Drive Time

BY STEVE SILER

Who you callin’ ‘‘Sweetheart?’’

The car once considered “America’s Sweetheart” is now a bona fide badass.

Some people who turn 65 celebrate retirement. But as the Corvette turns 65 in 2018, it’s apparent retirement was the last thing on anyone’s mind at Chevrolet. Instead, GM’s bow-tie brand is marking the Corvette’s 65th birthday by building 650 “Carbon 65” editions of the Corvette Grand Sport and Z06 models. And after spending several days wringing one out—perhaps more accurately, being wrung out by one—out west in California, I’ve concluded that it’s the fastest, most intense and most expensive Corvette Chevrolet has ever offered to the general public.

While I’ve never covered the Corvette for this magazine, everyone already knows what it fundamentally is: a two-seat sports car with a big engine and an even bigger personality. Songs have been sung about it; races have been won by it, both here and abroad. Built in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the site of the infamous sinkhole that swallowed eight historic Corvettes inside the National Corvette Museum in 2014, the Corvette has had a history unlike any automobile the world has ever known.

Over the years, the Corvette has affectionately been called “America’s Sweetheart,” but if the Z06 Carbon 65 is a “sweetheart,” then Jaws is a guppy. Its 650-horsepower supercharged V-8 is an absolute beast, capable of hurling the car to 60 mph in roughly three seconds flat, according to Car and Driver Magazine. Especially when equipped, as was my test car, with the $7,995 Z07 Ultimate Performance Package, with its magnetic shocks and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires that measure a foot wide in front and more than 13 inches in back, the Z06 holds the road with the tenacity of a teething Doberman on a meat-flavored chew toy. Stand on the brakes and the ceramic brake discs (also part of the Z07 package) will practically suck your eyeballs from their sockets. And the sound—oh gosh, the sound (clutch chest, gaze heavenward)—is nothing short of inebriating. Even better, the volume of the exhaust can actually be made louder or softer, with its “stealth” mode being stunningly quiet—perfect for those late-night arrivals when you don’t want to wake the neighbors.

Included in the Carbon 65 packages are the following carbon fiber goodies: ground effects, hood (with unpainted center section, roof panel (coupes only), rear spoiler, rear overfender intake ducts, as well as the steering wheel rim and upper dashboard trim. Other embellishments include road-trip-friendly competition sport seats with carbon fiber backs, Carbon 65 door sills, dark-painted badges and side-mirror caps, blue brake calipers, carbon wheel centers, and a commemorative plaque—ours was #057 of 650. Our tester also featured sueded microfiber on the headliner, steering wheel, and shifter, all with blue contrasting stitching to match the “Carbon 65” graphics on the front fenders.
The last Carbon 65 specification of note is my favorite, since in my opinion, the only way to make a sports car this good even better is to add a bit of the unexpected. In this case, that comes in the form of its powder-blue paint job that Chevy calls “Ceramic Matrix Gray” and reads like the color of a blue sky as seen through a layer of morning fog. Whether you see it as bluish gray or grayish blue doesn’t really matter; it’s cool, especially as the contrasting carbon fiber elements pop even more brilliantly against it.

None of the detracts from the Corvette’s less-known qualities, including the practicality (relative to other sports cars, anyway) of its truly vast cargo area, at least when the removable roof panel isn’t stowed back there. The Corvette is also surprisingly luxurious, something we’ve only been able to say since this seventh-generation Corvette debuted in 2014 with an interior we could finally consider world-class. Indeed, the Carbon 65’s Nappa leather and sueded microfiber dressings only make it feel more so.

Alas, none of this comes cheap. The Z06 Carbon 65 Edition coupe starts at a whopping $95,490, some $15,000 more than a standard Z06, though to to be fair, adding all those extras to a Z06 a la carte would add at least as much to the bottom line. The additional options on our tester brought its bottom line to an eye-watering $112,430. Had we opted for a convertible with the eight-speed automatic, it would have cost over $120K. Yikes. If you can live with “just” 450 hp, the visually identical Grand Sport version can be had for 14 grand less. Then again, I’ve driven Porsches and Bentleys costing twice as much that didn’t bring the charisma, visceral enjoyment, or visual punch of a Z06, let alone the Carbon 65 edition. In that light, this car could be considered quite a deal. But we wouldn’t consider it a “sweetheart.”

2018 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon 65 Edition
Base price: $95,490 (coupe); $99,490 (convertible)
Body style: 2-door, 2-passenger coupe or convertible
Power: Supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 (650 hp, 650 lb-ft of torque)
Transmission: 7-speed manual or 8-speed automatic
Drive wheels: Rear EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 15/22 mpg

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