I was in search of a nice, sedate Chevrolet Cruze compact car to test drive this week, so I called Bob Lollar at Walter Jackson Chevrolet in Ringgold, Ga.
"I'm not sure we've got the new Cruze yet," Lollar said. "But I do have something else you might be interested in. What about a Z06?"
"A what ? A 'Vette Z06?" I stammered. "Yes, Bob, that would work nicely."
I hung up the phone and slapped my desk: "Yes!"
* Model: 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Coupe
* Exterior color: Torch Red
* Interior color: Jet Black
* Engine: 6.2-liter V-8 (supercharged)
* Horsepower: 650
* Transmission: 7-speed manual
* Fuel economy: 22 mpg highway, 15 mpg city
* Dealer: Walter Jackson Chevrolet, Ringgold, Ga.
* Price (as tested): $95,425
The promise of a ride in Chevy's new super car was not a bad way to start a workday. For scale, the difference between a Chevrolet Cruze and a 650-horsepower Z06 Corvette is like the difference between a Fiat Pop and a Lamborghini. They both have the same nationality, but that's where the similarity ends.
Ever since Dodge unleashed its 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat last year, the horsepower war among American car-makers has been raging fast and furious.
Drivers not content with a mere 450-horsepower Corvette Stingray, now have the option of purchasing the Z06 — a car with an insane 0-30 mph time of 1.3 seconds. (Or as they say in drag racing circles, "from zero to blurry in a hurry.") In the time it takes you to gulp, this supercharged, rear-wheel drive monster will snap your head back and send you thundering down the road.
It's not often that I experience a car with a sticker price approaching six figures — our tester is $95,425 — and come away thinking it's a stone bargain, but the Z06 is worth every penny on its price sheet.
STYLING AND COMFORT
Most Corvette buyers will eventually play this game in their mind: "Red or black? Black or red?" (Yes, blue, yellow, white and silver models are available, too. But, really.)
A case can be made for either black or red. The black Z06 Coupe is a thing of beauty, light skimming across its sheet metal like welding sparks. Our Torch Red Z06 tester, on the other hand, had motorists on I-75 this week straining to get a better look.
The ZO6 Coupe is, in a word, gorgeous.
The massive hood, with its sexy undulations and menacing cooling duct, has typical Corvette presence. Still, there are some who'd say a rear, three-quarters view is the Corvette's most flattering angle. It's clear from the bulging wheel arches and the quad exhausts that this is the business end of the 'Vette; the place where 650 lb.-feet of smoke-inducing torque flows to the massive rear wheels.
To our eyes this is the most awe-inspiring Corvette design since the those iconic mid-20th-century Stingrays.
Inside, the Z06's cockpit design is intentionally driver-centric. The dash and center-stack flow together in one big arc that surrounds the driver. The passenger seat, meanwhile, feels a bit partitioned from the action — which may be a good thing if you don't want your spouse to have an unrestricted view of the speedometer.
While some other manufacturers' muscle cars feel like mid-level products with monster motors, the Z06 Corvette is a true luxury sports car. Although this is clearly a purpose-built machine, it also has the comforts that buyers in this price range will expect, such as 8-way power adjustable seats, hand-stitched Nappa leather seating surfaces and a head-up color gauge display.
A $8,945 premium equipment package adds a luggage compartment shade, power heated outside mirrors, heated and cooled seats, premium audio and curb view cameras. Other options include special chrome aluminum wheels ($1,995) and almost $4,000 worth of carbon fiber interior and exterior bits, including a removable roof.
Buyers will no doubt appreciate the full suite of connectivity features on the Z06, including an 8-inch color touch screen, 3D navigation, a 4G LTE Internet hot-spot and a one-year trial subscription to XM satellite radio.
The beating heart of this super car is a 6.2-liter, V-8 supercharged engine that pours out 650 horsepower; so much power, in fact, that the Z06 has a sophisticated launch control feature to make sure all that energy doesn't just evaporate into tire smoke. Chevy notes that the aluminum V-8 has titanium intake valves and connecting rods to reduce mass.
On our test drive on Interstate 65, every driver we passed seem to be mesmerized by our little red Corvette, as if the Z06 were a shiny object in the hands of a professional hypnotist.
It goes without saying that we didn't push the monster 'Vette to its limits — you'd need a test track and helmet for that — but the NASCAR-like growl emanating from under the hood left little doubt that this car is capable of astonishing performance, like a reported zero-to-60 mph time of 2.95 seconds.
Ride comfort is acceptable for a car hovering only a few inches above the pavement. A seven-speed manual transmission is standard in the Z06 and an 8-speed automatic is optional. A car like this requires an extra-strength brakes package, and the Z06 includes Brembo calipers attached to 14.6-inch slotted rotors. Imagine rotors the size of medium pizzas.
The Z06's symmetrical 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution results in sharp handling; and the Michelin summer performance tires are up to the task of keeping the Z06 attached to the road. An aluminum space-frame keeps the overall weight in check, for better performance, and a magnetic selective drive control allows you to dial in a stiffer suspension for spirited driving.
If you are a potential customer for this car, please know that Z06 Corvettes don't stay in the showroom very long. Lollar says the Torch Red Corvette at his store this week is already getting nibbles on the Internet.
For those of us with modest means, it's worth the drive down to Ringgold just to see this beast in the flesh. You might even want to hop in a Cruze while you're at it.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.