“It is understood that a Z06 Corvette should be fast but this new model is also very precise and rewards even the average driver with a level of confidence and ability to go fast, that defies belief.”
Nevada is nice this time of year, especially when it includes thundering around Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in the all-new 650hp Corvette Z06.
For those that are not aware, the Z06 factory order code was a secret code available, on a word of mouth basis, back in 1963 for pure driving enthusiasts to get a faster and more capable race-ready car. The Z06 factory spec was resurrected in 2001 and has evolved ever since to now represent a separate line in the Corvette Stingray family. In fact the Z06 has separate badging and an entirely different look. To confuse things, there is even a more aggressive model or sub-model called the Z07 but it is sold as a Z06. Confusing I know.
As great as it is getting to drive a potent, rear wheel drive rocket on the track, the chance to rub shoulders with the people who make the car is just as exciting. Tadge Juechter is the Chief Engineer of the new Corvette Stingray and he told me that the already capable, 450hp base Stingray was intentionally designed to handle the more powerful Z06 package but the look of the Z06 is different and functional. As Juechter explains, “you get the wider body work, you get the custom quarter air inlet duck with fifty percent more air flow.” He went on to say “that’s the main secret with this car, you’ve got a lot of energy going in, how do you get that thermal energy out? So you’ve got bigger coolers everywhere, more flow, the aerodynamics are much more intense”. So all the parts that make the Z06 and Z07 more menacing, from the wider body to the additional spoilers and air intakes are functional.
Along with getting to drive as fast as my skills would allow, there were also a few hours on the street getting to test the livability of the Z06. This was a big part of the design challenge. Juechter states “You can use them as daily drivers, you can use them as a long distance tourer, the seat comfort is good over long periods of time and you can also hammer it on the racetrack everyday.”
The new Z06 really is a car without compromising comfort. The manual transmission is easy to shift, the clutch is light and the car is very easy to use, even in stop-and-go traffic. The secret is the magnetic ride control that makes adjustments to the shocks to smooth out larger bumps. The seats are supportive and the dash is futuristic. The previous buyers of the Z06 told Chevrolet that, yes they wanted a fast car but also the modern comforts, and this car has everything from navigation to a standard removable Targa top, even an available automatic transmission.
It is understood that a Z06 Corvette should be fast but this new model is also very precise and rewards even the average driver with a level of confidence and ability to go fast, that defies belief. Juechter explains how this was achieved. “We use the technology, either in the tire construction, or the electronic differential, magnetic selective ride, it all comes together in the performance envelope but make it very accessible to normal driver’s, so people of average talent can go very fast”. And fast I went. Driving both the Z06 with a manual or the new 8-speed automatic is a jolt of adrenaline that should be bottled and sold. The howl from the 650hp 6.2L supercharged V8 is a sweet sound from inside the car and even more threatening outside the car. The traction is uncanny and the cornering grip unshaken due to massive Michelin tires and race ready Michelin Cup tires on the Z07 trim. The brakes are very surefooted even lap after lap. What is fun is using the manual transmission with re-matching, letting the car automatically blip the throttle of downshifts.
The top dog is the Z07 package that includes ceramic brakes, the competition tires, more aerodynamic effects and a forty percent stiffer ride. This is the car to get if you are a track rat or take part in weekend club events.
But with roughly eighty five percent of Corvette buyers driving exclusively on the road, the Z06 offers the perfect balance of on-road livability with the extra punch for a little fun, the styling is also a major plus. The automatic is very quick on the track and opens up the Z06 to a new set of buyers but the 7-speed manual is so easy to live with, I’d stick with the stick.
The price isn’t cheap but it is a bargain in the supercar world. Starting at $85,095 and topping out at $96,915 for the Z06, or an additional $8795 for the Z07 package.
Power: 650hp from a supercharged 6.2L V8
Fill-up: 15.7L/10.6L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $85,095