Chevrolet Corvette ZO6

Review Notes: 2001 Chevrolet Corvette Zo6
Personality Incredible power in a manageable package that still has an old-style muscle car feel
Quirks Corporate cruise control
Unique features Total performance, accessible without extensive training
Clearly Superior: Easy acceleration, instant power, handling, braking
Above Average: Style
Needs Work In: Some interior fittings, cruise control stalk

The current generation Corvette is fresh from a 2001 redesign, which provided extra power to the engines, a new top-of-the-line Z06, and upgrades to the active suspension and traction control system. (A horsepower boost was added for 2002). All together, the result is a car that's a lot easier to live with than the Viper, with nearly the same performance, and a lower price tag.

The top end Z06 moves from zero to sixty in four seconds flat, according to Chevrolet. Even the base automatic can get there in five seconds, which, given the heavy clutch and stick, is an argument for buying the automatic. It has appropriate sounds for a high-performance muscle car, as well as excellent handling, aided by an active suspension and a dry weather traction control that makes extreme acceleration easy even for the novice driver. The active handling also makes the car much easier to handle, an important consideration for drivers not trained to handle racing cars.

The Corvette provides spacious accommodations for two, but there's not much space for doodads and gizmos, and the hard-to-open center console is very shallow. Passengers can reach back into the trunk, since there's no partition, but nothing will stay in place just behind the seats for very long.

While the traction control and active suspension make some aspects of driving the Corvette easy, shifting is not one of them. It takes time to get the feel of the heavy shifter and clutch, not to mention the six-gear pattern. A first-to-fourth feature can sometimes get in the way.

The interior is sporty and unique. The Corvette's instrument panel features a well-programmed and easily operated trip computer, alphanumeric readout, and easy to read gauges. The speedometer switches between mph and kph at the press of a button, swinging the needle around as needed (because of this, the speedometer goes up to 200). Pressing an options button allows the driver to set preferences for car locking, seat movement, and other features.

The Corvette's main control drawback is the cruise control stalk, which, in GM tradition, is hard to use, and on the same stalk as the windshield washer, wipers, and headlights. However, when activated - or when the speed is changed - the alphanumeric message area tells what speed it's set for, a nice feature.

The Corvette comes in two flavors - base and Z06. The base model can get from zero to sixty in five seconds with an automatic, 4.5 with a manual, making it almost the equal of the Z06. (The Z06 also handles better). However, the base model has a smoother ride, and an automatic transmission for those who want it - in this car, not a major drawback.

With the Z06, the Corvette enters the world of the supercar - but, since the 1970s, it's been the best of the "normal-production" American muscle and sports cars. We've noticed more Corvettes on the road, and we think people are finally beginning to realize that, for the price of a bloated SUV, they can get a thrilling, easy-to-live-with 'Vette instead.