Pebble Beach, Monterey.
42 miles south of Santa Cruz is the coastal city of Monterey, home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a popular attraction, especially for geeks who may remember it from Star Trek VI, and the 17-Mile Drive, which showcases some of the natural beauty of the area. Along the drive, southwest of Monterey in Pebble Beach lies the Lone Cypress. I duly paid the $10.25 fee and started the drive and my jaw dropped almost immediately. As you follow the signs that mapped the route, you arrive at an enchanting world full of dramatic coastal cliffs, snow-white beaches, mystical forests and iconic golf courses. It is the most scenic 17 miles in the world. It must be. It must be also one of the most expensive 17 miles in the world too!
The 17-mile course winded its way from the higher terrain inland to sea level and Pebble Beach and then climbed back up inland. All along the beach, people were living the typical ‘Californian’ lifestyle. This lifestyle may be a cliche, but it is accurate.
The Big Sur
I had to tear myself away from the fantastic views and activities at Pebble Beach and continue on the CA-1 South to Carmel and on to the Big Sur. I stopped briefly at one of the Sea Otter sanctuaries (see image below) to take pictures and take in the stunning views. Stopping was actually a hard thing to do because I was enjoying the car on this fantastic road. If you cannot enjoy 650bhp on this road, surrounded by these views, you cannot be human. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I saw a sign that indicated there were 74 miles!!!!! of twisting roads ahead of me! Imagine that! I’d be driving about 200 miles of the most perfect driving roads anywhere on the planet: Fast straights, fast sweepers, tight 90 degree downhill corners, tight 180 degree uphill sweepers, S-bends, everything. Just imagine any type of corner, it was there.
I’ve long dismissed American cars as historically, they have been fast in a straight line, heavy, and usually had cheap and nasty interiors and did not know what to do in a corner. The Americans have historically designed cars to go fast in a straight line and nothing else.
Not the Corvette Z06. This car represents the new generation of properly handling American sports cars: light, agile and bl**dy fast! And my automotive standards are very, very high. My current steed is a Porsche 911 (991.1) GT3, one of the best cars ever made and the Z06 did not embarrass itself, nor seem hopelessly out of its depth in
I could not drive it like a GT3 though, this car needed a totally different driving technique to the almighty Porsche. Brake in a straight line, ‘square’ the corner off as much as possible and then bludgeon the following straight with its prodigious power. The car had so much torque, I could leave the car in 3rd gear for the many corners and switchbacks, knowing that fearsome acceleration was but a foot prod away. I had to be careful when accelerating out of tight and twisty hairpins though, the torque and power of the car could overwhelm the rear tyres in an instant. The car was capable of breaking traction in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears!
This went on for mile after mile, the car inspiring more confidence as the miles passed. I even started taking liberties, braking ever later and deeper into the corners, pushing the limits through the corners and accelerating hard out of the corners. I had to ease off whenever I encountered slower traffic but the rule here dictated they pulled over to let you pass and BHAM!!! just like that, I’m back up to maximum attack speed. At one of my picture stops, a busload of Japanese tourists I had passed earlier slammed on the brakes when they spotted the Yellow Corvette in the layby.
They all poured out chattering excitedly, the driver’s first words to me were: “Jeeez! You drive very fast”. They all then insisted on taking photos with the car.
The car is indeed the star.
To San Jose via Carmel-On-Sea
I turned around when I started seeing signs indicating Los Angeles was getting ever closer and did it all again in reverse. I’d grown confident in the car’s abilities and its handling characteristics to push even harder on the way back, and only someone who is used to the very best cars with their depth of engineering could pick faults in this car. The gearbox for instance, while perfectly adequate is not as intuitive or as slick as the GT3’s PDK system, the brakes are also not as confidence-inspiring as the Porsches’. It also lacks the handling poise of the GT3 but the biggest deficit was in the suspension, especially the damping…but I’m nit-picking a bit here, this car has gone round the fearsome Nurburgring in 7:13.90, only 1.2 seconds off the current GT3.
You can also see how they managed to produce such a stonking car for only $81,000 dollars, the interior is not up to the standard of the typical Teutonic motor car and, (Kenny, look away now), taller drivers will simply not fit.
I can see these faults as I said earlier because I’m used to the very best, for many, these small faults simply do not matter. I’m comparing an $81,000 car to one costing the thick end of $200,000. The GT3 is a scalpel, the ZO6 is a light-weight sledgehammer and sometimes, it is a sledgehammer that is required for maximum entertainment.
As I approached Carmel on the return leg, traffic had built up and it was time to rein the rampant Z06 horses in and settle into a steady cruise all the way back to San Jose after cruising through the picturesque seaside resort of Carmel-on-Sea.
I had an early flight out of San Jose and had to drop the Z06 before that. As I drove to the Hertz drop-off, I pondered where else I could rent an $81,000, 650 bhp, 7:13.90 Nurburgring time supercar for only $200 a day? Only in America, the last bastion of the Supercar in the West it would seem and the Z06 makes perfect sense here.
It is also the world’s best rental car.
I got to the car check-in and had to wait for the manager to come and receive the car as the normal check-in staff are not authorized to receive this special car back into the fleet.
The car made such an impression on me that I’ve offered to buy it in a few months time…this very one, number 29 of the 100 made. It is not to replace my GT3 but it is in addition to it.
The Hertz 100th Anniversary Edition Corvette Z06, a mouthful of a name no doubt, but the name is almost irrelevant if it is packing 650bhp under
I’ve been fortunate to own and drive many, many powerful cars including a fire-spitting 500 bhp Lamborghini Gallardo but this car would out-drag, out-punch and out-accelerate them all, in fact, it would out-drag almost any car this side of a Mclaren 720s.
Very few cars have scared me as much as this car, especially on my choice of road for this test: the CA 1 South of Carmel, a winding, twisting, climbing and dipping coastal road with a sheer drop on one side and a hard rock face on the other. My life was in my right foot every time I accelerated hard out of any corner or took any of the hundreds of corners as fast as I dared. The consequences would have been dire if I had gotten it wrong at any point. Very dire.
They say the closer to death you are, the more alive you feel.
On this day, and on this road, the Corvette Z06 emphatically proves that adage.