When people turn 65, some celebrate retirement. But with the Corvette turning 65 in 2018, retirement appears to be the last thing on Chevrolet’s mind. The Corvette remains the crown jewel of the Chevrolet performance-car lineup, and to mark the anniversary, GM’s bow-tie brand is building 650 “Carbon 65 Edition” Corvette coupes and convertibles in 455-horsepower Grand Sport and 650-horsepower Z06 forms. I just spent several days wringing out a Carbon 65 Z06 coupe — or perhaps more accurately, being wrung out by one — on the roads around Joshua Tree and Palm Springs, and as I handed back the keys, all I could think was I’d just driven the fastest, most intense, and most expensive Corvette that Chevrolet has ever offered to the general public. At 65 years old, midway through its seventh generation, the Corvette has never been faster, flashier, and more formidable.
While much has changed during its six-and-a-half-decade history, the Corvette has always been a strict two-seater, with big style, a big engine, and an even bigger personality. Since 1981, production Corvettes have been built in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the site of the infamous sinkhole that swallowed eight historic Corvettes inside the National Corvette Museum in 2014, just one episode in an illustrious history unlike that of any automobile the world has ever known. Songs have been sung about it, races have been won by it — both here and abroad — and as this issue’s Route 66 theme reminds us, the Corvette has appeared in movies, television shows, and music videos. Over the years, it became known as “America’s Sweetheart” and has probably been posted on more teenage boys’ bedroom walls than Farrah Fawcett.
About That …
Enter the snarling Corvette Z06 on these pages, a car that represents the most track-ready of all Corvettes, bristling as all Z06s do with some 650 horsepower from a prodigious, supercharged V8. America’s Sweetheart? Sure … and Jaws is a guppy. At full tilt, the Z06 is an absolute beast, capable of hurling the car to 60 mph in roughly three seconds flat, according to Car and Driver magazine. The $7,995 Z07 Ultimate Performance Package adds magnetic shocks and fat Michelin tires that measure over 1 foot wide in front and over 13 inches in back, helping the Z06 grip the road with the tenacity of a teething Doberman on a meat-flavored chew toy. The stopping force of the ceramic-based brakes (also part of the Z07 package) will practically suck your eyeballs from their sockets. And for anyone who loves a mean exhaust note, this one’s is nothing short of inebriating. And get this: You can raise or lower the loudness of the exhaust system with a raucous “Track” mode that can set off nearby car alarms. It also boasts a stunningly quiet “Stealth” mode that’s perfect for late-night arrivals when you don’t want to wake every yapping dog in the neighborhood.
It may be a sexagenarian, but the ’Vette is far from needing a walker.
(From left to right) Even the Corvette’s air-intake vents look aggressive; yes, you’ll want to stop in the middle of nowhere to stare at the engine; the sueded leather and microfiber seats bring some much needed comfort to the Z06.
As the name implies, the Carbon 65 Editions are festooned with a smattering of performance-enhancing components rendered in — you guessed it — carbon fiber. These include the ground effects, rear over-fender ducts, rear spoiler, steering wheel rim, upper-dashboard trim, and roof panel. The hood is also carbon fiber, the center section of which is left unpainted for driveway show-and-tells. Other embellishments include road-trip-friendly competition sport seats with carbon fiber backs, Carbon 65 door sills, dark-painted badges and mirror caps, blue-painted brake calipers, carbon wheel-centers, and a commemorative plaque denoting where it falls in the 650-unit production sequence. This car also features suede microfiber on the headliner, steering wheel, and shifter with blue contrasting stitching that recalls the blue Carbon 65 front fender graphics.
The Corvette is also surprisingly luxurious, something we’ve only been able to say since this seventh-generation Corvette debuted in 2014.
The last Carbon 65 specification of note is my favorite. The only way to make a sports car this riveting even better is to add a bit of the unexpected. In this case, that comes in the form of its “Ceramic Matrix Gray” paint job, which effectively reads like a pale blue, not unlike the color of the sky as seen through a layer of morning fog. Whether you see it as bluish gray or grayish blue or stormy sky blue doesn’t really matter; it’s cool as hell, especially as it contrasts with the gleaming carbon fiber addenda.
None of this detracts from the Corvette’s less-sung, but certainly appreciable, features, starting with a cargo area expansive enough to store the removable roof panel when you want to drive al fresco for a spell, or some five or six suitcases when you don’t. The Corvette is also surprisingly luxurious, something we’ve only been able to say since this seventh-generation Corvette debuted in 2014 with an interior we could finally consider world-class. Indeed, the Carbon 65’s Nappa leather and sueded microfiber dressings only make it feel more so. And those optional magnetic shocks do a heroic job smoothing out the road.
When I grip the steering wheel of the Z06, I am imbued with the power of Olympian gods; the carbon fiber wing of the Corvette makes you think you’re going to fly.
Alas, none of this comes cheap. The Z06 Carbon 65 Edition coupe starts at $95,490, some $15,000 more than a standard Z06. Though to be fair, adding all those extras to a Z06 à la carte would add at least as much to the bottom line. The additional options on our tester raised the price even higher still, to an eye-watering $112,430, the highest number I’ve ever seen for a new ’Vette. Had this car had a convertible top and the eight-speed automatic, it would have cost more than $120,000. Fortunately, a visually identical Grand Sport Carbon 65 Edition can be had for $14,000 less, so long as you can live with “just” 455 horsepower.
Having driven Porsches and Bentleys costing twice as much that didn’t bring the same charisma, visceral enjoyment, or visual punch of a Z06, I could make the case that the Z06 Carbon 65 Edition is a rather good deal, even at $112,000. That’s certainly an easier case to make than convincing anyone that it’s America’s tender little sweetheart.
2018 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon 65 Edition
$95,490 coupe; $99,490 convertible
2-door, 2-passenger coupe or convertible
6.2-liter supercharged V8, 650 hp, 650 lb-ft of torque
7-speed manual or 8-speed automatic
(city/highway) 15/22-mpg manual or 13/23-mpg automatic