Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 7-speed manual Review

We grab a rare treat of a drive – a 650bhp hard-core Corvette convertible with a self-shifter boasting seven ratios

By Shahzad Sheikh

Click below now to watch our first drive of the Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 7-speed manual review.

It’s not a brutal smack in the back, it’s not a slingshot, it’s… well… I’ve never done it, but it’s what I imagine a bungee jump would be like.

The initial shock as you jump into oblivion and commit to it, replaced immediately by the exhilaration as you continue to plunge faster and harder than you’d ever imagined possible, the sense of relentless momentum overwhelming, but also the way your mind manages to slow everything down and make it manageable, comprehensible.

And halfway down you realise that you were frantic and frightened for no reason, it’s not terrifying at all, the hold of the bungee is like the tenacious grip of the tyres, and when it stops from smashing you into the ground, it’s like the powerful Brembo brakes that are at once reassuring, progressive and powerful.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 7-speed manual convertible review

As you realise you were never in any danger at all, the anxiety washes away and you just giggle hysterically. BTW I still won’t do a bungee jump though – I’d rather drive the Z06!

There’s no point doing a regular review on this car, truth be told, it ain’t new. We saw it at the Dubai Motor Show two years ago. And all the Corvette news now is about the rumoured mid-engine version that will be revealed next year – an American riposte to the likes of the Honda NSX, Audi R8 and even the Lamborghini Huracan, but at probably a third of the price of the exotic Italian.

But back to the Vette in hand, I won’t even bother talking about the price. You might say it’s expensive for a Chevrolet, but it’s way cheaper than anything else that can get close to it in terms of performance, driveability, style and fun.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 7-speed manual convertible review

Whilst it may not be new, there’s still a series of firsts here, at least for us. It’s the first time we’ve got a Z06 to drive, with a drop-top, and more crucially a manual transmission, right here in the UAE. And I’ve never driven a 7-speed box before either. So a whole new experience then.

And one that really does not disappoint. Let’s put it into some context. I drove the previous C6 Z06 – it was a neck-snapper for sure, tremendously stimulating and as wild a ride as they come. But it was racecar raw, fidgety and ferocious. It would assault all your sensors. So you’d love it behind the wheels, but find your body weary and your nerves frayed by the end of the day. Plus it definitely was an intimidating machine.

The new Z06 pulls off something quite incredible. It manages to combine the visceral sensations of the previous iteration, with the everyday usability of the best of breed front-engined C7 Corvette.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 7-speed manual convertible review

Yes even in this manual form, because the clutch is not too heavy, has a friendly feel, and the shifts are smooth and not a chore at all.

The only wrinkle is that with so many notches along the top to accommodate 7th gear, finding 5th can sometimes be a hit and miss affair. Focus on it though and it’s quite doable and in time you’d probably get quite used to it.

Especially as the top plane is all you really need. In most driving I was only using that part of the box – so I’d go 1st, 3rd, 5th and perhaps 7th at 100kph. 2nd and 4th were only brought to bear for running hard and 6th got left out a lot, poor thing.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 7-speed manual convertible review

And with 650lb ft of torque on tap, even half of that is plenty to keep up movement in this two-seater, so to an extent in some conditions you can almost drive it as an auto leaving it in third or fourth. In traffic it needs a bit of juggling, but you know your knees could do with the exercise anyway.

The magna-ride suspension keeps this car absolutely flat and planted level to the ground when you’re on it, but it also does a good job of transmitting every aspect of the tarmac’s surface to your backside. You might think that’s a bad thing, but in something so lethal, it’s good to know exactly what the surface below you is like. So I’ll give the fidgety ride a pass – anyway it’s better than the old Z06.

Talking of feel, the steering is surprisingly well suited to the task. Perfectly weighted and sized, it’s quite communicative as well, and more than that, faithful and accurate as you give lie to all those naysayers that claim a Corvette can’t corner. This one can. Yes there’s a slight lightness at the front on turn in as the rear boots grip hard, but direction-change is sharp and the follow-through is neutral as long as you feed in the power sensitively.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 7-speed manual convertible review

Sure, go crazy, turn the dials all the way, and hit the button marked with the car making squiggly lines and the Vette will vanquish you. Save it for the track.

Drive smart though, and on the road you’ll not only be quick, but you’ll get a real satisfying kick out of the experience too. Put the roof down to enjoy the aural anger of the big V8 thundering at full chat and you’ll be in performance paradise.

Some have asked if it overheats – well it didn’t in my hands, but of course having read about these concerns online, I kept an eye on the temp  (the needle generally sitting a bit above the halfway) and was cautious, easing off as a precaution if I felt the needle starting to creep up further.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 7-speed manual convertible review

So frankly I can’t say that it is a problem because I was careful not to let it happen. Having said that, I did drive it relatively hard on one of the hottest days of the year in the UAE summer (temp in the high 40s centigrade). So if it can manage that, without issues and without deterioration in performance and braking, I’ve got to conclude that overheating is not a major concern.

Particularly when the sheer experience of spending a few hours behind the wheel of America’s finest leaves you so elated and, frankly, ecstatic. A timely and welcome reminder too that real cars, proper machines that you control and master yourself (and yet with its most outlandish attributes reigned in to the point of making it a benign beast) still exist.

For this I send thanks not just to GM Middle East for letting me have a go in this exquisite thing, but also to the obviously enthusiast engineers responsible for creating such a marvellous machine.

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