On a desolate desert road with no cars in sight, the speedometer was just begging for more. Before I could change my mind, I shoved the shifter into Third and let the engine scream. Shifting at 6,500 rpm, I watched the speedometer effortlessly climb into the three-digit marks. As it went farther, I started thinking about reality when I noticed the speedometer pass the 140 mark. At that moment I convinced myself to let the car slow back down to a more politically correct speed. Then I spent the rest of the day wondering what it would have been like to keep going.

That’s what happens when you drive the new ’01 Z06 Corvette. We had the Millennium Yellow Corvette for one week and drove the car to learn more about what the new LS6-powered Z06 is all about. Basing it on the standard Corvette LS1, Chevrolet engineers have taken a good thing and made it even better. Improvements include better flowing cylinder heads, more compression (10.5:1), a larger mass airflow sensor, a more aggressive hydraulic roller camshaft, and freer flowing exhaust manifolds. Inside, the Z06 Corvette has a specific instrument cluster with a 6,500-rpm redline, a 200-mph speedometer, and checkered flag graphics. The cockpit’s ergonomics blend the driver and occupant into the interior as if you were born in the saddle.

Our testing was done in the desert north of Los Angeles and driving it was a thrill. The car handles traffic at the freeway entrances with ease. A soft rumble at idle lets you know there are 385 hp on tap. When the gas pedal is pressed, the LS6 engine emits a unique sound that makes you believe there are several engines working in harmony. Chevrolet engineers designed a titanium exhaust system for the Z06 that reduces weight and corrosion. The exhaust package saves about 17 pounds compared to the non-Z06 exhaust system. And weight savings are big on the Z06’s list. Corvette engineers have taken even more weight from the Z06 by employing thinner glass for the front and rear windshield, and lighter wheels and tires. To maintain this lightweight status, few add-on options are available for the Z06. The lighter Z06 comes in at 3,115 pounds (100 pounds less than non-Z06 models).

With the manual six-speed transmission (M12 Tremec) unique to the Z06, along with all this power, the Corvette makes quick work out of covering ground. The hard part is taking your foot off the gas. The balance and feedback the car gives you are astounding. The six-speed offers a gear appropriate for any speed or acceleration need. The Tremec transmission is mounted at the rear axle for better weight distribution and is equipped with deeper ratios than the non-Z06 six-speed. For instance, the M12 uses a 2.97:1 First gear compared to 2.66:1 for the non-Z06 MM6 six-speed. The rear axle ratio for the Z06 package is 3.42:1.

Our recent trip to the Los Angeles County Raceway clocked a corrected low e.t. of 12.64 @ 114 mph. Shifting ease could be improved though. On the return road back from making each dragstrip pass, we noticed the clutch-pedal engagement points changed. The problem occurs because of a built-in hydraulic clutch restriction. This is designed to enhance smoother clutch operation during normal traffic operation.

Suspension refinements include the new FE4 suspension, which utilizes a larger front sway bar, stiffer rear springs, better shock valving, and improved camber settings to keep the tires flatter on turns. The Z06 is also equipped with Goodyear’s new Eagle F1 SC tires mounted to wider, Z06 aluminum wheels. Put the car into any corner and be ready to hang on.

The car gets noticed too. On an early a.m. trip with the Z06, I stopped at a donut shop in the San Fernando Valley. A few minutes later, someone walked in and yelled, "man, whose yellow Corvette is that?" In 40-degree weather, the guy spent the next 15 minutes going over every inch of the car. All he could say was "what a super car."