New Chassis SystemThe '06 Corvette Z06 has a new magnesium cradle that serves as the attachment point for the engine and some front suspension components. Magnesium is lighter than aluminum yet incredibly strong. This magnesium cradle helps improve the front-to-rear weight distribution, as do carbon-fiber front fenders and wheelhouses. Engineers also moved the battery from underhood to a position in the rear cargo area, behind one of the rear wheels. "This is an instance where the street car uses more advanced material than the race car," said Hill. "We're constrained by rules to run the steel frame in the race cars, but we stretched to bring even more performance technology to the street for our customers." The mass reductions are offset by some added performance enablers, including dry-sump lubrication, 3-inch (76.2mm) exhaust with outlet valves, larger wheels and tires, more powerful brakes, and stiffer roll stabilizers.

Suspension, Brakes, Wheels, And TiresThe Z06 retains the 106-inch (2,686mm) wheelbase of other Corvette models, as well as the short-long- arm suspension and transverse leaf spring design, but it rides on all-new wheels, tires, brakes, as well as its own rear spring and roll stabilizer.

The firmer suspension uses large 18x9.5-inch cast-spun aluminum wheels and 275/35ZR18 tires in the front, and 19x12-inch cast-spun aluminum wheels with 325/30ZR19 tires in the rear-the largest wheel-and-tire combination ever offered on a Corvette. The tires use the latest extended-mobility technology from Goodyear to provide a satisfactory ride, but still allow the vehicle to achieve lateral acceleration of more than 1 g. The extended-mobility tires eliminate the need and weight for a spare tire and jack or inflator kit, and reduce the chance of a sudden loss of handling capability.

Complementing the new suspension system and large tire/wheel combination is an equally capable four-wheel disc-brake system, consisting of 14-inch (355mm) vented and cross-drilled front rotors and 13.4-inch (340mm) vented and cross-drilled rear rotors. For comparison, the '05 Corvette has 12.8-inch (325mm) front and 12-inch (305mm) rear rotors, while the '05 Corvette with the Z51 has 13.4-inch (340mm) and 13-inch (330mm) rotors.

Huge, red-painted six-piston calipers that use six individual brake pads act upon the front rotors. Individual brake pads are used because they deliver more equalized wear compared to what would otherwise be a pair of long single-piece pads. For the rear brakes, four-piston calipers with four individual brake pads are used. There is a Delphi four-channel ABS system, as well as a competent active handling system, complete with a Competitive Driving mode. The large brakes should bring an excellent level of stopping capability with the Z06; and with their four-wheel brake cooling, they should provide excellent fade resistance and lining life during track duties.

Daily Driver AmenitiesFor all its race-inspired functionality, the Z06 is designed to be a daily driveable high-performance vehicle. To that end, comfort and convenience are held to a high standard. HID lighting, fog lamps, leather seating, dual-zone air conditioning, cabin air filtration, and Head-Up Display (HUD) with track mode and g-meter are all standard.

The Z06 also has a revised gauge cluster that displays the Z06 logo on the 7,000-redline tachometer, as well as a new readout on the oil-pressure gauge to reflect the higher standard pressure of the dry-sump oiling system. And, like other '06 Corvettes, the Z06 has a new, smaller-diameter three-spoke steering wheel that provides a more agile, performance-oriented feel. The seats feature two-tone leather surfaces, with Z06-logo embroidery and contrasting stitching.

Z06 options include a Bose audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer, polished wheels, a telescoping steering wheel, heated seats, side airbags, a navigation system with GPS, HomeLink, and XM satellite radio.

But for all its comfort, GM engineers did sacrifice a few components in the quest for lower weight and higher performance:* The seat side bolsters are fixed and more aggressive to better hold the driver when cornering, and they weigh less than standard-model seats.* The passenger seat features manual controls, saving the weight of a power-adjust motor.* The acoustic package was revised to reduce weight and allow more aural feedback of the powertrain.

Indeed, the new Z06 is the fastest, most powerful car ever offered by Chevrolet and General Motors. It looks to offer an unprecedented level of capability and technology, making it one of the greatest performance values on the market. And with an unmistakably muscular appearance, the '06 Z06 has a visual attitude that seems ready to demonstrate Corvette's winning attitude to any challenger around the globe. Production of the '06 Z06 will begin in the second half of 2005 at the Bowling Green, Kentucky, Assembly Plant. Now we just have to wait awhile before we get to drive this beast, and we can't wait.