2018 marks the centenary of rental car giant, Hertz. And to celebrate, they’ve produced a very special car indeed, which has been available from late summer at 14 airport locations in the USA. The car they chose as the basis for their 100th Anniversary Car is Chevrolet’s Corvette. And not just any Corvette but the Z06 model which is significantly more potent than the entry level car. Every Z06 features a supercharged 6.2-litre V-8 engine which generates 650 bhp and puts out 650 lb/ft of torque. There’s no danger of not realising when you are looking at one of the Hertz cars, as each of the 100 cars is painted in a classic Corvette yellow tintcoat with dual black stripes and yellow brake calipers, matching Hertz’s iconic black and yellow brand marks. Each Hertz 100th Anniversary Edition Corvette Z06 is equipped with custom Hertz interior badging, including a personalised Hertz centennial anniversary plaque that displays the model number of the vehicle. Clearly I was keen to rent one, so I was pleased to see that both the Los Angeles and the Phoenix locations were on that list of 14 locations which would stock them, but with only 100 cars across the US, they were never going to be as common as some of the other recent special cars such as the Shelby and Penske Mustangs. The Hertz cars were announced in August 2018 and by the time of my September 2018 trip, they were certainly on fleet, as I did see a couple of them on both Los Angeles and Phoenix, but they were always allocated to some other customer who had managed to reserve one. Returning to the US in late November 2018, to take in the LA Auto Show, a quiet period in tourist terms, I hoped to be more fortunate and sure enough during the middle of the week, there was one available, car number 7 of the 100, and I managed to secure it, and for a surprisingly affordable price, for a day’s rental. I had previously driven an example of the C7 generation Corvette, in September 2017 and was very impressed by it, finding it very usable on public roads and in traffic, but also a lot of fun when conditions allowed, and beguiled all day long by the sound of that thunderous V8 engine. That test car was an entry level model and was a convertible, so I did wonder just how much more fun there might be with this more powerful version and indeed with memories of the Nissan GT-R that was a bit daunted by traffic and concrete-surfaced freeways still in my mind, whether this would also prove to be a bit too much for everyday use.
Even without the Hertz features, the Z06 is a rather special car and there are plenty of reminders that you are driving a Z06 Corvette with model specific badging on the bonnet vent, the front splitter, the side vents and the rear spoiler. There are more changes than just cosmetic, though. The Z06 is the performance version of the Corvette and the C7 generation version of this variant was introduced at the North American International Auto Show going on sale in January 2015. The Z06 comes with a 6.2 litre supercharged and intercooled LT4 V8 engine with Rotocast A356T6 aluminium cylinder heads and a 1.7 litre Eaton R1740 TVS Supercharger, which generates 650 bhp at 6,400 rpm and 650 lb/ft at 3,600 rpm of torque, which is almost 200 bhp more than you get in the regular Corvette Stingray, itself no performance slouch. It is enough to give the Z06 a top speed of 185 mph and a quoted 0 – 60 time of just 3 seconds flat. The Z06 is available with a Tremec seven-speed manual with rev-matching technology or a Hydramatic 8L90 eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Changes to the body of the Z06 include a removable carbon fibre roof panel, a front splitter, a unique carbon fibre bonnet with a larger vent, larger front fender vents and unique air blades over the inlets on the rear fenders, a larger unique rear spoiler, and rear-fascia openings that are larger than that of the Stingray. The redesigned mesh pattern on the front fascia allows for maximum airflow to the supercharger’s intercooler heat exchanger, while dedicated brake-cooling intakes and wider grille outlets on the bottom serves as air diffusers. It rides on 19×10-inch front and 20×12-inch rear spin-cast aluminium alloy wheels on Michelin Pilot Sport P285/30ZR19 front and 335/25ZR20 rear tyres. Mechanical features of the Z06 include Brembo brakes (371×33-mm front and 365×25-mm rear two-piece steel disc brakes, aluminium six-piston front and four-piston rear fixed calipers), uniquely calibrated SLA-type front and rear suspension design, Magnetic Ride Control dampers, electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) integrated with electronic stability control, and Performance Traction Management. Inside the Z06, there are a choice of two magnesium frame seats (GT seat or a Competition Sport seat with more aggressive side bolstering), a steel-reinforced grab bar on the centre console for the passenger, soft-touch materials on the edge of the console, and a fully wrapped interior with Nappa leather, aluminium, carbon fibre, and microsuede, depending on the trim level. The Z06 is available with either the coupe or convertible bodystyle, though the Hertz cars are all coupe models. The real coup de grace is the price, which is tens of thousands of dollars lower than any rival with comparable performance.
Heart of the Z06 is that supercharged engine, and my expectations were high both for the noise it would make and for the explosive power I hoped it would deliver. I was not disappointed in either particular. Firing up this car at the Hertz facility where it was parked outside but under a canopy meant that the engine sound reverberated in a wonderful way. It is deeper than on some V8 cars but boy, is it loud. The Hertz staff are used to it, but your neighbours may not be. I guess if you don’t like it, then this car is not for you. Me? I loved it! Moving away from the place where the car was parked and proceeding to the exit booth of the rental facility proved that although there are 650 eager horses under the bonnet, this car can be quite docile and easy to drive at low speed. That was just as well, as the first few miles away from Hertz, especially on a weekday, are always in traffic, but once the roads cleared somewhat I was able to open it up a bit. Not a lot, mind, as were you to use much of the accelerator and potential of this car, the blue lights of the LA PD would appear in your rear view mirror very quickly, so I had to content myself with bursts of acceleration knowing that I was only really scratching the surface of what is possible. The prodigious amount of torque means that there is voracious acceleration available from whatever speed you start from. There is an 8 speed automatic gearbox and it is super-smooth in changing up or down, so you are not really all that aware what it is doing when especially when in traffic. There are paddles to change the gears yourself if you want. There is a G-Meter in the head Up display which would be quite interesting were you out on a track and full exploiting the potential of this car. Sadly, I was not, but even out on the freeways and the rest of my test route, this car was always fun to drive and to listen to. And yet, when back in the traffic, it was docile and easy to drive. Cruising at a steady speed on the freeway, engine noise is quite muted but there is plenty of sound from the tyres. I covered a total of 184 miles in my day with the Z06 and needed to put in 11.1 US gallons to fill it up on returning the car. That computes to just 16.57 mpg US or 19.8 mpg Imperial. Bearing in mind that I had only travelled on public roads and not been able to exploit more than a fraction of the performance, you need to realise that this is going to be a thirsty car. I’ve certainly seen better figures from some of the other high performance machines I’ve rented in the US and which have been driven in much the same way. But then, none of them sound quite so beguiling as this one, so there’s the quid pro quo.
The other driving dynamics were pretty good, too. A dial on the centre console lets you choose from five different drive modes (Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track) that tweak steering, throttle, transmission and stability-control calibrations. I left the car in Tour model pretty much all day and this seemed to give you an impressive experience, leaving nothing wanting. The steering is well weighted with plenty of feel but light enough to ensure that this large and heavy car is easily manoeuvrable when you need it to be, though this is a wide car and you need to remember that at times. The handling is excellent, with the car seemingly going exactly where you point it and no discernible body roll and there is far more grip than you are going to use in every day road conditions. There are some really chunky tyres fitted, 285/30 R19 on the front and some even larger and lower profile 335/25 R20 on the back. The brakes were powerful though of course I could not test them from very high speed. It is not all good news, though. Whilst the ride is generally good, it was not so comfortable on the concrete ridged surfaces that features on many of the freeways in the Greater LA area. Here the car thumped somewhat over the joins and there were times when I felt like the car was trying to take control. Thankfully, despite the low posture of the car, there were no ground clearance issues. Visibility is also a challenge, with this being particularly over the shoulder and to the rear visibility. The rear-view camera does help when reversing in to parking spots, but out and about, the lack of visibility over the shoulder is a bit of a nuisance and requires caution at oblique junctions and even when pulling out on the freeway. ground clearance is fine – no issues.
Chevrolet have made major strides with the perceived quality of the interior of the Corvette in recent years, which was something they very much needed to do as they tried to position the car ever closer to the Porsche 911 and other premium-badged rivals. The materials used here are good, with lots of leather and carbon fibre, and the yellow theme continues with yellow-coloured paddles and yellow stitching. It is all done quite tastefully, and fit and finish of the various pieces of the dash and interior trim seemed good, with just the odd detail to let the side down, such as a rather cheap and flimsy feeling Start Engine button. The dash is very much designed around the driver with almost cocoon-like style angled in the driver’s direction, so the passenger will not really be able to see much of what is being presented, the dash curving away from them, to give a little more room. The instrument pack has a large central rev counter, with the speedometer to the left, reading up to 220 mph,and there are two large dials stacked on top of each other to the right, for fuel level and water temperature, with smaller ones for oil pressure and a BHP meter set between on either side of the rev counter. The dials are clear and well marked, but there is also a Head-Up display so I found that I relied on this for the speed reading. There are options to customise what this unit displays. Standard issue GM column stalks feature for indicators and wipers. Buttons for cruise control and audio repeaters are on the on steering wheel where they are easy to find. The central part of the dash contains an integrated 8″ colour touch screen for the GM IntelliLink system whose features include XM Satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation and a wireless 4G LTE Hotspot as well as the expected sort of in-car settings and data functions. There is a performance data recorder function here, too, which allows the driver to record statistics like speed, RPM, g-forces, and track times, and even audio and video of your drives directly from the car, to an SD card, The unit proved decently responsive from its touch screen interface and was quite easy to use which is just as well as there is a distinct lack of physical buttons. Because of the way the dash is angled, the passenger probably won’t find it easy to see the unit or to use it. There is a 10 speaker Bose Sound system, though whether you will want to listen to this or simply take in the sound of the engine may depend on your mood. Certainly I did not use the radio much during my test day. Under the screen are the controls for the dual zone climate control. That means that all that is left for the centre console apart from the gearlever is the button for the driving mode selection and the electronic parking brake.
This is a sports car and you sit down low, no matter how you have adjusted the seat. That does mean that there is a knack to getting in and out. Whilst the doors are long, you will still need to alter the way you would get into a regular saloon or SUV, so more than a modicum of agility is called for. Once inside, there is all-way electric adjustment of the Competition Sport bucket seats and the steering column and there are memory settings once you have found the perfect position. There is seat heating and cooling as well, for added comfort. And indeed comfort is not lacking with these seats. They are carefully shaped to provide grip in the right places, which might just matter if you are going to exploit the performance potential of the Z06, but they also provide support in all the right places so you could use this car as a grand tourer and not feel it at the end of a longer journey. This is a strict two seater, of course, and whilst there is plenty of room for the two occupants, there is not much in the way of stowage for odds and ends in the cabin. The glovebox is a decent size and there are door pockets but they are rather small and the armrest cubby is also not that big. There is also a useful area hidden behind the infotainment screen, accessed by pressing a button which powers the screen out of the way. Combined, there are probably just about enough places for odds and ends in the cabin without having to put things in the boot area.
Although this is presented as the Coupe model, standard on the Z06 version is a lift out roof, allowing for some fresh air motoring. The carbon fibre roof panel is very light and it proved very easy to remove. There are 2 front and 1 rear clips and once released the roof simply lifts out, and this can easily be done by one person and it is just as easy to put back in place. The roof panel can then be stowed in the boot, though of course doing this will remove quite a lot of the available boot capacity. With the roof removed there are no draughts, so I did spend most of my time with it stowed on the boot. The boot is long and shallow, and everything is on display. I had the car mid week when my luggage was at the hotel, so did not have to test out how it would fit, but could foresee it would have been easily accommodated as long as the roof panel was not competing for the space. there is an electric release for the boot hatch.
There is a surprisingly large range of Corvette models available. Start point is the entry level car, called Stingray. The Stingray Z51 upgrades the Vette’s performance potential with 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels, larger front brakes, slotted brake rotors, sportier suspension tuning, revised transmission gear ratios for snappier responses (manual only), an electronic limited-slip differential, a differential cooler, dry-sump oiling for the V8 engine and a dual-mode performance exhaust. The Grand Sport largely mirrors the Stingray Z51 in terms of feature content, but it adds a slew of performance features taken from the Z06, including an upgraded cooling system, wider fenders and tyres, adaptive dampers, upgraded suspension components and bigger brakes. Sitting above these is the top dog Z06 model as featured here. Each version is offered in three different trim levels. The Stingray, Z51 and Grand Sport are split into 1LT, 2LT and 3LT subtrims; the Z06 comes in 1LZ, 2LZ and 3LZ subtrims, though the reality is that these match the xLT ones very closely. Standard features for the Stingray 1LT include 18-inch front and 19-inch rear wheels with summer tyres, Brembo brakes, xenon headlights, LED running lights, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats and a power-adjustable steering wheel. You also get OnStar (with a 4G LTE data connection and Wi-Fi hotspot capability), Bluetooth, a driver information display, an 8-inch central touchscreen with Chevy’s MyLink infotainment interface, a rearview camera, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a nine-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio. All Stingray 2LT models come with front-view parking cameras, auto-dimming driver side and rearview mirrors, a head-up display, a cargo shade (coupe only), upgraded interior trim, heated and ventilated seats with additional power adjustments, driver-seat memory settings and a 10-speaker sound system. The Stingray 3LT models add premium leather upholstery with extended surface coverage, simulated-suede upper interior trim and a navigation system that includes the Corvette’s unique performance data recorder. The Z06 1LZ starts with the Stingray Z51 1LT’s standard equipment and adds a supercharged V8 (650 hp, 650 lb-ft), a Z06-specific sport-tuned suspension with adaptive dampers, larger brakes, wider tyres, a carbon-fibre bonnet, a more aggressive aero package (including wider front and rear fenders, expanded cooling vents, and a unique front grille and rear fascia) and the head-up display. The Z06 2LZ gets the 2LT’s upgrades, while the Z06 3LZ gets the 3LT’s upgrades. For the Grand Sport and Z06, Chevy offers a Z07 performance package. It adds carbon-ceramic brakes, an even more aggressively tuned suspension, bigger and stickier tyres, and extra aerodynamic body pieces. For all Corvettes, various interior and exterior styling and trim upgrades are also available. The Hertz cars are based on the 3LZ trim.
My expectations for this car were high. And I was not disappointed. The US press consistently tell us that the C7 Corvette is “better” than the Porsche 911, though they do include value for money in part of their reasoning in coming to this conclusion, and whilst I might not quite agree with them in purely objective terms, there is no denying that this Corvette is a very impressive car. It is blisteringly fast, of course, but it is docile enough to be perfectly manageable in traffic. Yes, the ride was at times poor, visibility was compromised, and the car was thirsty but you rather expect all these to apply. Look past these things, though, and remind yourself that the seats were comfortable, there is ample room for two and plenty of luggage (as long as the roof is on) and remind yourself again of the noise and power from the engine and it is not hard to see why the Corvette and specifically the Z06 Corvette has plenty of fans. Count me among them!