The Best Years Of The C6 Corvette, Ranked

The Chevrolet Corvette, "America's Sports Car" introduced in 1953 is now in its eighth generation, having gone through over 70 years of changes, most of which have been improvements over previous models. Each generation can be identified by modifications that characterize that era and the C6 generation is no different. While the C6 Corvette, produced from the 2005 to 2013 model years, provided enhancements to the ride and handling, the most significant changes were made to the engines.

The most noticeable modification to the C6 exterior over the C5 was the change from retractable headlights to fixed, but Chevrolet also lengthened the wheelbase, reduced the overhangs, and upgraded the suspension delivering a smoother ride quality and more precise handling. Although the overall length of the C6 is shorter than the C5 the automaker managed to augment the cabin space, especially the hip room. Minor exterior changes included a raised beltline and flush door handles that give the body a cleaner look.

A new LS2 engine generated 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, accelerating the Corvette to 60 mph in a reasonable 4.2 seconds. The introduction of the LS3 in 2008 added more power reducing the 0 to 60 time to 4.0 seconds with 430 hp and 424 lb-ft of torque. The Z06 or ZR1 models entered the realm of outrageous power generating over 500 and 600 horsepower, respectively, and dropping 60 mph times to the low three seconds. While all the C6 Corvettes are exceptional sports cars in any trim or option configuration, some were better than others. Here are the best C6 Corvette years ranked in ascending order.

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2005 Corvette Coupe

For most cars, flaws and defects show up in the first years of a new generation but are usually remedied in successive year models. The Corvette C6 was no exception, making the early models less desirable to purchase as used vehicles.

According to Corvsport, "The C6 Corvette was not so much a re-design as an evolution of the C5." Chevrolet built on the success of the previous generation by using mostly new components, but with only subtle changes in appearance. Dave Hill, a vehicle-line executive for Corvette told MotorTrend, "You could put all the parts [carried over from the C5] in a bushel basket." The same outlet reports Chief Designer Tom Peters described the C6 as "a Coke bottle designed by Picasso." The C6 is five inches shorter than the C5 suggesting a car with superior handling. However, the exposed headlights contribute the most to the C6's new appearance. While some enthusiasts objected to the change after 40 years of disappearing headlamps, most agreed the flush-glass headlights improved the car's aerodynamics.

Although the 2005 Corvette places at the bottom of our list of C6 Corvettes, it is by no means a poorly performing sports car. The new Gen-IV LS2 V-8 generates 400 hp at 6000 rpm and 400 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm and mates to either a manual or automatic transmission. Chevrolet upgraded the suspension for improved handling, added electric door releases, a push-button start, satellite navigation, and more luxurious interiors typical of a high-performance sports car. GM sold 37,372 units in 2005.

2006 Corvette Z06

Chevrolet designed and built the Z06 using much of the technology and production techniques it used to build the class-winning Le Mans C6R race car. Absent for the 2005 model year, Chevrolet reintroduced the Z06 in 2006 equipped with a 7.0-liter small block V8. The engine was the first in the world to be certified under the new SAE (J2723) standard that specifies the procedure required to certify the net power and torque rating of a production engine. The test results showed 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque for the Z06.

Chevrolet made several modifications to the base C6 to reduce its weight. An all-new frame used aluminum to replace steel components and the front cradle was made with magnesium. The company also eliminated the removable roof panel, improving structural efficiency. The changes reduced the frame's weight from 419 to 287 pounds. Other weight-reducing measures included the fabrication of the Z06's front fenders with carbon fiber rather than fiberglass, which reduced their weight from 9.2 to 2.8 pounds each. Chevrolet took an additional five pounds off with a balsa-core composite carbon fiber floorboard.

The Corvette Z06 weighed a mere 3147 pounds with a 51/49% front/rear distribution, lighter than the Ferrari Enzo and Mercedes SLR McLaren. The lightweight combined with a 505 hp engine accelerated the Z06 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, reached the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds, and achieved a top speed of over 190 mph.

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2008 Corvette Coupe

Chevrolet made only minor changes to the C6 for 2008. On the outside, the only visible feature to distinguish it from the 2007 Corvette is a set of optional twin-spoke wheels that mimic those of the Z06. The most significant change was the upgrade from the 6.0-liter LS2 to the LS3 small-block V8. Chevy increased the bore by 0.06 inches resulting in an additional 0.2 liter of displacement. Although the new engine compression was reduced from 10.9:1 to 10.7:1, Chevrolet claimed the engine was more efficient producing more power.

According to Road and Track, "These gains are due mostly to technology derived from the Z06's 505-bhp LS7, including its fuel injectors, as well as other improvements like better-flowing heads feeding larger valves that are actuated by offset rockers." The basic LS3 engine generated 430 bhp at 5900 rpm and 424 lb.-ft. of torque at 4200 rpm. However, the optional NPP dual-mode exhaust increased performance by reducing the backpressure a significant 80 percent at high engine revs and added six peak horsepower and four pound-feet of torque, for a total of 436 hp and 428 lb-ft, respectively.

The base price of the Corvette Coupe in 2008 was $45,170, but the 4LT Premium Equipment package raised the price by about $2,000. The upgrade included an interior treatment with finely stitched two-tone leather on the door panels, dash, and the heated power-adjustable sport bucket seats. A premium Bose sound system was available to pump out a favorite tune, and the package also featured a power-telescoping steering wheel, side-impact airbags, and a heads-up display.

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2013 Corvette 427 Convertible

The 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible boasts many of the same features found in the Z06 including the 7.0-liter V-8 mated to the Z06's six-speed manual transmission and carbon-fiber and balsa-wood sandwich floor panels. However, Chevrolet says the Z06 was designed from the outset to be a coupe and the convertible is not merely the same car with the magnesium-reinforced roof panel removed.

However, comparing the components of the 427 Convertible to those of the Z06, it's a challenge to distinguish the two. The 427 Convertible is fitted with a Z06 carbon-fiber hood and carbon-fiber fenders. The engines are identical, and both cars are equipped with the Z06 rear axle, magnetorheological shock absorbers, and staggered Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires. The dampers on the Convertible are tuned like those typical of a grand tourer rather than the track-minded Z06. They filter out some asphalt flaws the Z06 would easily find.

The 7.0-liter V-8 produces 505 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque which accelerates the Convertible to 60 mph in a mere 3.9 seconds and powers it to the quarter mile mark in 12.2 seconds. The top speed is rated at 182 mph. Other components shared by the Z06 with the 427 Convertible give similar performance characteristics. The steering is quick: A low ratio of steering wheel movement to wheel turning demands absolute attention by the driver to avoid overcompensation and loss of control. The lateral acceleration measured 1.03 g on the skidpad, and the Z06 brakes slowed the 427 Convertible from 70 mph to a standstill at 144 feet. The 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible Collector Edition owned by Guy Fieri sold at auction for $270,000.

2012 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 3ZR Centennial Edition

The Z06 Corvette was already a rare sports car in 2012, but the application of the Centennial Edition package made it even more distinctive. The unique features both inside and out were added to only 127 of the LS7-powered supercars. While the Centennial Edition option highlights Chevrolet's 100th birthday with special logos placed on the steering wheel and wheel centers plus B-pillar decals, the special edition Corvette comes in the highest-level 3ZR trim. The features include leather sport seats with adjustable lumbar support and bolsters, the Bose premium stereo system, and an interior cabin covered in leather.

But it is the Z07 Ultimate Performance Package that gives the car its punch. The Z06 3ZR Centennial Edition performance matches other sports cars in its class with an acceleration of 0 to 60 mph in a blistering 3.8 seconds, reaching the quarter mile in 11.9 seconds at 122.5 mph. These figures are slightly slower than some competitors such as the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Ferrari 458, and Nissan GT-R. However, Porsche's rear-mounted engine gives it a slight traction advantage. The Ferrari boasts 55 more horsepower, and the Nissan GT-R's Atessa E-TS all-wheel-drive system provides superior grip during acceleration.

Chevrolet fitted the Centennial Edition with the new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires (front: 285/20/ZR19 and rear: 335/25/ZR20), giving the Corvette unparalleled grip for both acceleration and handling. With the new tires, Motor Trend recorded its fastest figure-eight test time ever for production cars tested at just 22.8 seconds and an average of 0.98g.

2007 Ron Fellows Championship Edition Z06

Ron Fellows is a Canadian racecar driver known worldwide as one of the best of all time. His racing career spans several decades with success in numerous racing series including the SCCA Trans-Am, IMSA, and The American Le Mans Racing Series. His long-term association with GM's Corvette Racing program dates back to 1998 and many consider Fellows one of the most influential drivers in the Corvette Racing Team's history. He earned seven podium finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with victories in 2001 and 2002. He now offers classes at the Ron Fellows Corvette performance driving school near Las Vegas. The special signature-series Corvette Z06 model that bears Ron Fellow's name is a tribute to his contribution.

The Ron Fellows Championship Edition Z06 mechanics were identical to all the Z06 models built in 2007. Chevrolet equipped it with the same 7.0-liter V8 SFI engine, cranking out 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. The engine was mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, and the Z06 accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in a blistering 3.5 seconds.

Chevrolet painted the special edition Corvette arctic white, a color not previously available on the Z06, highlighted by two Monterey red racing-style stripes on the fenders. The automaker detailed the strips with the dates of Fellow's championship years, his signature, and a Canadian maple leaf. The interior also included custom features with a predominantly red color scheme, and Ron Fellows himself hand-signed and numbered the interior of each center console.

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2009 Chevrolet Corvette GT1 Championship Edition

In 2009, Chevrolet released a special version of the C6 to recognize Corvette's dominance in GT1 racing. The GT1 Championship Edition commemorated an unparalleled tally of class wins, driver championships, and manufacturer/team championships. Although the G1 special edition was an appearance package, Chevrolet offered it on coupes, convertibles, and Z06 variants. The coupe and Z06 models included the performance package and exhaust.

The base model Corvette coupe and convertible were fitted with a 6.2-liter V8 that generated a remarkable 430 hp and 424 lb-ft of torque. The dual-mode exhaust option bumped the output up to 436 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. The Z06 equipped with a 7.0-liter V8 cranked out an impressive 505 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Chevrolet also offered the ZR1 version without the appearance package producing 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox came as standard on all 2009 Corvettes and a six-speed paddle-shifted automatic was available as an option for the coupe and convertible.

The performance of all the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette trims is stunning. The base model accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, while the Z06 reaches 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and the quarter-mile mark in a mere 11.6 seconds. The top speed of the Z06 (without a speed governor) is estimated at 199 mph. Chevrolet offered the GT1 Championship Edition in either "velocity" yellow or black, with a special black leather interior accented in yellow. The automaker added a full-width ZR1-style spoiler, a new engine cover, a windshield banner, and chrome wheels. Only 600 units were produced.

2010 Corvette Grand Sport Convertible

Responding to the requests of its valued customers, Chevrolet created the Grand Sport, offering the model as a convertible or Targa coupe with many of the features found on the Z06 sans the monster engine. The Grand Sport is equipped with the 430-hp LS3 V-8, and additional features formerly included in the optional Z51 performance package. The Vette is fitted with much larger tires (front: 275/35-18s, rear: 325/30-19s), a wider track, a stiffer suspension with higher spring rates and larger-diameter Sachs twin-tube shocks, and bigger cross-drilled brake rotors (front: 14.0 inches, rear: 13.4 inches). Body modifications included a front air inlet and swollen fenders that reduce aerodynamic lift by half, and rear brake-cooling ducts to improve stopping performance.

Perhaps the best Grand Sport version is the Coupe with a manual transmission and launch control. The feature is engaged by putting the Vette into "competition mode," activated by clicking the stability/traction-control button twice. The driver then depresses the clutch and floors the accelerator, increasing the rpm to about 4500. When the clutch is popped, the launch system determines the available grip based on the initial wheelspin. The torque sent to the wheels is adjusted by controlling the fuel and spark delivery at the rate of 100 times per second. The Grand Sport launch control system is accurate and consistent, nearly matching the times achieved manually by the best drivers.

If the 2010 Corvette Grand Sport Convertible has a weakness, it is the inexpensive-looking interior. The car would have benefited from a cabin like those found in the 2010 Buick LaCrosse.

2009 C6 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

When General Motors released the Corvette ZR1 in 2009, it was the most powerful car in the company's history. Although 600 horsepower production cars had already reached the market by 2009, such as the Dodge Viper SRT-10 with an estimated acceleration of 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 to 3.7 seconds, the Corvette outshone its competitors. The elite vehicle's exceptional performance placed it into a unique category: America's supercar.

The ZR1 boasted a supercharged and intercooled pushrod 16-valve 6.1-liter V8 with port fuel injection and aluminum block and heads. The mill produced 638 bhp at 6500 rpm and 604 lb-ft of torque at 3800 rpm. The ZR1 beat the Dodge Viper SRT-10 by 0.1 to .04 seconds, reaching 60 mph in a blistering 3.3 seconds. Equipped with the monster road-grabbing rear 335/25ZR-20 Michelin Sport PS2 tires the car reaches the quarter mile in a mere 11.2 seconds at a speed of just over 124 mph. Motor trend tests show the top speed at a verified 200-plus mph.

Chevrolet engineers kept the car's handling on par with its straight-line performance by making bushing modifications to the ZR1 suspension and installing a variable-ratio steering rack that enlivens the response. Steering flex was reduced by replacing an aluminum steering-column shaft with a stiffer steel link. Brembo carbon-ceramic rotors (front: 15.5 inches, rear: 15.0) and monoblock calipers give the car progressive bite during hard braking without fading. The result is a Corvette that outperforms the Viper SRT-10 with a max cornering lateral load transfer of 1.1g while the Viper breaks loose at 0.99 g.

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2011 Corvette Z06 Carbon Fiber Edition

At the top of the list of best C6 Corvettes is the 2011 Z06 Carbon Fiber Edition. Chevrolet launched the limited edition (about 500 units) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Corvette that participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1960. Introduced in 1963 with the second generation C2 Corvette, the Z06 has been the performance star of the line until the release of the ZR1. Although the 2011 ZR1 was the fastest and most advanced Vette to date, some enthusiasts consider the lightweight, naturally aspirated Z06 to be better balanced and easier to control with its 505-hp, 7.0-liter V-8. However, the same enthusiasts have expressed an interest in adding some of the ZR1 chassis features, but at a lower price point.

The new Z06 Carbon Limited Edition Corvette addressed the issue by offering most of the capabilities of the ZR1 without the supercar price. The special-edition Corvette includes the ZR1's adjustable magnetorheological shocks, 15-inch carbon-ceramic brakes, and Michelin Pilot PS2 tires mounted on 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels. Chevrolet also added a carbon-patterned engine cover, a carbon-fiber ZR1 front splitter, black headlight surrounds, and ZR1 carbon-fiber rocker extensions.

Although the Z06 Carbon Fiber Edition produced 133 horsepower less than the ZR1, the performance is close. The special edition accelerates to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and reaches the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 123.6 mph, while the ZR1 hits 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and the quarter mile in 11.2 seconds at 130.5 mph.

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