Step into a Z06 and you will immediately be aware of the low-end grunt that comes from Chevy’s legendary LS engine. As of 2019, the Z06 creates 650 lb-ft of torque at 3,600rpm which means they leap out of corners faster than a cheetah chasing prey. Great drivers know how to moderate the throttle pedal in the middle of a corner and that’s what you’ll learn from a Corvette because you have to. In many cars that don’t create torque at low rpm, you can get away with stabbing the gas pedal with more ferocity than in a Vette. Honing this skill translates into every car you’ll drive after and can often make your right foot even more acute when you step into another vehicle. It’s great training you won’t necessarily get from other cars.
Long Wheelbase Lessons
Wheelbase plays a major role in how a car feels at high speed as well as how responsive the back end is once the car steps over the limit of traction. A higher number (over 104”) will give stability at high speed while a lower number (under 92”) will give the ability to change direction quickly in low to mid-speed corners. Measuring 96.2” on the C4 ZR-1 and up to 106.7” on the C7 means you have options with the Corvette, not something every sports car can claim. This means it’s easy to get comfortable at high speed with the C5, C6, and C7 models and driver confidence isn’t a skill when it comes to fast driving, it’s a prerequisite. Corvettes always instill confidence at speed and that confidence, in turn, allows the driver to push a little harder than they might otherwise do. You can feel it when the back end steps out; the Z06 has tremendous stability from the factory under almost any cornering condition.
That leads us to the next point: balance. Not only is the Corvette balanced over the limit, but they don’t have any truly bad handling characteristics from the factory. Many cars force you to drive around a problem while the Corvette encourages you to explore the limits of handling. This is in part due to things like the wheelbase, but more to do with the fact that the cars are balanced from a weight distribution standpoint and a performance standpoint. What this means is that as much power and torque as the Z06 makes, no one component of the car outclasses the next. Think about it, have you ever felt how fast a Corvette is and suddenly realized you need to slow down? Braking performance is as impressive as the acceleration. Cornering performance is as impressive as straight-line speed. Balanced cars make you a better driver because you don’t have to drive around any components that are lacking in their ability to keep up with the rest of the car. All Z06s are like this.
Break Away Characteristic
Wheelbase plays a role in the way a car feels when it slides, but suspension geometry and other aspects of chassis engineering are equally as crucial to making a car feel predictable when it finally does exceed the tires’ ability to hold the road. Chevy engineers were very aware of this and gave consumers a car that doesn’t “snap out” on you like many mid-engine Italian supercars tend to do. Rather than wanting the car to feel racy and intimidating, they wanted the car to feel fast and friendly. Corvettes communicate this to you immediately from the moment you pop the clutch. Nothing about the way these cars break away is startling or abrupt. I have personally had one let go on me on a very cold day and was surprised at how easy it was to catch. It can’t be stressed enough how important this is in vehicle design. To create this trust in a car requires fine-tuning, testing and a great team of engineers.
Throw your Weight Around
It’s no secret that these cars aren’t light. With all the creature comforts, airbags and sound equipment that are expected in a modern road car they tend to tip the scales around 3,300 to 3,500 lbs. Ultralight cars are great, but cars that are a little on the heavy side actually teach you to manage weight or suffer the consequences. Corvettes, in general, demand a solid understanding of weight transfer to get the best lap time. And, because of the balance mentioned previously it actually doesn’t mean the weight affects the neutral handling which makes them so good to drive. If you can hustle a Vette through corners you will be able to drive anything. Furthermore, if you actually decide to take weight out of a Corvette, the baseline is so high they become monsters that are capable of slaying even the biggest Goliath on the track. You really can’t lose when it comes to these things.
Other than all the things mentioned above, the Corvette has always been offered with a manual transmission which means you can get heel-toe downshifts and rev matching to a science. While many manufacturers opt for dual clutch transmissions or crappy paddle shifters the Corvette has stayed true to its roots with a clutch pedal and stick shift. You can become very proficient at shifting in these cars as they don’t have any real quirks in the linkage that make things feel awkward. Pedals are placed well too which makes them intuitive, exactly what you want when you talk about building your skill set. Well, those are just a few reasons the Corvette will make you a better driver. The next time you’re dropping the hammer at the race track, don’t forget to thank the engineers at Chevrolet.