Speed limits really suck sometimes. I’m rumbling along one of the exceedingly boring stretches of Interstate-10 between L.A. and Phoenix in the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 convertible. Craggy rock formations, scrub brush, and weathered cactus roll by in an endless loop – not exactly the Painted Desert. Thankfully it isn’t a million degrees and I have the top down, radio up. Of course, all I can think about is matting the go pedal on the Z06 vert, the open-top version of Chevy’s magnificent American performance icon.
My thoughts drift to that old skit with the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. The devil is urging me on: “You can see for miles. No cops in sight. Let’s find out what 170 feels like in a convertible!” The angel, who looks disturbingly like my wife, is more direct: “Slow down, you clown – 75 is fast enough!” The good news is the Corvette Z06 is right at home at any speed. It is without question one of the world’s most imposing high-performance convertibles, but it’ll also happily cruise along all day long at posted limits.
When you do put the spurs to the Z06, you had best be prepared for a furious response because the 6.2-liter supercharged LT4 V-8 assassin lurking beneath its carbon-fiber hood is packing 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of pure hellfire, and it can be downright scary at times. Scary fun. Like the time I booted it at 60 and it started getting out of line in traffic. The Z06 is a car that you must show respect, or it will show you an oversteered path straight into a ditch.
It has also been pointed out more than once over the years that the Z06 is one of the greatest supercar bargains of all time. The new car only burnishes that rep, although the C7-generation Corvettes have been taken up a couple of notches in presentation and performance, with only slightly higher prices. The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 convertible starts at $83,000 before destination and its gas-guzzler tax. The car we drove came with an eight-speed automatic transmission ($1,725), part of a small number of options that included the slick carbon-fiber exterior ($2,995) and interior ($995) packages. Tack on the destination and the $1,300 gas-guzzler tax, and the final tally comes to $101,050. The Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet starts above $110,000. Yes, we know, they’re very different cars, but it’s really the only high-performance convertible even remotely close in price.
During my long weekend in the Phoenix area visiting family, I put more than 700 miles on the Laguna Blue Z06 convertible, primarily on the freeway, and my best tankful averaged out to just over 21 mpg. (The car is rated at 13/23 city/highway mpg.) The trunk has 10 cubic feet of space and can easily fit a medium-sized bag or two when the top is stowed. Speaking of the top, it can go down at speeds of up to 30 mph. With it up, it has more than enough sound-deadening to keep things to a dull roar at speed – that is when you’re not dropping down a gear or two and letting those 650 horses out of the barn.
With the top down, the Z06 convertible’s structure felt stout, and it exhibited little bend and flex. Corvette engineers are duly proud of the fact that very little was done to the structure and overall design of the car compared to the hardtop, and it’s only fractionally heavier. There are very few compromises, as it’s available with all the same performance packages as the hardtop. That’s good because, really, there’s no reason to keep the top up, barring inclement weather. It looks fantastic when the tonneau cover swallows it, and the blown LT4 in full song sounds even better when the car is in blue sky mode.
As for the eight-speed, the GM-designed unit is a sweetheart in casual, around-town driving, and it throws down with authority otherwise. When you want a little more control, the paddle-shift option is as entertaining and as responsive as an automatic of this nature can be (Chevy claims wide-open-throttle upshifts are faster than Porsche’s PDK), and I had great fun scaring various family members with stoplight launches and on-ramp romps.
Though I never succumbed to the devil during my drive, it was a constant temptation. Instead I satisfied myself with keeping the top down and the revs up, with the knowledge that at any point I could break the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 convertible loose into the danger zone. It’s a place these cars will likely be many times over, unless you have a particularly pesky angel on your other shoulder.