Braking brought another surprise. Theoretically, the Audi and Corvette should be more difficult to stop because they're the two heaviest cars and each carries more than half its weight on the front tires. (The shortest possible stopping distances are achieved when all four tires are equally loaded during braking.) Refuting this hypothesis, the Corvette had the best stopping-distance average at 124 feet from 60 mph, versus 127 feet for the Audi, 130 for the Porsche, and 138 feet for the Toyota. Corvette's tires more than compensated for the aforementioned negative performance factors. For Z06 models, Corvette engineers sacrificed the run-flat radials fitted to all their cars since 1997, substituting Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, roughly 3/4-inch wider, approximately 6 pounds per tire lighter, and vastly superior in road holding.
So what do you do when you suffer a flat in a car that carries no spare? The engineering solution is a squeeze bottle of latex sealer and a miniature air compressor for reinflation. If these stopgaps fail, you use your cellphone to summon a flatbed.
Such inconveniences as flat tires pale when you pitch one of these sports cars into a corner, where the grip, balance, agility, and predictability of a highly polished design comes into its own. In the slalom, Toyota's MR2, the lightest and smallest car of the group, is by far the best balanced, flicking through the cones with a butterfly's grace. The Porsche Boxster's moves are more deliberate, because of slower and less sensitive steering.
The heavies brought up the rear. The Audi TT's sluggish throttle response makes fine-tuning the cornering line difficult. The Corvette has a cranky attitude when asked to weave through the 600-foot line of tightly spaced cones. Pushed to the hairy edge of rubber-to-road adhesion, the Corvette lost its grip abruptly and unpredictably. Best results were achieved by smoothly and conservatively steering it through the course.
To put all this together-acceleration, braking, and handling-we mapped out an 0.8-mile circuit at the Streets of Willow, an adjacent track that gamboled around second-gear hairpins, swept through third-gear bends, and dashed down short straightaways with a few abrupt elevation changes thrown in for good measure.
The Corvette's broad-range torque and mighty grip were unmatched by the challengers. Despite our attempt to counteract the Corvette's power-to-weight-ratio advantage with a rigorously tight course, the Z06 easily managed to flash its oversize taillamps to the other sports cars with a 56.2-mph average speed and an impressive demonstration of vehicle dynamics reminiscent of a Nascar stock car hammering a road course into submission.
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