- After finally creating the mid-engined platform enthusiasts have been clamoring for, Chevrolet has given the C8 Corvette the hardcore Z06 treatment.
- The new 2023 Corvette Z06 is powered by a 5.5-liter naturally aspirated V8, revving to an eye-watering 8,600 RPM.
- Track-oriented Z07 Package adds on carbon ceramic brakes, extensive carbon fiber treatment, weight savings, and grip enhancement via R-Compound tires.
Throughout the course of history, there have been many American adaptations of Italian classics. As much as I love chicken parmesan and The Godfather, I love nothing more than an American-made, naturally aspirated, high-revving V8. The engineering team behind the 8th-generation Corvette seems to share the same values; the number one hot talking point of the new Z06 is its flat-plane crank naturally aspirated V8 powerplant.
These are words that, quite frankly, I never thought I would say again about a new vehicle. For over a decade now, manufacturers across the board have made a conscious push to downsize engines, add forced induction, and maximize fuel efficiency for the ongoing war against emissions. For any OEM to devote millions of dollars to develop a brand-new N/A V8 to market is absurd, let alone the technical marvel that is the 5.5-liter LT6. But this begs the question; is this the baddest Corvette of all time, or is it all just stats and numbers?
A Game of Numbers
When discussing the 2023 Corvette Z06, it is really easy to run down the stat sheet and be overtaken by excitement as though you are reading answers to your final exam. Zero to sixty is dealt with in 2.6 seconds. A quarter-mile run can be had in 10.5, which is three-tenths faster than the outgoing supercharged ZR1 model. When equipped with the hardcore Z07 package, the improved aerodynamics generates 734 pounds of downforce at 186 MPH, meaning every last pony is put to use on the 345 rear section R-Compound tires.
At just over 3,600 pounds, the Corvette is still, unmistakably, an American heavyweight. Nevertheless, its 40/60 weight distribution and advanced MagneRide dampers help make the Z06 dance like any Italian Stallion. There haven’t been any official Nurburgring lap times released, but some sources on the trusty Interwebs claim a test car fitted with the Z07 package posted a 7:12.64 lap time…in traffic. That’s faster than a Porsche-recorded 991.2 GT3 Clubsport Package in clear air. To that end, the Z06 lineage is clear — the C8 Z06 is, at the very least, a force to be reckoned with on track.
All of these statistics and talking points are wonderful for your office cubicle debates, but what is the real substance here? Let’s move on to the main course, shall we?
American Bravado: The LT6 V8
I can wax lyrical all day about the advances made to develop the body structure and chassis components or effortlessly bore you with how the Z06 was an integral part of GM’s ultimate plan for the eighth-generation Corvette. But that would be doing a disservice to the crowning achievement of the Z06 team: the 5.5-liter LT6 naturally aspirated V8, hand-built right here in the good ol’ US of A.
As I mentioned previously, the target was always clear. Much like their rivals at the blue oval did for the critically acclaimed Shelby GT350, General Motors set its sights on putting an American twist on the masterpiece we know as the Ferrari 458 Italia. Unlike Ford, however, GM relied heavily on the archaic (albeit perfected) pushrod-style overhead valve V8s to give them the power it needed to compete. I could do a whole article on this engine, but I will spare you the boring details and focus on the highlights. Firstly, the 5.5-liter displacement is not a random number; the team specifically wanted a slightly larger engine to help develop some low-end torque typically squandered in high-revving V8s (looking at you, BMW S65!). Bore and stroke sizes were also carefully chosen to reduce the inherent vibrations that a flat-plane crank engine produces. They committed to an exhaust manifold design very early in the development process which boasted a distinct sound signature while remaining emissions-compliant.
But there was something else that’d help bring them within fighting range: a shift to a mid-engined platform. They effectively rewrote the book on what a Z06 should be, all while developing a single-use, new from the ground up, N/A V8. Keep in mind this is less than a decade away from the government mandate that all new vehicles must be electric! All things considered, it really is a miracle that it happened at all.
Final Thoughts: Bellissima
Something I failed to mention in my intro is that the Corvette Z06 nameplate is one that I hold in high regard. The C6 Z06 is constantly battling the Shelby GT350 and the Viper ACR as my favorite American-made sports car, but I digress. When Chevrolet set out to retool the Z06 to suit the new mid-engined C8 platform better, they set an incredibly high mark of bringing the world an affordable, American-made Ferrari. When you take into consideration that this car has an entry price of $127,000 (against the 458 Italia’s cool $230,000 tag), there is no question that the hallmark of value is ever-present. When it comes to that, I believe the C8 Z06 is the best money spent on this side of a McLaren 720S. High praise indeed, as the 720S is a hypercar performer at a supercar cost.
While I may not have any real-world experience with the C8 Z06 (yet), my credentials as a Tifosi, passion for the Z06 badge, and hours of research logged into developing this article give me some ground to stand on. The main C8 Z06 takeaway for me is this: one of the last naturally aspirated, high-revving V8 sports cars ever made is truly one of the best.
All photos provided by Chevrolet Pressroom are licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0.