FWIW, here's is my first driving impression of the new Z06 (aka "Billie Bob") Corvette. I am of course referring to the 2001 model.
First, and most important, the Z06 is "fun to drive". A bit too expensive if you ask me, (and no longer in keeping with the so-called "billie bob", nor the original FRC's goals and objective iaw book 'All Corvettes Are Red'. Considering decade old ZR-1s are now selling for half the cost of a Z06, and not until next year's 400+ HP version, the KOTH ZR-1 is probably a real bargain by comparison.
The most pleasing thing I noticed is the Z06 has a kick ass (as is "great") sounding exh note under hard acceleration; certainly much better than any other modern era Corvette. With such a viceral sound as this, I would not be so eager to plunk down any more hard earned cash for an after market system. Why mess with perfection?
Another pleasant surprise, at least to me, the Z06 actually has a fairly decent ride quality. You can still feel the ruts and bumps in the road, but nothing bad enough to render a punishing ride. In fact, any more "plush" and you'd be hard pressed to call it an American "sports car". Moreover, I could very easily see myself commuting to work or going on long trips in a Z06.
Furthermore, the Z06, like all the C5s since 1997, is certainly better than any previous generation as far as "refinement".
At first glance (and from seeing pics in all the mags, etc), I felt the 1999 FRC (and now its latest iteration in 2001) was not very attractive, and arguably the only pig in a poke. The Coupe and drop top models have sheer elegance and styling going for them, but the H/T is kind of the "runt" of the litter.
No question, coupe and convertible models (in that order) still get my vote for best looks. Still, given upon time, the Z06 tends to grow on you. The best C5 of all worlds would be an LS6 option available in the Coupe body style with six speed tranny.
GM, "build it and they will come."
I test drove a millennium yellow Z06 with black seats and red accents. A flashy combo to be sure, but I must admit it is one of those colors that commands "thumbs up" and stares of envy if unceremoniously from the general populous.
The instrument panel, as in all C5s, is well executed. The itallicized font on the tach and speedo is a nice touch too and I really like the back lighting at night which is a truly elegant touch of class. Passenger amenities and overall ergonomics are very good too for a "hardtop".
In this area, one item that is significantly improved over all earlier generations is the driver's foot well. There is plenty of room to relax your left foot way down deep inside the footwell. Very nice!!!
Now for bad news on the ergonomics front.
The six speed shifter, in the car I drove, was very notchy. I can live with the 1-to-4 skip shift feature, although I wish there was a simple bypass switch. This feature carried over from the C4, starting way back in 1990, but there is just no excuse for a seemingly hard to shift new tranny after all these years of continuous improvement at GM.
Because of this one very annoying flaw, in an otherwise world class sports car, I would most likely pass on this year's Z06 and hope they get the bugs worked out in subsequent new model years.
The "demonstrator" 2001 Z06 that I drove had 1750 miles on it and in fact was pre-owned, (in the rather sacastic, but humorous words of the salesman) "by a Silicon Valley dotcom, but dot com no more".
The handling of the car felt very solid and steering seemed fine on the street. I did not have a chance to "exercise" the active handling sytem, but sure tempting to just turn it off nevertheless.
For a FRC, visibility out of the windows was expected to be compromised, but this was not the case, and certainly no worse than the convertible with top up. Like that model, trunk space is surprisingly good; still considerably less volumous than the Coupe's trunk-less, hatchback body style. At least there is something to be said for greater security (and piece of mind) when precious cargo is stored back there.
The only other gripes I can think of (and darn few of those to be sure) are with a few key options absent from Z06, particularly those that are safety related. Both LTPWS and HUD are not available in Z06, at least not yet. One more thing left to ping on, (and this indeed is a VERY MINOR dig), in not for only slightly better asthetics, there should be a telescopic antenna mast like that standard in the convertible.
The added weigh for these features would not be significant, but the extra large, non-EMT tires should stay ("Y" (or 186 mph) speed rated, BTW). And there is still no need for a spare.
I would gladly pay for a replacement LTPWS sensor in the tire stem if I had a flat that ever got fouled after a lethal injection of "fix a flat in a can" from the onboard accessory kit stored in the trunk.
Same deal for HUD. Although I think in next year's model Z06, HUD should be available if we are to believe rumored changes coming out in 2002.
While on subject of persistent rumors, if next year's LS6 HP specs perfectly align with where the late, great 1995 ZR-1 left off, the Z06. being a 400 pound lighter car, should become new king of the hill Corvette.
It only took 12 years for GM Powertrain's 350 small block Chevy V8 push rod design to finally catch up with the DOHC 32 valve LT5. Better late than never I guess, and together with that racous exhaust sound I spoke of earlier, I believe the old King may finally be dead.
I think more horsepower is very high on any new Corvette shoppers list. I feel sorry for all those guys who already payed way over sticker for this year's Z06 model. On the other hand because of them, demand may tapper off a bit for a second year Z06 and if not, there should be a bunch of low mile 2001 cars popping up on the used car market soon enough.
Either way, especially with still depressed economic conditions, prices should begin to fall so that once again we have something approaching "affordability" in these new generation muscle bound Corvettes built by a "value" oriented company like Chevrolet. Yippie.