Review: The 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 redefines the American supercar

Share
GM

When the Z06’s new LT6 V-8 fires up, I can’t help but grin at its bark. Then … I wait, snug in the driver’s seat. Another wave of thick, heavy rain splatters on the tarmac of Pittsburgh International Race Complex.

In some sense, we’ve been waiting to drive this car for decades. A mid-engine Corvette designed for the race track has been on Chevrolet’s to-do list since Zora Arkus-Duntov’s early days with Corvette, yet it never materialized for real. The base eighth-generation Corvette (C8), while excellent in its own right, merely whet our appetite for what everyone knew was coming. We practically salivated when the new Z06 finally broke cover last fall, and with production now underway, we’ve gotten our chance to chow down.

2023 Corvette Z06 orange front three-quarter
Eddy Eckart

Once there’s a break in the storm and just enough of a dry line on the track, I venture out of the paddock. PittRace is a challenging course under the best of circumstances—a 2.78-mile mix of esses, plunging and soaring elevation changes, and straights long enough to savor the Z06’s IMSA-worthy downshifts into braking zones. Here in the wet, a track like this can highlight a car’s chassis dynamics if you’re willing to push it, and doing so can also lay bare any dirty secrets.

Tap into the throttle for the first time, however, and everyone within earshot will know: this LT6’s wail yields a Corvette like none other. As much as the switch to a mid-engine platform for this generation dramatically altered the character of America’s sports car, Chevy’s flat-plane-crank engine adds a uniquely visceral persona.

The flat-plane-crank, dual-overhead cam engine finds 8600 rpm faster than any 5.5-liter V-8 has right to. “I’m already going that fast?” is something I find myself thinking over and over. There’s no turbo-torque brutality, no silent-electric-tunnel-vision-warp: just rocket-like thrust, delivered across a linear powerband, put cleanly to pavement.

Paired with the LT6 is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission similar to that of the base car, albeit with a shorter (5.56) final drive ratio and upgrades to the case as well as clutch and lubrication systems. Left in full auto mode on track, the transmission pops off crisp but not harsh upshifts at redline and finds the right gear in every braking zone. In manual mode, using the Corvette’s paddles, shifts are immediate and smooth.

In the run-up to the Z06’s production, much of the coverage has fixated on the engine. That’s justified, since it’s a masterpiece—the highest-output naturally aspirated V-8 in production-car history. (You can read our full engineering breakdown of it here.) But what really stuns me, on this damp track, is how composed the chassis feels. The C6- and C7-generation Z06 Corvettes demanded respect because their control, especially at the limit, was not always on par with their power. This C8 Z06 will still bite you if you’re not careful—it is a 670-hp big-tired mid-engine monster, after all. Yet it’s a well-trained monster. Turn four, a varied-camber downhill right-hander, requires very precise throttle application on exit. On one lap, my foot is more two-pound hammer than the eight-ounce mallet the corner calls for; in that moment, the heavier rear end steps out. In a split second I visualize a stern talking-to from Corvette Executive Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter. Instead, two decent flicks of counter-steer and a little throttle modulation straightens it all out. Wow. This chassis is good.

2023 Corvette Z06 rear orange
GM

Chevy’s Performance Traction Management (a sliding scale of computer-controlled stability intervention) wasn’t fully off during my laps, and I’m certain it would have chimed in had I induced too much yaw. Still, a balanced, forgiving chassis provides a lot of confidence to explore this car’s capabilities. This is not true of all prior Z06s.

The chassis likewise exhibits impressive balance through the sequence of esses at PittRace. Set on full stiffness, the steering feels properly weighted and beautifully transmits tire/tarmac conversations. The car transitions side to side with particular poise. There’s a certain tautness to the chassis during lateral weight transfer—enough to confidently initiate quick-pitch changes like you would in a race car. The throttle’s long travel and exacting precision allows you to adjust the front/rear balance seemingly by the gram.

Damp straights on track require longer, more deliberate brake zones, so I don’t get anywhere close to limits of the carbon-ceramic brakes. Nonetheless, the brake-by-wire system provides confident pedal feel. I prefer the middle setting over full firmness, but drivers will appreciate the adjustability.

2023 Corvette Z06 front track action
GM

In the brief window where there was decent grip on track, the Z06’s personality rose to the surface. Nail corner entry, roll into that howl-inducing throttle to hit the apex at the edge of adhesion, and the Z06 screams toward corner exit. That apex-to-track out acceleration, carrying lateral momentum while warping forward amid primal sound and speed—that’s when I realized it. To extract everything out of the Z06 is to bring the best driver out of yourself. This is not one of those supercars where you’re just strapping in for the ride and letting computers do the hard work. That challenge—and the reward when you meet it—is why you buy a car like this.

Not every corner will yield moments of nirvana, especially on the street. And the elements that produce a track darling don’t often translate in a more docile environment. In order to sample the Z06 in the fashion the overwhelming majority of owners will use it, I spirit away a black 3LZ Convertible Z06 for a two-hour loop through Western Pennsylvania back roads.

Luck of the draw got me a car in 70th Anniversary guise. Base MSRP was $125,850, but $34,965 worth of options, including carbon-ceramic brakes ($8495); the painted carbon aero package (also $8495); and the 70th Anniversary special edition package ($5995) topped this car out at $162,210. That isn’t just a lot of money for a Corvette—it’s a lot of money, period. Yet at the same time, for the car you get it’s a screaming deal.

2023 Corvette Z06 engine
Eddy Eckart

Whether you have the top down or up on the street, there’s no question that the engine’s the star of the show. The flat-plane crank/dual-clutch pairing makes you want to play with the paddles all day long just to hear the rev-matched downshifts and the instant-rpm-reset upshifts. Choose wisely where you let the Z06 play the song of its people, though; it’s sure to draw attention. You can always put the car in stealth mode to close the exhaust baffles if your neighbors aren’t the sort to appreciate this fine Bowling Green melody.

If you’re a stop-light racer, be aware that off-the-line torque feels slightly less potent than in the base car’s pushrod engine (they both make 470 lb-ft, just at different rpm: 5150 rpm in the LT2 and 6300 in the LT6). But the theater in the Z06 makes up for this perception. Likely due to its large displacement for a flat-plane crank engine, it is perfectly tractable around town.

My primary concern going into my road drive was that the pixie dust magic I felt in the Z06 on the track would take away from the base C8 Corvette’s incredible touring capability. With 30 percent stiffer springs than the Z51-package car and unique magnetic damper tuning, the Z06 with the standard FE6 suspension ought to be an excessively firm-riding car. And yet, it isn’t. You don’t forget what you’re in—the Z06 is definitely stiff. (The more track-oriented Z07 package with FE7 setup—curse GM’s alphanumerics—is stiffer still.) But it’s never harsh, and the suspension doesn’t crash over potholes or expansion joints. Only once in the softest mode (Tour) does the car get flustered, thanks to some small, high-frequency bumps. The large 275-section front and enormous 345-section rear Michelin PS4S tires do not tramline or dramatically pull the car on crowned and sometimes rutted asphalt of the Pennsylvania mining roads we traverse. Even the stiffest suspension setting—which really isn’t necessary on the street—isn’t punishing.

2023 Corvette Z06 convertible interior
Eddy Eckart

Of all the numerous settings available to configure, only one stands out as not suiting the car’s personality. Tour mode’s default steering was so light that I found myself constantly making minor adjustments. On a car so dialed in, light steering weight transfers every tiny hand motion to the rack. Fortunately, it’s easily solved by switching to the customizable My Mode and manually setting the car to soft-riding Touring spec but with heavier steering.

Park a base C8 next to a Z06 without an aero package and most of the differences are subtle. You notice the added width first—3.6 inches at the back of the car. The revised side intakes look like they’ve been pulled off an F35 fighter jet, but overall the Z is cleaner. The angle of the front fascia’s strakes between radiator openings are reversed and now flow with the lines of the headlights and the creases on the hood. Whether you get the standard forged aluminum or the optional carbon-fiber wheels (the latter alone shaves 1.5 seconds per lap on a two-minute circuit), the rollers are more aggressive and motorsport-oriented. At the back, a center-exit exhaust system (thankfully) replaces the awkward square-tipped corner exhaust from the base car.

2023 Corvette Z06 orange rear three-quarter
Eddy Eckart

Add the optional aero package to the Z06 and the supercar vibe comes alive. The rear wing, chin spoiler, and canards—all carbon fiber—integrate well into the design and amplify the car’s visual character.

The interior is mostly carried over from the base car, excepting a different door stitch pattern, Z06 badges on the door sills and waterfall, and a detailed image of the engine on the screen at start up.

Extensive personalization has become a much more integral part of the Corvette formula than in previous models. Chevrolet noticed how much buyers appreciate these custom touches, and I can only assume GM is happy to reap the same kind of profits that Porsche and McLaren have enjoyed from similar programs. Previous Corvettes waded in that direction with carbon packages and anniversary editions, but this Z06 is the first ‘Vette to dive fully into the deep end. Both coupe and convertible are available with the Z07 package, which adds the carbon wheels with Michelin Cup 2R tires, carbon-ceramic brakes, stiffer springs with unique magnetic damper and steering rack tuning, and a full aero package that includes a dramatic rear wing. Add in a massive variety of colors across the interior, exterior, wheels and calipers, and it makes for a Z06 that can either be understated, ostentatious, or somewhere in between. Think Porsche 911 GT3 or GT3 Touring, but with a much broader spectrum of performance from the standard Z06 to the Z07.

2023 Corvette Z06 rear three-quarter orange
GM

Many of those GT3s spend their lives tooling around places like Los Angeles, flaunting their wide fenders and sticky rubber to dinner and back. There’s a good chance you’ll see a lot of track-spec Z06s meet a similar fate, and that’s OK. The more Corvettes that sell, no matter how they are used, justifies their continued existence. That said, if you’re taking a look at a Z06, build it to how you’re going to use it. The options are there to make it your own.

The popularity of the 2019 ZR1 (starting at about $120,000) proved Corvette fans are willing to pay up for something special. With the Z06, the Corvette team took a solid base car, walloped it with a joy-inducing engine, a highly advanced suspension, and a wide array of options. It’s the most capable and configurable Corvette ever. The mid-engine Z06, some sixty years in the making, was worth the wait.

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Price: $106,395 (base)

Highs: Incredible engine. Excellent on track without penalty on the street. Character galore.

Lows: Ingress/egress can be tricky. Tour Mode steering is too light … and that’s it.

Takeaway: The most capable Corvette ever sets a new benchmark for the American supercar.

Share Leave comment
Read next Up next: Rising rates slow new car sales, Bugatti automobilia goldmine for sale, IMSA’s end of an era

Comments

    Eckert’s voice settles us like sweaty-palmed, first-day Drivers Ed students. We’re slightly relieved that the seasoned, poised instructor will do the driving while teaching this day – and excited we’ll be better prepared to take the wheel soon. I learned much while watching the scenery blur alongside.

    Appreciate Hagerty long form articles in this TikTok digital world. What a tour.

    Was I wondering if the author would shift into time travel mode and veer into Ashtabula (OH) and visit with the fiberglass molders who crafted the early models in an era when they could afford to actually buy one? Yes. Yes, wondering and hoping. I guess I’ll just have to buy the book.

    Thanks for the adventure.

    I know the tooling for the Glass was made at a company in Green Ohio just south of Akron. Some spuds a local story on it about 20 years ago.

    The people interviewed then were in their 80’s.

    Finding anyone back in that era is very tough anymore. Most had to be 20 years old to even have a chance still being around.

    Similar even with the Winters Foundry in near by Canton. They did all the ZL1 and a lot of racing stuff for Chevy.

    We are just about out of the window for first hand knowledge.

    Molded Fiberglass may yet have a few folks who remember, or at least know the history. I know a few locals around there (I’m about 20 minutes from them) who might be able to point me in the right direction. I’m a bit ashamed I didn’t think of it myself!

    Sound like Chevrolet finally made something I would consider buying but won’t. I’ve read crazy amount of CAN bus computer networking still plagues the cars to real work owner still dispute bring a few model years in at this point.
    Still a GT 40 fan I guess. As the 60$k base model come on price is nothing compared to this model tested.

    I just read from Motor Trend that this is the best American sports car ever. This is better than even the much more expensive Ford GT.

    I have had great expectations for this car and how GM really has done the C8 right by funding it and not rushing it into a mistake.

    Each level of Vette has been well executed and we next will have a Twin Turbo AWD to come yet. I have hear power from 850 hp to 1000 Hp may be on tap with the Hybrid front drive.

    Rumor is that they are only building like 3200 of these though….if so they will be selling for 911 GT money

    Is it any coincidence that the link to the GT3 RS was placed right under this article? It begs for a comparison.

    The Z06 makes the ungainly C8 body work. GM, as usual, jumps off a cliff going to the largest FPC engine ever built, and crazy technology. This time it may work, but hope is not a strategy. Best part of the article is the constant joy of listening to the engine rev. All EV? that’s gone…don’t try to sell me on how much faster and you can make the sound happen with a great speaker system. At least GM will go out with a bang with the ultimate ICE. like the song ICE..ICE…baby it’s over.

    It would seem like GM needs address a lot of the issues that previous c8 vetts are having that have landed the c8 as one of the worst reliable cars out there. After looking into their reliability rating I decided against purchasing one. No matter what a manufacture paid me I would not represent their product any way but honestly!

    Excellent article; well done. It is the reason I purchased a convertible C8 last year and now have my name on the list for a new C8 Z06. In addition to the new C8, I also own several other Corvettes (65 big block convertible: a 69 convertible: and a C7 Z06 convertible). My C8 Stingray convertible is awesome to drive and own. But it could use more power to make the driving experience even better.

    Enter the Z06. I have been waiting for this to be ready to order and in line for it at my local Chevy dealer. It is a shame that there have been so many delays and supply line shortages affecting the new Z06. It looks like it will be a winner and groundbreaking GM car that will change the Sports Car world.

    We will all be ready to see how the C8 Z06 establishes itself as the best car in its class. I am a true Corvette believer, and the ranks continue to behind me.

    Gearheads in countries overseas LOVE the Corvette for its brute torque/power. Now, they will love it for…everything. At domestic long-leads, I remember the engineers feeling frustrated when I asked questions regarding their choices for “compromised” items on their performance cars.

    Well, it looks like Americans can hold their heads high regardless of the competition now. Thank you Chevrolet for letting the high-performance/racing engineers have their way.

    I also like their choice on steering wheel design…rounded, clean, and not too busy. When I mold one for a driver, it will be interesting to see what’s under the suede, and how they shaped the underlisting in the “home positions”. I’m also curious to how authentic the feel is at the heaviest setting.

    Congratulations Chevrolet!…and thank you.

    Precisely. How is it possible that the list of “Lows” at the end of the article doesn’t include the lack of a clutch pedal. I continue to be amazed at “enthusiasts” that readily accept paddle shift cars. Damn thing is really ugly, too— with or without the added aero crap. Rear deck looks like an aircraft carrier.

    Good luck getting one – supposedly 3200 were made. The mark up will put this well past $200k
    But it does 2.7 0-60 lol

    If people keep paying the gouging MSRP Plus, the prices will continually go up. Don’t be the got-to-have, first kid on the block to buy one.

    Has anyone ever considered that many of the super cars this is compared to are overpriced? When I get told what a screaming deal this is compared to its competitors.

    Although I’m a 100% Ford guy, I do find this vehicle to be very attractive, and I can’t say anything bad about the engineering and performance stats. However, I hope that obnoxious, batwing spoiler on the rear is really functional because it’s just plain butt ugly. IMHO, it definitely detracts from the beautiful design of the car. It looks like an aftermarket, bolt on piece of plastic junk. Just my opinion bow tie people.

    Corvette does it again. Squint your eyes Ford guys and you might imagine a car like this with a blue oval on it. As a Ford guy who’s been hoping Ford would do something like this (since the ’60’s) instead of the collector only Ford GT, I agree. Ford marketing says “we’ll price ours at five times the price of a Corvette and won’t make many”, that’ll show em”.
    Really, really nice looking car though, no matter the brand.

    Sounds like an amazing car. Too bad it is highly unlikely to be available anywhere near the msrp. I bet dealers will have a field day with “market adjustments” on this car due to the low production numbers. It’s too bad these kind of cars seem to have a very narrow window of availability before they disappear.

    I remember the hubbub about a $100K+ ZR1 a few years ago, now you can get a $160K Corvette? How times have changed.
    When the C8 came out it was all the rave at the car shows, now, there can be a half dozen and no one looks at them any more.

    I agree. I was in the middle of a 3 lane boulevard recently in my 1987 Buick Grand National when a new red C8 flew around me on the left, then cut across to the right lane. At the traffic light I was in the left lane behind some cars and the C8 in the right. A service truck pulled up between us and a bunch of guys leaned out the window to give me the usual “thumbs up dude”, “NICE car”, etc. They pulled forward and a sedan took their place. The driver leans out left – same thing – thumbs up, this and that… NOBODY bothered to look at that C8. Too many out there. So when I get to own a C8 Z06 some day, if I want to get complements, I’ll still grab the Buick! Lol.

    It’s a G-Body. With 276 HP, and 0-60 times that rival a modern 4cyl Accord. And the accord can out stop, steer, and brake you.

    I was 10 when they came out. They were quick in an era of Ford Tempos, K-Cars, and Cutlass Cieras. Not much more.

    You do have a nifty stitching in the headrests, a genuinely cool logo, and it was fast in the 80s. But I never *got* G-bodies in general, and sure don’t get GNs. It’s a GM corporate chassis designed in the malaise era.
    I’m a GM guy to the core (tend towards pre-1970, other than my work truck, which is a Squarebody), and I’ve have many friends with Monte/Regal/Cutlass/GPs over the years, replaced many trunk subframes, and door skins. I’ve left genuinely unimpressed. Too big/heavy to be fast, too low-tech to corner, too generic to be unique (I know, turbo six, black paint… Cool.)

    I’d avoid racing that C8, lest you have to look at those taillights for a very short period of time. He’d gap you in a second.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.