Seventy years of engineering and design + 670 hp at 8400 rpm = highest horsepower of any naturally-aspirated V8 engine in history. That is the heart of a street-legal, race car-beating, world-class marvel. Nothing like it has ever been driven on the road, and the Chevy Z06 Corvette is about to turn the world of sport driving on its head. Watch out, Europe. The C8 Z06 is racing on a worldwide track, and performance drivers are going to rush Chevy to pre-order their own unique Z06 as soon as the window opens. If you want one, better get on that mailing list.
While the lucky few who got their hands on a C8 Stingray are experiencing the shifting reality of the new Corvette design, the rest of us eagerly anticipate the arrival of the first of several exciting displays of raw power coming down the pike from Chevy. The Z06 is pure adrenaline, and those who have been fortunate enough to drive it or even hear it in person have used phrases like “spine-tingling” and “gives me goosebumps” to describe their impressions of such a finely- crafted machine. With the recent reveal from Chevy’s short film about the Z06, the masses are undoubtedly drooling for their own chance to connect with the ‘Vette that will change everything about sports cars.
Chevy has been working on taking the leap into building a mid-engine ‘Vette for a long time, and the C8 is the culmination of years of engineering, transitioning America’s sports car into serious supercar territory. With the Z06 variant, the ‘Vette can race alongside vehicles like Ferraris and Lambos shrieking through city streets around the world. Being able to say the Z06 houses the most powerful naturally-aspirated V8 on the planet must be very satisfying to those responsible for creating it. Such power arises from the flat-plane crankshaft in the engine, which allows the Z06 to accelerate so rapidly and deliver so much horsepower, thanks to the reduced mass of the engine block.
Unlike the 6500 RPM redline of the Stingray’s V8, the Z06 5.5-liter LT6 engine can rev up to 8600 RPMs in a game-changing shift toward becoming a supercar. As the engine note sings with righteous ferocity, a gob-smacking 670 horsepower is produced at 8400 RPM. Jaw-dropping probably isn’t enough to describe all the wondrous things happening behind the driver’s seat in that engine chamber. As an interesting aside, the designers had to re-work the exhaust system in order to be able to hear the engine inside the ‘Vette, which meant shaping the exhaust tips so the sound would rebound back into the cabin. Instead of having all the sound piped through the audio system, you’ll hear the real deal when you hit the gas pedal. And probably get a lot of envious stares from the curb.
One of the more interesting pieces of the production process is that each engine will be built by a single person whose name will be stamped on the engine block, much like an artist signing a finished work. If you order the coupe body style, your Z06 will even have a transparent view into the engine chamber, which will allow you to connect with the person who built your finely-tuned ride. Chevy has put a lot of thought into the delivery of the Z06 for the 2023 model, and there is little about the ‘Vette that hasn’t been tweaked to bring about a revolution in sports car performance.
The Z06 is designed to incorporate the full gamut of performance equipment, with wider tires, bigger brakes, and the aerodynamic design of the entire exterior. Each element of the Z06 has been upgraded and chiseled to improve how quickly it slips through the air, corners at higher speeds, and accelerates with such rapid ease. But it’s not just the exterior that will make heads turn; the interior design centers around the driver’s control of the wheels gripping the pavement, and it does so with unique details that give the 2023 Z06 the feel of bespoke craftsmanship.
Taking cues from the Stingray, the Z06 expands on the exterior body shaping to improve performance with wider fenders and front fascia. The Z06 increases its width by 3.6 inches compared to its stablemate. A number of elements on the exterior, from the front lip spoiler to the optional wing spoiler, work in a delicious combination to conduct air up and around while keeping the Z06 safely planted on the ground. Without the proper recipe of shaping, any one of these elements could throw off the function of the finely-tuned engine as it contends with the rocket-like speed of its acceleration.
Inside the cabin, the driver is the commander of digital instrument displays that resemble the complexity of an airplane, including the square steering wheel reminiscent of the cut-down steering apparatus of winged transport. Opportunities to create the interior to one’s own style abound, and colors like Adrenaline Red can coat every microsuede or leather surface if you dare. Carbon fiber accents can accompany the upholstery, and the heavily bolstered seats will keep the driver as planted as the wing spoiler plants the ‘Vette. No sports car is fully dressed without a proper stereo, so Chevy supplies two Bose sound system options, along with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a WiFi hotspot for streaming content while you cruise.
Nothing short of astonishing can be said of the capability of the 2023 Z06. Even those accustomed to power and performance are floored by the intensity of riding in the fresh design of a vehicle built to hug the road, corner at high speeds, and carry out true track-style acceleration. As if the engine and body shaping weren’t enough, Chevy added driving modes to balance the experience of being a friendly neighborhood daily driver as well as a track star performer. The track and sport modes open up the throttle for the full capability of the Z06 with its speed-loving agility and wild engine howl. Then you can tamp it all down with stealth mode to quiet the engine for more appropriate behavior in the cul-de-sac. Touring mode increases the damping to absorb road chatter when you want to chill and take in the scenery during a relaxed drive.
In line with the driving modes, Chevy continues to provide drivers with a data recorder that allows for video and audio recording of their performance, but in tour mode, it can also record the scenic views of the countryside if you wish. For the first time in ‘Vette history, Chevy chose to utilize 20-inch wheels in the front and 21-inch wheels in the back to take advantage of the weight of the engine and increase traction. When you combine this decision with the rear-wheel drive and the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, you have a well-balanced system that takes off with face-plastering speed. Thankfully, the Z06 is fitted with excellent brakes to stop on a dime: six-piston calipers in front and four-piston in the back make for the biggest brakes a Corvette has ever worn.
Ordering Your Z06
In the Z06 film, Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter says that in the 1960s, when ordering a Corvette you wanted for racing, you had to check a special box on the order form in order to get “all the special hardware.” It was like knowing a secret code to turn your ordinary sports car into a supercar. Then the Z06 faded into the scenery until the fifth generation of Corvette revived what Chevy engineers consider to be a marriage of the street racer and the track car, giving drivers the best of both worlds.
Today, Chevy lets you build your supercar right on their website, but for the moment, we all have to settle for a pre-order list until the summer of 2022. As an extra bonus, Chevy lets you check a box for the Z07 Performance Package so you can have the only ‘Vette tuned just for the track. Until then, you can use the online configurator to decide how you want to customize around the most powerful naturally-aspirated V8 in the world.