Improving the C5

Purists may not like it, but today's top sports cars are relying more and more on high technology.

Purists may not like it, but today's top sports cars are relying more and more on high technology. Consider the latest Corvette, for example. Heavily revised for 2001, the famous two-seater uses a computer-controlled suspension system that allows it to handle better than ever. Developed by Delphi, the complex suspension algorithms are designed to make the ‘Vette more exciting and yet safer to drive, especially in the hands of owners whose skills are not at the expert level.

With an all-new, sixth-generation Corvette under development, the current C5 version receives numerous upgrades, not the least being improvements to the powertrain. The standard LS1 V8 motor now generates 350 bhp (a five-bhp increase over the previous version). More significantly, a reshaping of the torque curve by use of a new composite, higher volume intake manifold and modified camshaft profile produces more power at lower rpms. For instance, 340 lb-ft of torque is delivered at 2,500 rpm, 1,400 rpm earlier than before. Peak torque of 360 lb-ft (375 lb-ft in manual versions) arrives at 4,400 rpm. Considering that 60% of Corvette buyers choose automatics, the revised torque curve will make a useful difference to off-the-line acceleration.

2001 Z06 Corvette
The 2001 Z06 Corvette: faster. And better.

The real performance focus, however, is on a new Z06 model, which is based on the previous lightweight hardtop version and is powered by the newly designated LS6 engine. Based on the LS1 V8, the LS6 develops 385 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 385 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. A host of engineering revisions to the motor include new pistons, higher compression ratio, higher profile camshaft, new injectors and a less-restrictive titanium exhaust system. Although the exotic, very low volume McLaren F1 supercar of the mid-90s featured a titanium exhaust, the Z06 is the first mainstream automotive application for the metal. Weighing 26 lb. the Z06 exhaust saves 44 percent over the Corvette's standard 46-lb. stainless steel system. "This is the single greatest bolt- on weight reduction available today," says Kurt Faller, of Denver-based TIMET, the titanium supplier that combined forces with ArvinMeritor to develop the Corvette's exhaust.

Unique to the Z06 is a six-speed manual transmission with more aggressive gearing, which gives the newcomer a claimed 0-60 mph time of four seconds and a 12.6-second quarter-mile. On the LS1 version, Chevrolet claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds for the manual coupe and convertible (5.0 seconds automatic) and a 175 mph top speed, (slightly higher than the Z06 because of longer gearing).

All Corvette models for 2001 benefit from the previously mentioned second-generation active handling system. Along with the Delphi suspension software, the latest system uses a new Bosch 5.3 brake pressure modulator and is intended to be less intrusive in extreme situations. "It adapts itself to the skill level of the driver," says development engineer Mike Risso. "We want people to keep this system on, not turn it off and then be without it when they get in over their heads."

A further change for 2001 is that the active handling's competitive mode, which allows drivers to switch off the traction control element of the system, can be activated on the move instead of after a full stop.

The Z06's suspension differs from other Corvettes in having a larger front stabilizer bar, stiffer rear leaf spring, and revised camber settings. Forged aluminum wheels are one inch wider front and rear and wear new Goodyear Eagle SC rubber. These asymmetrical tread pattern tires are not run-flats like those used on Corvette coupes and convertibles and therefore have more compliant sidewalls, resulting in superior handling and ride characteristics. A tire inflator kit is included to deal with punctures.

In the interests of saving weight, the Z06 features a lighter, absorbent glass mat battery and thinner windshield and backlight. Compared to its high performance predecessor, the 1995 400 bhp ZR1 Corvette, the Z06 is 265 lb. lighter and boasts a superior power to weight ratio than all its competitors bar the Dodge Viper.

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