2015's Top Ten Tech Cars: Chevrolet Corvette Z06

The best bang for your buck

Video: Jay Leno's Garage

Finally, Chevy has managed to put it all together. The supercharged, 485-kilowatt (650-horsepower) version of the new Corvette Z06 combines a race-bred aluminum space frame, carbon-fiber bodywork, an adaptive magnetic suspension, superb aerodynamics, and a brilliant limited-slip differential. (It’s called “limited slip” because it reduces power to the wheel that’s not getting traction, thanks to an algorithm based on real-time parameters.)

Coupe or convertible, it’s simply one of the fastest, best-performing production cars in history, beating track times of virtually any rival that sells for less than US $500,000, at a price that reads like a typo: Just $78,995 to start.

On a test drive near Death Valley, in California’s Mojave Desert, the Z06 coupe peaks at 185 kilometers per hour (115 miles per hour) in third gear and 233 km/h (145 mph) in fourth. I stop there, before the 314-km/h (195-mph) top speed becomes too tempting. Besides, a test track beckons at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, in Nevada.

The Z06 hurtles to 97 km/h (60 mph) in 2.95 seconds, then stops in 30 meters, thanks to mighty Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes. It pulls an insane 1.2 g’s of lateral cornering force, thanks in part to its Michelin-designed Super Sport Cup tires, which use a compound developed exclusively for the Z06. Those cornering and braking numbers may well set production-car records. Yes, the Ferrari 458 Speciale is one such production car.

Magnetic shocks and the Driver Mode Selector deliver a pleasingly wide envelope of driver settings, allowing the Z06 to cruise in all-day comfort or drive straight onto the track. With its 20,000-rpm supercharger nestled between its cylinder banks, the LT4 engine is only a couple of centimeters taller than the standard Stingray’s 6.2-liter engine, but it generates nearly 37 percent more power and a fearsome 881 newton meters (650 foot-pounds) of torque. Its V-8 even operates in four-cylinder mode to save fuel. Buyers choose a seven-speed manual transmission or a new eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic that executes commands 160 times per second.

On Spring Mountain’s sinuous track, I feel serenely in control. It’s a testament to the work of the seven-time-LeMans-winning Corvette team that transferred technology to this street Corvette, which in turn informed the development of the new C7.R racer.

The coup de grâce is the Performance Data Recorder, which captures high-def video and in-car audio of track laps or Dairy Queen runs and overlays the video with telemetry data. Drivers can play back video in the car, share it online, or apply track-analysis software to improve their skills. If you’ve got $80,000 to $95,000 to spend on a Z06, it sure beats PlayStation.