2006 Chevrolet Corvette Review

2006 Chevrolet Corvette - Keeps getting better.


For the money, there isn't a better sports car than the latest 400-horsepower Chevrolet Corvette. Simple as that.

Road & Track magazine's March issue compared a 2005 Corvette coupe with eight top sports cars that don't cost "more than a house'' (spell Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.) in a "Best All-Around Sports Car'' feature and found the 'Vette finished No. 1. It beat the BMW Z4 3.0i, Dodge Viper SRT-10, Honda S2000, Lotus Elise, Mercedes-Benz SLK350, Nissan 350Z 35th Anniversary model, Porsche Boxster S and Porsche Carrera S Coupe.

The biggest news for the 2006 Corvette line is a new, oh-my-gosh 505-horsepower Corvette Z06 hardtop. It has an astonishing 470 pound-feet of torque and is the fastest Corvette since the car's debut in 1953. It's visually distinguished by such things as wider rear fenders with flares to cover massive rear tires and a brake cooling scoop in front of the back wheels, along with Z06 badging.

The $65,000 Z06 comes only as a coupe with a manual transmission. It seems vastly overqualified for road use -- unless you live in the middle of nowhere and want rocket-sled acceleration (0-100 mph in 7.7 seconds). Or unless you're a fairly affluent gearhead or showoff. The Z06 is a steal for the money, but so is any 2006 Corvette.

Why the Z06? Mainly because DaimlerChrysler's rival Dodge Viper has a 510-horsepower V-10 engine, and Chevrolet thus also wants a 500-plus-horsepower Corvette. Also, Chevy has had recent, successful major race wins with the Corvette, and the Z06 showcases that success.

The regular 2006 Corvette has no earthshaking changes because it was totally redesigned for 2005. That C6 (sixth generation) 'Vette replaced a model introduced in 1997. It got slicker styling without the retractable headlights Corvettes had since 1963, trimmer dimensions, 50 extra horsepower, improved interior and keyless entry and ignition. It also was the first Corvette convertible to have a power top since 1962.

That top is costly at $1,995 and really isn't needed, unless occupants want to open or close the top without getting out of the car.

The major new feature for the latest 400-horsepower Corvette is a $1,250 six-speed (up from four-speed) automatic transmission with Ferrari-style steering wheel paddles for manual shifting. They seem superfluous with the responsive automatic, which also has a Drive mode for smoother shifts and Sport mode for firmer shifts.

Those who want to manually shift should pocket the $1,250 and opt for the standard six-speed manual gearbox. It's occasionally balky during fast shifts, but makes a Corvette more fun to drive, although some 60 percent of Corvettes are ordered with an automatic. Also, half are convertibles.

There's also a new smaller-diameter, three-spoke steering wheel, optional XM Satellite radio, advanced frontal air bags with a passenger-sensing system and, appropriately, new Velocity Yellow paint.

The regular Corvette comes as a well-equipped $43,800 hatchback and as a $51,535 convertible. Both are offered with the manual or automatic transmission.

I tested the $43,800 coupe with the automatic and found the car to be so fast (0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds) that there were few times I could use most of its power and 400 pound-feet of torque on area roads-- and then only for a few seconds. A 65-75 mph passing test was so fast and effortless that it felt like a 35-45 mph test.

Steering, handling and braking are excellent and the firm base suspension is compliant and best suited for most Corvette buyers. Anti-lock brakes are standard, as are traction control and an anti-skid system. Corvettes used to slide all over the place on slippery winter roads here without those items, and thus most were parked until warm weather arrived.

My test car had the optional Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension with a driver-controlled "Tour'' mode for a softer ride and "Sport'' mode for a firmer ride but slightly sharper handling. There's also an optional Z51 performance suspension, but it's mainly for car buffs. Average drivers will find it too stiff.

The engine loafs in town and during highway cruising. That's why the 400-horsepower Corvette provides an estimated 18 mpg in the city and 28 on highways with the manual transmission and 17 and 27 with the automatic -- not bad for a 186-mph car. The Z06 provides 16 and 26, and reportedly tops 190 mph.

The hard-edged Viper will tire out anyone but a NASCAR race driver in an hour, but the Corvette is a comfortable long-distance car. However, it isn't well-suited for running errands because its long doors are awkward in tight parking spots and its seats are so low that getting in and out is a chore.

Doors are opened from the interior with small buttons, instead of handles. Some will find them nifty, others too gimmicky.

The roomy interior is inviting, with supportive seats, easily read gauges and nicely placed controls. However, a fair amount of noise from the Corvette's huge tires infiltrates the highly aerodynamic coupe's interior.

The trunk is fairly roomy in both the coupe and convertible, but has an unusually high opening. And the coupe has no partition between the cargo area and cabin, which has scant storage space.

The current-generation Corvette is by far the best ever. It thus easily remains America's dream machine. 



Seriously fast. Comfortable. Fairly fuel-thrifty. Outstanding value for the money.

Awkwardly long doors. Difficult entry/exit. High trunk opening.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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