Join Date: Mar 2001
First Drive: 2007 Callaway C16 (edmunds.com)
First Drive: 2007 Callaway C16 (edmunds.com)
Big numbers and unique styling hold intense appeal to the lucky few.
616-hp supercharged V8
Sub-$120,000 price tag
Customizable and built to order
The most important part is to pay attention.
Bring the revs up to 4,000 rpm and sidestep the clutch in the 2007 Callaway C16 and watch as nature telescopes aft with exponential speed, as if someone had knocked the nut off some kind of hydrant and the landscape had suddenly begun to blow past you. Some 616 horsepower from a supercharged V8 has an uncanny knack for distorting the senses.
Callaway Cars is well-known among Corvette cognoscenti for some of the baddest Corvettes since the C4 was in diapers, and now the 2007 Callaway C16 is the company's latest example of neck-stretching, head-turning Corvette performance.
We drove a C16 for two days and discovered that it was hard to miss. And harder to catch.
Value is all relative
Chassis Number 1 of the Callaway C16 was first shown at this year's Los Angeles auto show, so it runneth over with all the Callaway performance parts available à la carte for C5 and C6 'Vettes. Draped in a pupil-dilating Tangerino Orange, C16 Number One snapped heads around everywhere it went. Although only the donor car's top panel, side mirrors and rear deck remain unaltered, enthusiasts can still spot the car's origins as a Corvette C6.
Callaway will build a Corvette kitted out in any way a customer prefers, but full C16 status is only granted once all the boxes are ticked for the bodywork, interior, supercharger kit, wheels and tires. A fully optioned C16 fetches just under $120,000 and tacks 140 pounds onto the curb weight of a Corvette C6 coupe.
Longtime Callaway designer Paul Deutschman digitally penned the C16's shape, and it materialized in just six months from its inception on the computer screen. The flying buttresses that adorn the rear of the cabin have been inspired by the Callaway C12, which dates back to 1998, years before the unveiling of similar buttresses for the Ferrari 599 GTB. Whatever you think of their aesthetics, the buttresses excel at the creation of blind spots. Hey, you want a flashy car? Deal with it.
Up front, the C16's oval grille recalls Pininfarina Ferraris of the 1960s, while wide-set taillights accentuate the width of the C6's prodigious butt. The fiberglass contours of the new bodywork strike a balance between originality, heritage and the realities of working around existing hard points.
Behind closed doors
There are no external door handles, so pressing a button on the key fob pops the doors open an inch. Since fishing around for a key fob quickly grows tiresome, Callaway plans to ditch it and install sensors near the doors that will grant access with a simple wave of the hand.
Forget about an elegant entry into the C16's cabin. There's no way to avoid struggling across the new bodywork's wide sills while clambering into the C16's aggressive sport seats with their fixed-position seatbacks. And you'd better skip the onion rings if you plan to fit comfortably into those seats. The seat controls can't be operated with the door closed, although Callaway is working to find a solution.
The C16's exquisite interior trim reveals the thoroughness of Callaway's execution. Though the Corvette's mundane interior architecture remains intact, nearly every component is reupholstered in leather or suede. Even the latch standoffs for the rear hatch are carefully covered in glove-soft hide, and the craftsmanship of the stitching and fitment wouldn't look out of place on a Maybach.
Let's get it on
Depress the button and the starter drive chunters dryly until the supercharged 6.0-liter V8 fires with a whomp!, quickly settling into a syncopated idle you can feel in your chest. A rearward-facing hood vent broadcasts the ticking of the pushrod valvetrain and the whir of the supercharger drive, both amplified by the C16's enormous Callaway-engineered intake known as the Honker.
The V8's optional ported heads and a revised valvetrain are force-fed some 7.5 psi of boost by a Roots blower, producing 616 horsepower, an increase of 216 hp over a garden-variety LS2 V8. The Callaway V8 is exactly 201 hp more powerful than a Porsche 911 GT3 and even out-powers the fabled Carrera GT. According to Callaway, the C16 will run the quarter-mile in the mid-11s on the way to a top speed of 200 mph.
Our brief time with the car precluded instrumented performance testing, but if the C16's bite equals its proverbial bark, then it's a man-eater. When you lay into the throttle pedal, supercharger whine penetrates the cabin and the large-bore exhaust's mellow note is overwhelmed by the intake cacophony.
When you're profiling at a cruise like Cars n' Coffee in Southern California, the Callaway V8 will attract a crowd. Crack open the throttle and it'll snort up atmosphere at a rate that would make Al Gore stammer in protest. And even though the Callaway V8 is certainly vocal, this is not an engine that's keening to be wound to redline. It's a Corvette engine with lots more amplification, and we can't help thinking it deserves a more spine-tingling aural personality if it wants to compete with true exotics.
Drive, he said
No worries about competing with exotics on the open road, as few cars of any persuasion can keep pace with an unhinged Callaway C16. There's enough power on tap here to momentarily overwhelm the traction control in 3rd gear. Once you defeat the stability control entirely, the C16 will slew sideways for as long as there's fuel in the tank.
When you arc this car into a high-speed sweeper, the C16 will track resolutely on your intended line without becoming unglued by midcorner bumps. It rides firmly, but it's entirely streetable.
Part of the explanation can be found in the coil-over, remote-reservoir dampers developed in cooperation with Eibach that are adjustable for compression and rebound.
Moreover, the C16 is the first road-going car in the U.S. to feature exotic, ultra-lightweight wheels crafted from magnesium and carbon fiber, and the reduction in unsprung weight makes the suspension noticeably more supple over imperfections in the pavement.
Pick a winner
Callaway Cars has the capacity to build about a hundred C16s at its three regional build centers in Los Angeles, California; Old Lyme, Connecticut; and Nekarsulm, Germany. And it expects to turn out about 35 of them this year, making the C16 more exclusive than the Porsche Carrera GT or Ferrari Enzo. It'll find a home among people who care deeply about the latest, greatest high-tech cars, says Reeves Callaway, who launched Callaway Cars 30 years ago.
Callaway also figures the Callaway C16 represents a kind of value. Of course, dropping $120,000 for a toy falls into a parallel universe of irrationality, especially when it takes just $45,000 to slide into a base Corvette. But once you bake in enough performance, you can see Callaway's point, especially in the era of the $1M Bugatti Veyron. "The day of the wickedly expensive performance car is over," Reeves Callaway tells us.
We agree. The ostentatious C16 isn't for everyone, but this will be the It car for a select audience. Other six-figure sports cars like the Ferrari F430 and Porsche 911 GT3 offer more refinement and better integration, but they can't measure up to the Callaway C16's exclusivity and wow factor. In comparison to the C16, an F430 or a 911 is just another example of mass-produced consumer goods.
As for us, we'd skip the C16's attention-mugging bodywork and pricey interior, but we'd opt for its running gear. Not to mention a major credit card good at gas stations everywhere.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.