I took the advice to ease the car in for the first 500 miles, mainly for transmission and brake callipers / pads. My initial concern on the drive home was getting used to left-hand drive and I found a tendency to drift to the centre of the road. After 2 days of town driving I became fully familiar with sitting on the left, mainly due to brilliant visibility from the driver’s seat. The car feels a lot wider than my previous 997 C2S, but I can say I’ve only found on two occasions, in 1000 miles, problems with visibility – mainly overtaking on narrow lanes. First weekend job was to fit the “Mild 2 Wild” exhaust switch. Eight minutes later I have a true V8-sounding engine on idle. Great accessory and should be standard.
Other comparison observations with previous cars were the great boot space and roomy cabin. The seats are comfortable but fail on been supportive enough for fast road / track driving. The gearbox is not as efficient as the 911 but by no means notchy or difficult to use. The brakes offer adequate feedback but should have more bite in the early stages of depression. The steering is a let down – it needs to be far more direct and it’s far too light at moderate speeds.
Specification is first class and the HUD is stunning, it should be in all cars. For a 500bhp+ car the Z06 is surprisingly easy to drive in town traffic with a very light clutch action plus smooth transmission. The interior is not up to comparative German cars but by no means disappointing. It’s very functional plus very clear instrumentation – not an I-Drive in sight, thank god. Road noise is poor on concrete surfaces but again not overly intrusive.
The looks of the car is stunning and it creates a lot of constructive attention. Most comments are – What is it?, What engine has it got? How fast will go? Is that the same car that does well at Le Mans? Most conversations end with “wow”.
500 Miles – Here comes the redline…
I haven’t mentioned the performance yet, as I tried to run-in the car properly, well almost! I knew the performance was going to be good from previous test drives, but I wanted to understand the handling characteristics with this amount of power available. I can start off saying the engine dominates the experience in this car, it is truly stunning. The gearing is theoretically silly for a performance car but the engine makes fantastic use of it. The car accelerates aggressively at virtually all rev ranges in all gears apart from sixth. The low-end torque is used every day, and given enough space, the savage top-end acceleration is quite simply stunning. The power band is linear throughout the range and whether accelerating from 10-20mph in second or 120mph in fourth (runway of course officer) this engine will bring a smile to anyone’s face. I use sixth gear purely for fuel consumption benefits and motorway cruising.
How do the engine and suspension get on? On poor surfaces heavy acceleration in low gears is tyre-wrecking, but generally you can use the most of the power even in slow turns with carefully modulation. The car has little understeer on corner entry and can be put into balance with mild throttle in almost any gear. Exit performance needs care, but basically is storming. Any mistakes on entry line or speed can be corrected by power, this car just loves to oversteer. I might be brave enough in the dry to use the power but yet to test in the wet.
The chassis is firm but no worse than my previous 911 and my only complaint again is the steering ratio for slow speed cornering. So 500 miles in and I was pretty happy with my purchase and now booked the first track day with 850 miles on the clock.
The First Track Day….
I booked into an open pitlane evening session at Donington, with my aspirations to enjoy and understand both handling and performance but trying to give the brakes and tyres an easy time. I’ve driven on track days for about 18 years now and always try to develop my skills that get the most grip out of the tyres; basically smooth driving using correct circuit lines and power modulation and maximizing tyre contact points. I was amazed that at no point did the traction control come on with over 35 laps completed.
On a smooth surface, the handling is stunning and all the power can be used with smooth driving. Nothing passed me all evening (helps with two long straights) and it was funny seeing so many Caterhams go backwards in the mirror. Biggest and only disappointment was the brakes. They’re strictly for fast road use and nearly as bad as a BMW M car on the circuit. I will look into upgraded pads/callipers later on.
Tyre wear was minimal and I will put off an airfield drifting session until they need replacing. Top speed at the end of the back straight was 141mph and my highest lateral g was 1.19 – I’m not sure if that’s any good? [not bad at all!- ed] Again the power dominates the driving, get the entry line or speed wrong and you can use a blip of power to get you back to the apex. After my fifth session on the circuit I decided the brakes had seen enough action and decided to go home fully intact. From leaving the circuit to reaching my front door I had no vibrations, brake fade or engine issues that previously had affected other cars after track days. Very impressive.
So 1000 miles in and I’m very happy and very lucky to be driving this beast. It has problems, namely steering and circuit brake performance. Driving on the left is not an issue at all to me and, I have to say, it even makes the car feel more special. You just don’t jump in and casually drive, you apply more attention and you end up with greater awareness of the day to day driving experience. So my review to date can be summarised as having enjoyment in a car that constantly puts a smile on your face and those who ask for a ride out in it have all said “Wow!”
Comparison notes to previous cars owned:
Z06 v Porsche 997 C2S
– Turn-in grip
– Power flexibility on cornering.
– Engine / exhaust noise.
– Boot Space
– Lack of rear seats
– Build quality – not by much though.
– Rear end grip under power – actually not a negative point to me, this car loves to slide!
Z06 v BMW M3 CSL
– Overall Grip
– Brakes – Every M car I have driven struggle with brake fade.
– Gearbox – Paddle shift is fantastic on the M3.
– Seats – Again CSL buckets were very effective.
– Lack of rear Seats
Z06 v Mitsubishi EVO 8 (340bhp)
– Top end acceleration.
– Driver involvement
– Engine / exhaust noise.
– Fuel economy – averaged 16mpg in Evo, currently 21 in Z06.
– Lack of rear Seats
– Cornering speeds.
– Steering feel.