High-performance Corvette variants often came with some baked-in sacrifice: a heavy big-block hobbling chassis balance or racetrack handling at the expense of ride quality. That all changed with the introduction of the C5 Corvette Z06 in 2001.
At its core, the base C5 platform’s stiff hydroformed frames and rear transaxle layout maximized interior space and everyday usability while also paying dividends for weight balance and rigidity. Chevy opted to base this performance Vette on the C5 hardtop rather than the heavier and more flexy hatchback coupe. Hung with firmer suspension components and stickier, non-run-flat rubber, the C5’s cornering capability swelled to near-supercar levels. Hot-rodding the base car’s LS1 V-8 into the 405-hp LS6 yielded a formidable 4.0-second 0–60 hustle. Even now, the Z06 meets an array of buyers on their turf—it’s as happy on a relaxed cruise as it is beating up on cars half its age during a track day.
Speaking of track days, the Z06 looks the part, sporting several performance-oriented design cues. The notch-back greenhouse, aggressive wheels, brake ducts, mesh intake screens, and subtle badges convey a more serious, capable presence than entry-level C5s. Slide behind the wheel and the Z06’s controls, though decades old, feel current and precise. The brake pedal is firm, and each long mechanical throw of the shifter conveys that you’re wrangling 405 horses. This is no Miata shifter. Although appearing thin and delicate for the car, the steering wheel’s weight is firm but not overly heavy, and behind it are easy-to-read gauges with an attractive depth to them.
Fire it up, pop the easily modulated clutch, and the Z06 squats back on its haunches while roaring to its 6500-rpm redline. It has theatrics to accentuate its pace. There’s more roll and pitch than in younger sports cars, but suspension motions are well controlled and it never feels unwieldy. Once you’ve gotten some fun out of your system, the Z06 is a pleasant, docile road-tripper, idling down the highway at under 2000 rpm.
“Before I bought this Z06, I didn’t realize how smooth they were on the open road,” says owner Chuck Brown, who bought the car from a friend in 2018. “My wife and I enjoy it for Sunday drives to the beach or through the California mountains. We love the power and handling, but also how relaxed and comfortable the Z06 can be.”
Unsurprisingly, enthusiasts of all ages enjoy that versatility, as cross-generational appeal has driven the C5 Z06’s recent appreciation. And word is getting out on something Brown discovered four years ago: The C5 Z06 offers the sports car experience without the typical penalty of high cost. At least, for now anyway.