Coastal Pictorial: Driving a ’16 ‘Vette Z06 Up The California Coast

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This is one of the perks of being employed in the automotive magazine industry. When you have the keys to a 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 for one week in Southern California, there are few activities (other than absolutely abusing it at the track) better than taking a long weekend to gingerly drive it up California’s Highway 101, or the Pacific Coast Highway, in fall weather. It’s not one of those questions you have to ask more than once.

A key fob with a proper logo.

The checkered flag of the drive was the infamous Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, though we were given explicit instructions not to track the car. No problem, that’s what the roads up there are for.

We aren’t going to spend a lot of time explaining the Z06 because you’d have to be living under a rock for the past two years to not know that the 2016 model is rated at 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful production car ever offered from the entire General Motors brand. We will tell you that we had a stripper Torch Red 1LT, seven-speed manual that was also sans the Z07 package. The Z07 package would have been a nice experience, but we aren’t going to kick her out of bed for not being properly dressed.

It’s already been proven that the eight-speed automatic delivers better fuel economy, and is generally faster in every means of straight line performance driving. Though there is no replacing that special feeling downshifting the seven-speed manual as it precisely rev-matches every single gear, making you look like a race car superstar while passing hordes of SoCal Prius drivers. Why the hell would you just push the clutch in and coast up to a stop light when you can be blessed with such acoustic bliss with a simple downshift?

Day One

(Left) On the way to Malibu we stopped off at one of the best restaurants in the world for lunch -- The Stinking Rose. If you're ever in Hollywood, and have an obsession for garlic-infused everything, it's a spot not to miss. (Right) With the carbon roof panel installed in the trunk, you have to make sure there's still room for your luggage. There is, but not much.

With ours, and the Z06’s, bellies packed full, we headed to Santa Monica for a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. Our first stop was 41 miles north at Point Mugu State Park on the edge of Ventura County, near Oxnard.

Another 62 miles later, northbound on Highway 101, we arrived in Santa Barbara.

Exploring the side streets we found a nice, little spot for some photos.

When you realize the sun is going down and you want to get a shot of the car with the sunset in the background, there’s magically no good spots to find so we had to make due with this one.

As the sun pushed further down into the ocean, we pushed deeper into Santa Barbara to find some cool spots before the sunlight was completely gone. We came across a crazy, single lane road that led back to some very expensive houses. They were probably wondering what the hell we were doing.

Day Two

We spent the night in Santa Maria and then headed to Pismo Beach in the morning.

Needless to say, you get a lot of stares when you drive a Corvette on the beach. It was a magnet for attention that was making all the surrounding Brodozers upset. Also, the microfibers and quick detail spray got a workout before these shots were made possible.

The drive to Big Sur from Pismo Beach was the longest part of the Pacific Coast Highway drive. Three hours, and about 130 miles later, we were in the Los Padres National Forest.

The Big Sur area is beautiful with its giant redwood trees.

Back on the road, and an hour later, we were in Monterey. Don’t worry, the Z06 was in the safe hands of the InterContinental Hotel valet staff … or so we hoped. After sightseeing in Monterey and dinner, we called it a night.

Day 3

After a short drive on a cloudy morning, we were at Laguna Seca.

You could almost imagine the tears dripping from the headlights of the Z06 as it watched cars zoom up turn six, and to the famous Laguna Seca corkscrew.

After watching some racing, it was time to head over to Interstate 5 to begin the trek home.

After driving 5.5 hours and 388 miles, we arrived back home. As we mentioned before, the seven-speed manual gas mileage isn’t as good as the eight-speed manual, though we still averaged over 20 mpg (23-24 strictly highway), which is still damn impressive.

Conclusion

A drive up the coast of California in one of America’s baddest supercars is one of those life events that you will pass on to your children. There wasn’t a moment that you couldn’t find a smile on our faces, well, maybe except when we got stuck behind slow cars in the coastal mountain twisties. We are in the peak of the modern musclecar era, and we all hope it will get better from here, though I do feel like one of these days I will be saying, “Back in good ol’ 2015 there were these amazing vehicles called musclecars …”

Long live the evolution of the musclecar.

About the author

Mark Gearhart

In 1995 Mark started photographing drag races at his once local track, Bradenton Motorsports Park. He became hooked and shot virtually every series at the track until 2007 until he moved to California and began working as a writer for Power Automedia. He was the founding editor for its first online magazines, and transitioned into the role of editorial director role in 2014. Retiring from the company in 2016, Mark continues to expand his career as a car builder, automotive enthusiast, and freelance journalist to provide featured content and technical expertise.
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