of eight highly motivated pistons working together to propel our brilliant yellow test vehicle. The dual stage exhaust keeps things muted around town and on the highway, but anything approaching aggressive driving produces a growl that is matched by few powerplants on Earth.

Driving the Z06 can be really exhilarating, or just downright frustrating. GM prides itself for making the Z06 a track star that is comfortable enough to function as a daily driver, but it was much more painful than the standard commuter Vette when we were stuck in traffic. It wasn't the stiff clutch or notchy shifter that had us smarting; it was having all that power under our right foot without the ability to use it. 470 lb-ft of torque can be downright addicting, but you need open road to enjoy it because the Z06 accelerates more like a crotch rocket than most sport coupes.

Once you do find a clearing, the Z06's 7,000 rpm redline and prodigious thrust will quell any desire to spend $60 on a theme park ticket. Hit the pedal from a dead stop and you can reach 65 mph before needing to slip the short throw shifter into second. Hell, at 65, who needs second? Head straight into third or fourth if you wish, and the power just keeps flowing to the rear wheels with neck-snapping force. Steering is still a bit on the light side, but there is definitely more feedback than in Corvettes of yore, which gives more confidence when turning at speed. Cornering in the Z06 is amazingly balanced and controlled thanks in part to the Eagle F1 rubber and Magnetic Ride suspension, and switching to Competition mode allows for some easily manageable power slides.

We're no track stars, though, so we kept alive all electrical traction and stability assistance most of the time. It's a good thing, too, because I decided to show off with my wife in the car just as the car hit a patch of loose gravel. The Z06 began to tail violently to the right when the traction assistance kicked in and swiftly righted our course. I successfully begged my wife not to make me pull the car over and let her drive, but let's just say that I didn't get to choose the candy at the movie theater that night.

With a vehicle as fun to drive as the Z06, interior fit and finish definitely isn't the story, but when spending $82,000 on a new car, owners still want the goods. The Z06 delivers for the most part, as the optional leather upholstery package gives the Z06 interior refinement that it lacked prior to the 2008 model year. Its sport bucket seats are swathed in rich leather, and ample support kept us planted in our seat even when we hit .96 Gs. The nav screen was bright and easy to use, though we experienced some unusually long latency on a couple of occasions.

The one thing we couldn't get past on the Z06 was the smell. We don't know if it was the upscale leather interior package or special glue that GM doesn't otherwise use, but something just wasn't right. It wasn't enough to make us dislike being behind the wheel, but it's definitely something the should be remedied if found in other cars.

The 2008 Corvette Z06 may not be the most beautiful car on the road, but for the money, this exemplary example of Motown metal has few peers. It's ridiculously fast, has the agility of far more expensive European sports coupes, and now finally has an interior befitting a high end sports car. With the Z06, GM is producing the naturally aspirated Corvette of our dreams, and with the force-fed ZR1 on the way, Italy and Germany's supercar competition will soon have a nightmare on their hands.

All photos copyright ©2008 Chris Shunk, Sam Abuelsamid/Weblogs, Inc.

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