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2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

  • Driver

Nothing was worth less than a quarter-million dollars, lined up outside the house on the cool October pavement.

The cheapest was probably the Lamborghini Gallardo, at about $300,000. The 1984 Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer 512i was worth whatever a collector will pay, which is considerable.

And the Ferrari Enzo – well, you just can't buy it anymore.

Owners of the limited-edition supercar paid more than a million bucks each and none of them are for sale.

And I slid the 2006 Corvette Z06 alongside and revved the engine.

It's quick to rev, the Z06. All the way to 7000 r.p.m. if I'd wanted to really annoy the neighbours, bellowing its horsepower through a three-inch dual exhaust. But this wasn't a racetrack and this wouldn't be a race, just a Sunday drive in search of pleasant roads and leaves changing colour.

I snuck the 'Vette into first and we pulled away in procession.

The owners of the Italian exotica had all checked out the sleek yellow Z06 before inviting me along. They're not auto snobs – well, not that much – but I just wouldn't have been so welcome in my Mercury Mystique.

There are no scissor doors and the engine's not on display through a see-through cover, but that didn't mean the 'Vette wasn't welcome.

Its eight cylinders make more than 500 hp and almost as much torque and if you flip the hood, as I did when we first gathered that morning, the red engine covers make it clear this is not the "ordinary" six-litre Corvette motor but the seven-litre small block V8. Known as the LS7, it's the most powerful production engine Chevy has ever produced.

It's filled with race-derived stuff to weigh less and add strength. The connecting rods, for example, are made of titanium and so they're one-third lighter than the rods in the regular Corvette engine, which lets them spin faster so the engine can rev higher.

Such attention is expected among Ferraris and Lamborghinis, but Chevys? And Chevys that cost less than six figures, at that? Unheard of.

None of this mattered as we reached the main road and pointed the cars west across the top of the city.

There are some owners of sports cars and motorcycles who live for this moment, riding in a posse with scouts up ahead carrying walkie-talkies to warn of police. They mount cameras on their vehicles and make souvenirs for their friends, sometimes even selling the footage on the Internet like high-speed pornography.

The films with the wrecks and fatalities are the most sought-after but police prosecute those when they find them.

Street racing is a crime, and rightly so.

But most owners, including my companions this day, are not like that. Their three cars have all seen racetracks and stretch their legs where it's safe to do so, and where there's no danger of an unwitting innocent pottering into the fray.

The Z06 is the same – hellacious on the track, it's also designed for a comfortable drive on Sunday roads, and we drove confidently past the police cruiser in King City with its laser speed detector aimed directly at the front-runner's grille.

The wedge-shaped Enzo attracted the most attention, with other cars pulling alongside while their passengers (or even drivers) searched frantically through gloveboxes for cameras to snap a photo of a car that most only see on calendars.

Even when we met with a couple of other Ferrari owners outside the notorious Hwy. 10 speed trap at Flapjacks restaurant, south of Caledon, bystanders flicked their eyes over the F360s and the Boxer and the Gallardo – any of which would normally dominate a street – to the carbon-fibre supercar.

Throw enough money at something and you can make it remarkable.

But what's truly remarkable is to develop a vehicle that can keep pace with all these others and yet cost at least one-third of the price. That's the Corvette Z06.

It weighs just 1,420 kg, with only one piece of heavy steel in the entire assembly. And while the Enzo comes with wind-up windows, no stereo and finicky headlamps that this owner has replaced twice so far (at $10,000 a pop), the Z06 comes with a high-end stereo, cruise control, HID lighting and the regular 'Vette's lovely Head-Up Display.

Right there on the bottom of the windshield, it shows road and engine speed, temperature and even a G-meter that you shouldn't look at while pulling Gs around a corner.

Since GM had given me some spare disclaimer forms, the others took turns to drive the Z06 and all were astonished by its abilities – by the precision of its steering, the potential of its engine and the power of its brakes.

These were people with money, used to getting what they want and never having to compromise. Every single person called the car "remarkable." Through the Forks of the Credit and its beautiful changing leaves and tumbling river, past the farmhouses of Cataract and back down over the high horse country of Caledon, the cars drove sometimes briskly, sometimes sedately, always responsibly, all the way to the OPP station at Caledon East.

We wanted to say hello to the cops who usually squint at such vehicles and reach for their speed detectors, for both sides to see that we're all just people who appreciate fine machinery.

The officers at the station were pleased to meet us and come look at the cars, which they're used to seeing in more stressful circumstances. And on leaving, one of the officers suggested a road that's barely traveled that we might enjoy.

The temptation was too great. With an open and safe highway and a rolling start, the Corvette Z06 took on the Lamborghini Gallardo. Not to high speed but a test of acceleration, to see if the zero-to-100 km/h claim of 3.7 seconds for the Chevy might really be true.

It seemed to be. The Z06 stuck to the Gallardo like glue, not passing, not falling back, but holding its own against the $300,000 Italian exotica like a muscled-up American cousin.

Had there been curves – if this had been a track – the rear-wheel drive 'Vette would have held its own there, too, against the four-wheel drive of the 500 hp Lambo, while the driver would have been shaking his head and wondering what he could have bought with that $200,000 difference.

Reaching home at last, I parked the car and strode inside with the rest of them, my head held high while the Chevy electronics sensed my absence (with the key in my pocket) and locked the car automatically.

Just as well. After the morning's drive, everyone wanted some more time in it.

Chevrolet Covette Z06 Price: Base/as tested: $89,900/$90,990 Engine: 7-litre V8 Fuel consumption: City/highway, 14.3/8.2L/100km Power/torque: 505 hp/475 lbs.-ft.

Competition: Ferrari F360, Lamborghini Gallardo Pros: Hell of a car Cons: Still three times the price of the average car What's interesting: Fully electronic, keyless system locks the car automatically Mark Richardson is the editor of Wheels. mrichardson @ thestar.ca; wheels @ thestar.ca

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