By Al Engel
Walk up to the locked C-6 with the key fob in you pocket, reach for the door handle, squeeze the electronic handle trigger and instantly, the Vette sends a ‘question’ into the air asking, “is their a matching key fob in the immediate area of the car?” The key fob, in you pocket, without pressing any buttons on the fob will respond to the question “yes, here I am, this is my rolling code number that will match the authentication you are looking for”. The Vette then responds by disarming the alarm, flashing the lights (or if at night, illuminating the fog and back-up lights creating an illuminated halo around the car), unlocking and opening the door – all in milliseconds. Reach for the door handle without the matching fob and the Vette will remain locked.
Assuming you were authenticated as being an authorized entrant into the Vette, you slide into the cockpit, close the door and push THE BUTTON. The button replaces any place to stick an ignition key — in fact, there is no ignition key (just an emergency access key if all the electronics should fail). With the clutch on the floor (or the automatic in park and foot on the service brake — if you are a ‘shift deficient’ driver), push the upper half of THE BUTTON and the car starts. You just have to touch THE BUTTON for a moment, the computer will decide how long to crank the engine and if any throttle need be applied to achieve a successful start. Amazing, but quite frankly, I’m having trouble not fumbling for the keys in my pocket as I slide into the driver position. Hard to break 40+ year old habits.
After successfully entering and starting the car, most of the “driving” will be very familiar to previous C-5 or C-4 owners - - just better! The HUD (Heads up display) has more display options, including a “G” meter to measure lateral acceleration (cornering power) – the navigation system is essentially very similar to other navigation systems found on Cadillac and other GM vehicles (GM licenses the navigation maps from Denso, and is also similar to the systems of other car brands sharing the Denso technology).
If you have not used a current itineration of GPS Navigation, its truly amazing technology, dead balls-on accurate (that’s a technical term) and you will never again be able to claim “I got lost” as a valid excuse for being late.
XM Radio is very nice – and you no longer have the ugly hockey puck antenna associated with same. Dual antennas are now hidden inside the side view mirrors, and this configuration provides better reception than the hockey pucks we have seen. Body color of just plain black – the roof top XM antennae were UGLY (I guess we will have to do without the status symbol of the XM antenna on the new Vette - - but if you feel shunned, you can always Crazy Glue a hockey puck in a conspicuous location of the car). Cadillac has also gone “stealth” on the XM antenna for ’06 using the mirrors to hide the antennae. Also gone from view is the AM/FM and the On-Star antennae…. All now hidden under sculpted, plastic body work or inside a black box on the upper edge of the windshield, just to the right of the rearview mirror.
The car goes! The motor wants to rev, makes great power from idle through its 6,500 RPM redline. Increased torque and acceleration are noticeable in all gears and at all RPMs in relation to the C-5… very similar in power to the late C-5 Z06s, but smoother. C-4 owners will absolutely marvel at what Mr. Hill and the crew in Bowling Green has done with Dave and Zora’s prior models. Absolutely rock solid. No body flex. No rattles. No plastic squeaking against plastic. Prior Vettes I have owned had various suspensions: ’86 with the “standard” suspension; ’92 with the FE3 adjustable suspension, ’99 with the “standard”, modified with Z51 Sway Bars and bushing. The new ’06 was ordered with the Z51 suspension / brake / wide ratio gearing with oil – transmission - differential and power steering coolers along with Good Year F-1 Super Car EMTs (run-flats) - - all part of the Z-51 package. It appears GM is constraining the percentage of Z51 equipped cars to maintain the appropriate Vehicle Line Average Fuel Mileage. The Z51, as stated previously, has different gearing than the non-Z51 models and does get slightly lower mileage (about 2 MPH less). It appears GM will be limiting Z51 production to just 60 – 70 units per week, far below early demand indications. If you want a Z51 car, be prepared to look around for one, or wait until your dealer lucks out in the ‘order lottery’. This ’06 Z51 out-handles all previous models by a wide margin. Before stepping on the middle pedal (the brake), check out the rear view mirror because you will out-brake anything on the road. 60 MPH to zero in about 110 feet (per GM). Consider your Crown Vic Police Cruiser will take about 180 feet to do the same stop, and that’s before Officer Oakley had that second doughnut! In real life - - most cars on the road today will need over 200 feet to do the 60 to 0 stop due to passenger load, loaded trunks with “stuff”, improperly inflated tires and drivers who simply do not have the proper training and experience to handle a maximum, negative ‘G’ stop.
This car pulls strong in 6th. A combination of more horse power and torque as well as a shorter 6th gear ratio on the Z51 box makes 6th gear much more usable. 40MPH and up, 6th will pull you up most hills, and handle all but the most aggressive passing maneuvers with ease. Need to get around that Winnebago, up hill, on just 300 feet of back road? Simply down shift, select 2nd gear (or 3rd…. or for that matter 4th or 5th) push the right pedal, steer and watch that ‘moving split-level’ disappear in your rear view mirror. Which gear you select is strictly a matter of how many Gs to which you want to subject you body. It is with the Z51 geared car that GM makes the claim of a 183 MPH top end in 5th gear. Non-Z51 cars will have to be content with low 170 MPH numbers... probably not an issue with 99% of the Corvette buying public. The 2/10th off 0-60 and 6/10th off the Quarter Mile achieved with the Z51 cars probably matter more to most Vette owners looking for street bragging rights.
Steering is very precise, cornering flat and controlled. The nose does seem to dive more than I would like under hard braking, but that may just be my perception with the front deck being so low and short compared to the C4 & 5. In all, the feel of the car is very well put together, with higher quality finishes and fit than anything we have seen in a Vette to date (or for that matter, anything GM, or Ford, or Chrysler, or Nissan etc.). The only thing that topped interior fit and finish, that I have seen, is the current Infinity Q45 (although Infinity’s design continues to be “quirky”). The motoring press continues to trash the Vette interior - - but I think the Bowling Green mob has done a creditable job.
Under the hood, everything is very familiar to the C-5 owner. Oil changes only require 5 Qts. of Mobil-1 (5.5 with the filter). No longer necessary is the “special oil change procedure” of the C-5. The C-5 has a large capacity (7.5Qts), flat, oil pan with the drain plug at the front edge. The C-6 is a more traditional “sump” design, requiring only 5 Qts to fill (5.5 with the filter change). The C6’s oil pan has more baffling than the C5, so less oil is needed to keep the slippery parts slippery. The Z06 package does resort to dry sump lubrication, a whole other story, one I will not cover here. The C-6 has dual air intake filter housings and filters. I expect ‘breathing’ will benefit from an upgrade to the K&N variety and some judicious opening up or the enclosing air boxes. Why does GM not use these nifty little HP enhancers from K&N? Noise - - intake noise. The Feds specify how much noise a car can make and intake noise can be as violative of the Fed’s decibel meter as the note from the exhaust. The ’06’s air boxes are more ‘opened up’ than the ’05, with the addition of a “silencing shield” over the top of the air boxes to control intake roar resulting from the more opened architecture. No change in “official” output of the LS2 has been claimed for ’06, but it is this type of ‘tweak’ that can add to output.
The ’06 has corrected some “issues” with the inaugural C6… specifically: MP3s now play flawlessly; there is no alternator whine in FM mode on the radio with navigation; and most important – no more DBS. What’s DBS you ask? Dead Battery Syndrome – This is a mysterious condition with some ’05 C6s (almost always a 6 speed) where the battery would go dead after a day or two of vehicle non-use. All kinds of mumbo jumbo ‘fixes’ were posted on various C-6 internet boards, but nothing substantive or definitive ever surfaced declaring the cause and the fix for DBS. I’m happy to report for ’06, DBS appears to be history. GM is not saying anything official, but the ’06 no longer has to be in Park or Reverse to prevent a long walk when the motor is turned ‘off’. The ’05 required the 6 speed to be in Reverse, and the Emergency Brake ‘on’ when the motor was turned ‘off’. If not, the electronics would not go into ‘sleep mode’... they would remain in ‘accessory mode’, draining the battery and therefore probably the cause of DBS. The ’06 can be turned ‘off’ while leaving the transmission in 1st or Reverse (in Park in the case of the automatic). The emergency brake need not be set, and there is no longer a steering wheel column lock (the ’05 C-6 manual trans models had the electronic column lock, as in the C-5). The changes all lead up to no more DBS on the ’06 models - - at least no DBS situations reported thus far for the ’06 models (sequence numbers in the 3,000s now in production as I write this). Also “fixed” are erratic fuel gage readings. C-5s were plagued with this, as were some ’05 C-6s. ’06 C-6s have accurate fuel status reporting.
The C-6 has GoodYear’s latest version of Run Flat technology (Extended Mobility Tires, or EMT for short). The Z51 gets the F1 Super Car version of the EMTs. A softer compound, asymmetrical tread design and about 1/32 less tread depth when compared to the “standard” GoodYear EMT on the non-Z51 cars. Compared to the EMTs on my ’99, these F1 Super Car tires seem to offer more grip, a more flexible sidewall, but a little more road noise at speed. The owner’s manual cautions Z51 owners these tires are not intended for use in the snow! I had the opportunity to try these shoes in the rain. They hold a wet road very well. No hydroplaning, good acceleration, braking and cornering gription (‘Gription’… Al’s word for traction and grip – together - - better than traction or grip alone – or something like that). When the tread starts getting thin however, I suspect the wide F1s to becoming effective water skis and demonstrate hydroplaning at alarmingly low speeds…. Be careful out there! Expect only 15K miles out of the Super Car tires on the front, and 10K on the rears. Standard EMTs will go twice the distance in “normal” use. Wheel balance is via stick-on weights, (in lieu of the C-5s clamp-on anvils marring the outer edges of the aluminum wheels). The adhesive weights, applied inboard of the spokes, are not readily seen on the outer, visible edge of the wheel. The Tire pressure sensors now report tire pressure even when the car is parked (although not updated as often to conserve battery power – but the result is, when you turn the car ‘on’, you can immediately get an accurate tire pressure reading on each of the wheels, so tire pressure can be adjusted while the tires are still cold (assuming you have the appropriate compressor and air inflation equipment in your garage – but hey, you’re a Corvette guy (or chick), so certainly you have the ability to inflate / check tire pressures in your own garage. On the C-5, you need to drive at a speed in excess of 15 MPH to trigger the power at the sensors to begin reporting tire pressures to the Digital Information Center.
OK, one last observation - - -how can you tell, by exterior view, a ’06 from a ’05? …The little “GM” medallion on the dog leg on each side of the car, just forward of the rear wheels. Great car!!!
Lords Valley, Pa . . . . Save the wave!