Evan J. Smith
August 22, 2006
Contributers: Jim Campisano Photos By: Campy and Smitty

Corvette Z51
When it comes to iconic automobiles, you also have to include the Corvette. Chevrolet's plastic fantastic dates back to the '50s, and, like Ford, Chevrolet is building the best version ever today. In 2005, the base price on the Corvette was $43,710, however, Dave opted for the Preferred Equipment Group, which among other things includes side-impact airbags, luggage shade and parcel net, a six-way adjustable passenger seat, adjustable sport bucket seats with perforated leather inserts, a heads-up display so you can watch your speed and other things on the windshield, a high-end stereo, and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel.

The Z51 Performance Package comes in looking like quite the bargain: Larger cross-drilled brake rotors, performance-tuned shocks, and more performance-oriented transmission gear ratios. Dave went all-out and got the $750 polished aluminum wheels and extra-cost yellow paint, pushing the sticker to $53,410, not including destination and delivery charges. That's a whole lot of fiberglass.

Included in the base price of any '05 Vette is the all-aluminum, 6.0L LS2 engine making 400 hp at 6,000 rpm and 400 lb-ft of torque at 4,400. (It should be noted that we didn't have the opportunity to strap the Vette on a chassis dyno.) The 6.0 is a marvel of pushrod technology, and we can't help but wonder where Ford could have taken the Windsor engine had it not replaced it with the modular family in the '90s.

The LS2's 364 ci produce more torque without a supercharger than the 4.6 does with one, and at 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway, you are not saddled with a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax. That's impressive. It should be noted that our Corvette tester was completely stock under the hood, right down to the factory air filter. A set of 3.42 cogs come from GM in the rear and the Z51 six-speed gearbox gets a 2.97:1 First gear.

Considering how low and lean the Vette is, entering and exiting the sports machine is easy. Those who are short and tall fit nicely, and the pedals, steering wheel, and shifter are a nice fit. The Chevy is started with the push of a button, and there is a lot of electronic gadgetry that, if you are not used to the car, can be confusing. Otherwise, the Vette gets the thumbs-up.

Test driver Evan Smith found the shifter to be a bit vague, and, as with the Roush, he would have preferred more side bolstering in the seats. "Both cars had loads of grip," he said, "but you tend to slide out of the seats. You find yourself holding on rather than using your hands and arms to steer the car, and that's not the thing to do at high speed." But the Vette handled well, "It was like guiding a dart," Evan said. The steering is awesome and feedback is great, though I didn't like the active handling at all."