Rain in most cars is not particularly disconcerting. But the Z06 isn’t most cars, and I opted for the Z07 package that includes the impressive Stage 3 aero (carbon front splitter with extra-large winglets and a clear center Gurney flap segment that bolts to the rear spoiler for added downforce), carbon ceramic brakes, a more track focused suspension and, most notably given the weather conditions, a set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup DOT track tires. Not exactly a great rain tire when you’ve got 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque on tap!
The farther east we headed the worse the rain became. We slowed our pace considerably and white knuckled the C7 in downpour after downpour. One feature on the Corvette made dealing with this weather better – the HUD. This holographic piece of tech projects speed, Nav info, and RPM so you never have to take your eyes off the road. This will come in very handy at the track so you can keep your eyes up, looking for the apex. In the rain on the highway it let us keep our eyes scanning for standing water.
Surprisingly, the Michelins did fine in wet conditions unless the road was totally flooded. Another great feature on the Z06 was its weather radar mode. It allowed us to see what we were in for before we sailed into it. It’s very handy on long road trips like this one. We made our way across Tennessee in rain and mist. I had booked our hotel not knowing the lay of the land and GPS had us roll through the Dragon at night, in the rain, on slicks, and with the Z06 in Weather mode it handled the conditions without a problem. The car is set up with just a slight amount of understeer from the factory, giving situations like this a safety net. We made it to our hotel after driving the Dragon safe and sound on the North Carolina side. Time to rest for the evening in hopes the weather would cooperate in the morning.
Up early, and having a great southern breakfast, we finally got to tackle The Dragon in daylight. It was cold and damp, and lingering wet pavement haunted the 2nd gear corners. We set the traction/stability control to Sport mode and programmed the dash to display oil pressure and oil temp alongside GPS NAV information.
The pavement was still very slippery, so we proceeded with caution – once the tires were warm, we added pace. The natural understeer left us once we added pace and bumped against the traction control on many of the corner exits. The Z06 kept it tidy in Sport mode, allowing for some spirited driving to a point. For once I was glad that the intelligent traction control was active as a mistake on the Dragon would be costly – displayed at the Dragon lodge with pieces of motorcycles and cars ziptied like ornaments to the famous Tree of Shame.
We had the road virtually to ourselves, over-taking just a few locals who promptly let the Z06 pass. Again we used the Z06’s heads up display to keep an eye on speed and RPM while navigating the sharp hairpins of one of America’s most challenging roads. The Z06 chewed it up in 2nd and 3rd gear with a ton of off throttle engine braking. We saw vacuum increase significantly once we had a few hundred miles of mid throttle hills and curves, showing the rings were broken in and sealing well within each of the 8 cylinders of this 6.2-liter LT4 small-block masterpiece. There could not be a better road to break a car in than the Dragon, with its hills and comers providing the perfect environment for all sorts of RPM variations.
We managed to record one of our runs through Deals Gap with the Corvette performance data recorder. This system is an onboard video recorder that can overlay data like speed, RPM, g forces, and lap times over the video image. It’s all stored on an SD card that can be removed to download your glorious hoonage onto a computer – or can be replayed right in the car. It’s a great system and saves the owner the time of putting an external camera on the car. The only downside is you cannot watch the replays in the car while moving.
The carbon ceramic brakes in the Z06 with the Z07 package are easily the best on any car I have owned. This car stops even better than some modified with aftermarket pads and rotors. They are stiff and confidence inspiring. I could not get them to fade under spirited driving conditions on the Dragon no matter how hard I tried!
Traction control on the Z06 is set through a large rotating dial behind the shifter. The basic settings are Weather, Touring, Sport, and Track. The traction control system and exhaust are linked to these settings, but can be programmed by the user further if wanted. Even the traction control, in Track mode can be customized depending on bravery and track conditions. The suspension and steering effort also change as you cycle the different modes. The electronic dash changes as well. In Touring and Weather modes, radio, GPS and weather information are given priority. In Track and Sport mode, the user can select from a variety of performance information to be displayed.