Letís put this into perspective. I donít claim to be a driving god, I havenít driven all of the latest exotics, and I canít boast about cruising the autobahn at 190mph. But of all the cars I have driven during the past 10 or so years Ė and there have been many Ė this will be the fastest.
Three point nine seconds: think about that. In the time it has taken you to read that sentence, the Z06 can accelerate from standstill to 60mph. If youíre feeling particularly brutal, you donít need to change gear to get it there.
Sure, there are other cars that can match or beat that figure. At one end of the scale you have the Veyron (2.4 seconds) and even the new GT-R can achieve 60mph in an estimated 3.5 seconds. But this car has a 7011cc, normally aspirated V8 that powers the rear wheels. No turbo, no supercharger and no four-wheel drive; just a limited slip diff, rear-wheel drive and a fairly notchy manual gearbox. Itís all about brute force. Oh, and did I say that itís capable of 198mphÖ The price of all this performance? Itís £61,995 on the road, about the same as an entry-level 911. Astonishing. And tomorrow morning I will be driving it.
I had a great day at the motor showĖ I even went to look at the Z06 on the Corvette stand Ė but really I just want to go home. In the Corvette. So I decline the after-show parties and dinners in favour of room service and an early night. I want to take my time reaching the tunnel crossing, booked for 20.00 the next day, which means leaving early enough, and hangover-free to enjoy every moment.
When my alarm goes off the next morning, I awake with mixed emotions. Iím excited and can hardly wait to get down to the car, which I still havenít seen yet. Oddly, though, Iím also more than a little apprehensive of the drive ahead, especially as I am on my own. Was that the right decision? Should I have taken along a co-pilot? Too late to change that now.
As I check out of the hotel, the receptionist asks if I need a taxi to the airport. ďNo,Ē I reply. ďI have a car. Can you tell me where the car park is, please?Ē
She looks at me as if to say: ďItís where you parked your car when you arrived, you British idiotĒ. But she points me to a door at the bottom of the hotel garden that leads to an underground car park. When I open the door, the Corvette is there, sitting immediately to my left. Shiny, huge, very yellow and looking slightly out of place among the humdrum, Swiss-registered saloons parked alongside.
I have to admit, all IMHO of course, that yellow cars do nothing for me Ė certainly not when applied to something that already shouts ďlook at meĒ. But beggars canít be choosers and I walk to the car trying to ignore its colour, as well as the chrome wheels that have been fitted to it. If this was my car, I would certainly have chosen a more subtle hue and standard wheels.
That aside, how does it feel? Well, I load my bags into the boot, then spend 10 minutes getting comfortable and working out which buttons do what. The standard Z06 offers satellite navigation only as an option, so Iíve packed two route guides, just in case this car doesnít have it. But it does, and I breathe a sigh of relief, and then another one when I see the fuel tank is full.
So then, drop the window and press the start button. From cold, this is the best-sounding car I have heard at start up. It really explodes into life, before settling down to a rather quiet tickover. I set off, negotiating the concrete pillars and narrow walls of the hotel car park before emerging on to a busy Geneva street at 7am.
Thatís the time when most of Genevaís residents set off for work, judging by the traffic levels. This is straight in at the deep end, because I need to keep up with the flow of traffic, work out which lane I need and wonder what a constantly flashing traffic light means Ė all before Iím out of second gear. I also have more sets of eyes on me that I have ever seen. Iím guessing that yellow Corvettes arenít that common in Geneva.
I decide to avoid the autoroutes to start with, knowing that I will spend enough time on those later in the day, and instead head off towards Bourg-En-Bresse. I donít want to visit the place; I just heard that itís a great drive to get there and you pass over the Jura Mountains.
Now I am settling in. So far, I have changed gear at about 2500rpm, or sooner, every time. I have not pushed the car at all and, with a dampness to the early morning roads, I feel that keeping it nice and easy is the key. I have about 600 miles ahead of me Ė plenty of time to be more daring, so no need to rush things just yet.
The engine is warming up now, as is the interior, and things are getting comfortable despite the zero-degree temperature outside. A few wrong lanes later, I realise that the Swiss are quite forgiving of the yellow Vette, with cars letting me pull out in front of them and generally being very accommodating towards my late lane changing. I even get the thumbs-up from some drivers as I burble past them.
As I leave Geneva, I can see the snow-capped mountains ahead, and the head-up display shows a steady 80mph cruise. Iím feeling brave now and, since there is no traffic about, I slow down, drop into third and floor it. I then mutter something rude as the rear wheels break away, the tail slides to the left as I approach 100mph, and the revs climb past 4000 Ė and thatís with the traction control onÖ I resume a normal cruise for a while because I feel that is a better option. Better than having to call GM to tell them that their car is embedded into the central reservation somewhere outside Geneva anyway
A huge tunnel, cut into the mountain, appears ahead and Iím reminded of a couple of tunnel runs Iíve done in my Z4. Time to drop the window and start making some noise. The inside of the tunnel shines with wetness, though, and Iím also reminded of the traction issues I suffered only a moment ago. So I pass through the tunnel in the quietest manner known to man.
Not to worry, there is another ahead and this time I resolve not to be so soft and to have a go. The Vette has a two-stage exhaust system much like that of the Aston Martin Vantage, which
The noise is incredible and, yes, it shakes its rear in protest again, but keeping it down means the traction control sorts things out. I pass a lorry under full noise and the driver flashes his headlights. That was in appreciation rather than anger, I hope. Many tunnels follow and I do the same in each before realising that, rather foolishly, Iíve set the nav to give the fastest route, so I quickly change it in pursuit of more challenging roads.
As I turn off the main road, I stop to take the first of my pictures, with the mountains in the background. Stepping out of the car, I realise that my legs are a little shaky Ė not through the now-minus temperatures, but because of the adrenalin rush. A trucker wanders over to me and says something I donít understand. I reply in English and then we both have confused faces. In the end, he just looks at the car and gives a thumb-up. We now understand each other perfectly.
I jump back into the warmth of the car, send an excited text home about my progress and
At this point, the gearbox and I develop an understanding. It likes a firm hand and I can finally execute lovely, smooth shifts, despite many colleagues at Geneva having told me that the gearbox is hard work. If I have a 7.0-litre engine, then I want to feel I have to work a little bit. I donít want it to be easy; I want it to be challenging, like a TVR is. I know this car can outperform me and, after only an hour or so, it still has my respect.
The mountains are now approaching and I pass a sign that says snow chains are required from here on. I donít have any, but I canít turn around now. The roads here are littered with switchbacks and hairpins as far as you can see, but the temperature gauge is now showing minus five and the roads are shining with a mix of water and ice. Itís probably not the best place to get used to having so much power, but I am having so much fun that I barely notice another sign for snow chains. Hmmm.
Slush is now appearing at the edges of the road and itís getting interesting. By the time I reach the top, there is a nice covering of snow all around, but the roads themselves remain largely clear. Time for another picture. If you could see the expressions on the faces of the locals when they see a bloke in normal clothes, standing next to a UK-registered Corvette on snow-covered roads, youíd be laughing out loud. They look at the car as if it was a space ship.
Back into the car for the descent, as I remember that Iíve got a long way to go to reach the Channel tunnel Ė and, at this moment, I have no clue where I am. Threading my way down the twisties, I see a white Fiesta in the distance behind me. I am travelling as fast as I dare on these slush-covered roads and cringe as the white Ford overtakes me and takes the next corner at breakneck speed. I know what heís thinking Ė stupid Englishman with his yellow penis extensionÖ At that moment, heís probably right.
Reaching the foot of the mountains, I stop for a couple more pictures. The Corvette is showing a fairly decent 17mpg, and it has sipped only one-third of a tank so far. Thatís much better than I was expecting.
I tap ĎCalaisí into the navigation and it leads me into the nearest town, straight into some traffic. Now I feel a little embarrassed. Every pedestrian is looking at me. Iím at the head of the lights as a group of school kids crosses the road in front of me. The teenagers are taking pictures on their phones. The lights go green and I show off shamefully. I dump the clutch, lay two black lines before the traction catches up and roar down the road. I feel slightly embarrassed at the next lights when the other cars catch me up, but it was fun and Iím sure it wonít be the last time.
I settle in to a legal(ish) 95mph or so cruise, turn on the radio and realise that, after almost three hours of driving, I do not feel tired. I donít ache anywhere and am surprised at the levels of comfort afforded by this car. A few gendarmes are spotted, though, so I drop to a legal 80mph, at which speed the car is barely ticking over. I know I shouldnít have, but I had to take a picture. No wonder it was now showing 24mpg; itís almost asleep.
Time for the first fuel stop: a few energy drinks for me and a full tank for the Vette. Iím making good progress so I sit back for 15 minutes. Then I start to feel daunted by what still lays ahead of me because, according to the navigation, London is still seven hours away. Will I stay awake? That seems an awfully long way, so itís time to be on my way.
There is a clear road ahead Ė straight and stretching for as long as I can see. A motorbike passes at an immense pace, the rider tucked down and crouched snugly behind the screen. I realise that the gendarmes will catch him first and Iíll see him brake, so I pull out and give chase. Dropping to fourth, I floor it. The pace is incredible and I snatch fifth. The steering wheel
The car is still accelerating hard but traffic is appearing up ahead and, to be honest, Iím starting to imagine a night or two in French cells, so I back off to a now-pedestrian-feeling 80mph. The biker doesnít give up, though. He keeps on until heís out of sight. Seconds later, I am sitting with one elbow on the armrest, one hand on the wheel and doing normal speeds while listening to the radio. Itís as easy as driving an Astra. Such an accomplished split personality is rare in a car, but then this Corvette is indeed a rare thing.
Heading to the Channel tunnel, I pass the backlog of truckers who are stuck because of a ferry strike, poor blokes. The queues are horrendous. You have to feel for the drivers who have to put up with this. As I approach the tunnel check-in, I stop to take a picture of the car. By the time I climb back in, a queue of 10 or so cars has developed at the open check-in window, so I take my place at the back of the line. Then something very odd happens.
Getting one, whatever its colour, into the Eurotunnel carriage is tricky, though. It only just fits and the family in the Jeep Cherokee in front of me have been watching me squeeze my way through the train. They come to take a look the car, like what they see and return to their Cherokee. While Iím waiting, I read a note from GM. It suggests that I check the oil a few times, something I havenít done. I pop the bonnet and thankfully it hasnít used a drop.
As the train makes its way beneath the Channel, I reflect on the dayís journey and the Corvette. The hour or so drive still ahead of me will seem like a few minutes after what I have done today. More than anything, I feel I could turn around and do it all over again, right now. I have no aches, pains or fatigue. That is something I havenít experienced in any other car Ė and Iíve driven a fair few. The navigation system has been excellent, even advising me of lane closures miles in advance. The headlights are so bright they could provide the lighting at Stamford Bridge.
But when pushed, the car changes character. It sounds like a NASCAR racer and the digital head-up display racks up the numbers faster than you thought possible. Itís a super-fast car Ė faster than it has a right to be, given its price. The brakes are strong enough to stop you from speed and the suspension Ė despite the passionate debate over the merits or otherwise of its leaf-sprung set-up Ė seems just fine to me.
Anyone thinking of signing a cheque for a £60,000 performance car should give this Corvette a test drive and make up their own minds on that one. They should also work out whether they can live with the carís American character, especially as the Z06 is available in left-hand drive only. But I guarantee one thing: they wonít find more performance for their pound.
With that thought, the train arrives at the UK terminal. I squeeze my way out again and make a final fuel stop. Itís more a top-up really because there is still plenty left. I join the motorway and note how different it is from the smooth French roads as I crash and bang my way along it, heading to my girlfriendís, where a home-cooked dinner awaits.
When I arrive, I take her for a spin. Itís our only chance because GM will be collecting the car tomorrow. We only head down the local dual carriageway for one junction, with some decent bursts of acceleration thrown in for good measure. Back outside her home, I ask how she found the car. So fast it scared her,
That sums it up perfectly, and the thought is still ringing in my head when, the next day, I watch GMís driver take the car from the office car park.
So have I changed my opinion about one-way tickets? Certainly have. Iíll take as many as I can get Ė but I will not accept return transport of any less than 7.0 litres.