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The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 embarrasses your sports car

A flat plane V-8, 8,600 RPM redline, and mid-engine layout give the Corvette Z06 exotic-level performance. It's unlike anything I've driven.

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It’s hard to admit it to myself sometimes. Cars the way you and I enjoy them are dying a slow death. There’s always old cars, but driving an E36 M3 in 2023 is a bit like listening to a 90s band today. Still enjoyable, but not quite the same. Those days are gone. Almost gone, anyway – the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is available right now. Stop reading and go buy one.

Wait, actually. Read first, then buy. Trust me.

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2024 Corvette Z06 Coupe Quick Take

Get one:

Sounds better than a Ferrari. Perfect balance. Comfortable despite being so hard core. No damn turbochargers, superchargers, or batteries.

Don’t get one:

If you don’t like Corvettes (why not?), then the Z06 probably won’t convince you otherwise.

Soul Score: 10

Exotic-level performance and soul for a price you can actually digest. Easily the best sports car made today.

The 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Coupe overview

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I know it. You know it too. The problem with the Corvette has always been perception. That old-school suspension. A lumbering V-8. K-Mart supercar looks. Even when not valid, it seems this car has always come with an asterisk attached to its name.

But with the C8, Chevy really put forth maximum effort. Entirely different than anything before, its mid-engine layout and natural ability has put it in a league of its own. So how could Chevy improve it? Slap on a supercharger? Yea, I guess. But wouldn’t that just make it like all the other sports cars, using forced induction for big power? Meh.

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The Z06 is nothing like a regular Corvette.

Instead, they did something that I still can’t believe, even after driving it – develop an entirely new V-8. It goes beyond a mere rework and pushes the Corvette squarely into exotic car territory. We’re talking flat-plane crank, an 8,600 RPM redline…Ferrari stuff. Could it be because GM had a wrecked 458 V-8 engine sent to their headquarters for dissection?

Surely that means the price is exotic too. But no – this is attainable; a base price of $105,300. Still not convinced? Give me 2,000 words and 8,600 revolutions.

Performance Score: 10. Bye, Porsche

So often, car makers throw the kitchen sink at their special models in the hopes that it’ll be “good enough” to fool the public. The BMW 3.0 CSL is the poster child for this. Up the boost! Decals! Big wheels and brakes! Rock-hard suspension! They’re gonna love it.

The Z06 gets all the good stuff too; brakes and tires and carbon fiber wheels and big wings – a Christmas list of speed. But with the base C8 already so fast, Chevy went beyond…

Engine

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Each LT6 is hand built. This gentleman was on the ball that day.

Code named Gemini (named after the Apollo astronauts that were so fond of Corvettes), this 5.5-liter V-8 is still technically a small block because it shares bore spacing, but it’s as closely related to that hunk of metal as the stone wheel is to the Apollo capsule. The LT6 is also unrelated to the CT5-V Blackwing’s V-8.

Chevy gets it – you can go to Kentucky and build the engine yourself.

“Buy a Z06, go to the plant, and hand-build your engine (supervised by a specialist), then have your name prominently displayed on a small plaque that will be clearly visible when the hood might happen to be open.”

Chevrolet’s racing program has been pretty good over the past decade, and they’ve taken the engine in the C8.R as inspiration. You get a flat-plane crankshaft (giving it that distinct exotic howl), dual overhead cams (bye pushrods), and a dry-sump lubrication system. The result is the most powerful naturally aspirated V-8 ever put into a production car: 670 horsepower, 460 lb-ft of torque. Rev it to reach both figures – peak torque comes on at 4,600 RPM, and horsepower is at the 8,600 RPM limit.

Acceleration is smooth until you reach that 4,600 number, and then it turns increasingly violent and explosive until you’re actually almost closing your eyes as you reach the limiter, like you’re on a roller coaster. Don’t do that.

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Turn around to see the engine right behind you, like a wolf resting his head on your shoulder.

The sound…

Oh, the sound. The sweet, sweet music. It’s loud. Really loud. This thing is sure to set off those idiotic noise alarms in New York City. You’ll get out of the Z06 like you just left a concert, where everything is muted for 20 minutes. So worth it. And the cold start – press the button to unlock the sound of ancient F1 cars waking up. Your garage is transformed into the starting line at Monaco, and your neighbors will call the police.

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Breathe deep.

This engine needs nothing – no exhaust, no tune, nothing. It’s the best engine on sale today, so stop bitching about the S65 being gone and realize this is better than any motor BMW ever built.

The pièce de résistance? It’ll do the quarter mile in 10.5.

Drops mic, walks away.

Transmission

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A dual-clutch transmission excels at putting down the power.

The ZF eight-speed has been really good in every performance car I’ve driven, but Chevy again gives you a treat – an eight-speed dual clutch transmission.

You realize what’s missing from the automatic driving experience the moment you start to crawl forward, where the Vette lurches and bucks ever so slightly. I’d call it charming, and race-car like. Ferrari owners might call it uncouth, but they are just upset that they spent a million bucks on a car that’s worse.

So here we go. Pull up on “D” like you’re opening a really impressive can of soda, and step on the gas. The Corvette Z06 accelerates with a distinct holy shit. Pull on carbon fiber paddle shifters that don’t feel as nice as what Aston offers, but still produce lighting fast shifts that cause no interruption to the power. Please, no mourning the manual transmission – it would only ruin the experience here.

Just want to cruise around? Keep the Vette in Tour mode, and you’ll have no idea you’re driving a missile. The trans is perfectly-behaved. Astonishing.

Steering and Chassis

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One of the most capable chassis I’ve driven, with modes that work.

Least you think this Z06 is all motor, Chevy went to town on the suspension as well. If I debadged it and left the car in Touring on our drive together, you’d think it was a regular ol’ Vette. The car is downright comfortable, aside from the fact that it’s wide. Wider than a base Vette, actually, by 3.5 inches. Can be a bit intimidating at first.

But cycle through the Sport (where I kept it most of the time), or Track modes (where perhaps only race car drivers keep it), and you’ll find the performance of an absolute animal. Not to bore you too much with specs, but spring rates are up by 30 percent over the Z51-equipped Corvette Stingray, bushings are stiffer, and the MagneRide dampers have been retuned to work with the new chassis hardware. The Z06 never beats you up, even in Track mode, but the responses become instantaneous and match up perfectly with the engine. It really feels completely different from a base C8.

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The ride is both compliant in Touring, and razor sharp in Track.

Also here are gigantic 345/25ZR-21s in the rear and 275/30ZR-20s in front, with our favorite Michelin Pilot Sports. You can opt for Sport Cup 2 tires, which I urge you to do with caution. This much performance, with that tire, will require a lot of skill and a pair of Spanish eggs to fully realize.

From the helm, the steering response is telepathic. Aside from an oddly shaped wheel (I’m not sure about the slippery carbon fiber either), it’s Porsche-level in response and feel.

Brakes

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Carbon ceramics are an option.

Clearly we need plenty of whoa power for all that go power. Choose from standard Brembo brakes, or opt for the Z07 package and get carbon ceramics. 15-inch discs at the rear, 14.5 in the front, and three adjustable modes. This is probably what the Aston Vantage should have had, because while you can make the Z06 have hair-trigger brakes at level three (uncomfortable), level one and two keep it civil. Imagine that – drive modes that actually work.

If you find an opportunity to drive a Z06, and you’re not smiling in the first ten seconds, please give me your contact information so I can promptly block you from my life.

Lifestyle score: 7. Priorities

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Gets toasty back here.

I could sit here and tell you (type to you?) that the Vette Z06 isn’t really meant to be a grand touring driver. My wife took one look at it and said “Nope” when I asked her for a drive. She knows me too well.

But you can take it for a weekend down to the shore. A frunk and trunk will easily fit a pair of suitcases (beware that the trunk shares the space with the engine and gets toasty back there). Offering more room than a 718, it’s about as comfortable as two-seaters get. Speaking of, these are the GT-2 seats (there is a level one and three), and I found them to be very easy to get in and out of, supportive once inside, and good-looking. After literally stepping out of the Aston and into here, it was a zen moment.

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The optional spoiler is a bit awkward to reach over.
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The frunk can hold a backpack and other odds and ends.

Chevy even thought of including the system that raises the nose for larger driveways and inclines. It was November by the beach, so no targa top removal, but I love that it’s there, and it almost negates the need for the convertible.

Fuel Economy: 5. Guzzle? LOL

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A car with a checkered flag on its hood is not going to be about economical considerations.

The government will make you hand them a $3,000 check when you buy this thing because you’re so conspicuous with your consumption.

Who. Effing. Cares.

They can have $6,000. The Z06 isn’t even that bad – the EPA says a combined 14 MPG. I revved the hell out of this thing and saw 15 on the dashboard. Stop lying to us EPA. Sure, other V-8s with turbochargers do way better with the same (or more) power. But you know what…

Who. Effing. Cares.

Features and comfort 8. More than you get anywhere else

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The silliest thing is when a manufacturer makes a “light weight” model (that still weighs two tons), by taking out things like an arm rest or a glove box.

Folks, an M3 CS still has a back seat, ok? An arm rest deletion isn’t fooling anyone except you because now you must constantly lean to the left.

Well, the Corvette Z06 doesn’t work like that. You get leather, you get Apple CarPlay, you get camera and park distance control and a Bose stereo. You even get an arm rest.

Is the GM interior curse finally broken?

The Great Wall

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If you’re a passenger, just sit down and hang on tight.

Um..sort of. If you don’t like a regular Corvette’s interior, you won’t find anything transformative about the Z06. And I will admit that the way Chevy did it, with that huge climate control wall between you and your passenger, is a bit weird. Dads, let your children borrow this car for their date – hanky panky is going to present a challenge.

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Heated, ventilated carbon fiber seats that are comfortable. Wow.

But it does reinforce the notion that this car is about you, the driver. Settle into those comfortable seats, and you’ll find the layout haphazard. A bit of a learning curve upon delivery will soon give way once you know the lay of the land. The digital dash presents much to read. I do not need to know what my left rear tire temperature is on my way to the school pick up line.

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The HVAC on the great wall isn’t so bad once you get used to it.
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Chevy’s infotainment is easy to use, and though the screen is small, it fits the cabin well.

The infotainment screen seems small but is appropriate, although there’s a weird blue hue on both this and the base model. Overall, the fit and finish here is almost at the level of BMW, if not Mercedes.

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The digital dash is busy, regardless of the mode you’re in. You can clean it up some with less information.

The days of the Cavalier are gone.

Exotic Dancer

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The Z06 gets a new bumper, wider rear, and optional dive planes and spoiler.

You can pump up the Z06’s already ‘roided up looks with some nice kit. GM wisely chose to forgo carbon fiber wheels on this example (press cars live a tough life), but if you’d like them, it’s a $15,000 option. The big wing on the back is functional, providing real downforce at the rear, along with dive planes at the front. Paint it Amplify Orange Tintcoat like this example, and you’ve got a head turner.

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It said carbon, but I believe it’s all painted over.
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Like all modern cars, the black plastic trim looks cheap.

But again, it’s still a Corvette, so if you don’t like its chunky, exotic-replica looks, the Z06 won’t change your perception. On the other hand, Ferrari has been so generic with their designs lately, and a Huracán has far too much Audi for my taste. Those brands are betting on a name for sex appeal, but don’t you want a car that will make you feel something the morning after too?

The Chevrolet Corvette Z06 has made me realize I was wrong all along

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Why do we love Porsche? Rhetorical – they make excellent cars, and they always have. Chevrolet hasn’t, and that includes some past Corvettes.

Then there’s the “Sunday Crowd” factor. The Z will get you attention for sure, but nothing like showing up in a big wing GT3 RS will. It’s still a Chevrolet, a brand that makes a Bolt for $26,000. Sports cars are about egos as much as they are about performance.

Well, I don’t want to pay $50,000 over sticker for a GT3, and then have the honor of waiting on a list for two years. Porsche has monetized the checkout line.

So can you put all that aside? The Corvette Z06 really does give you the kind of experience you’re looking for in a supercar. I imagine it’s why Chevrolet went above and beyond here – it was the only way to give the Vette the kind of clout it needs to move beyond its plastic fantastic past.

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This car could cost $250,000, and I’d still easily say it belongs with the big boys. The fact that it’s not far into six figures is astonishing. Walk past the Porsche 911s available at this price (and run past the BMWs). If I find a way to park a third car in my garage, it’s going to be this one.

So enjoy being the king of the parking lots, GT3 owners. You can kiss this Vette’s big, glorious ass as it zooms by.

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2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Coupe 3LZ Specifications

Vehicle Type: Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-door, two-passenger coupe.

PRICE

Base: $105,300
As tested: $147,690

POWERTRAIN

5.5 liter naturally aspirated V-8
670 @ 8,400 rpm
460 @ 6,300 rpm
Eight-speed dual clutch transmission

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 107 in
Length: 184.58 in
Width: 79.71 in
Height: 48.6 in
Curb Weight: 3,500 lbs

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/city/highway: 15 / 12 / 21 MPG

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