Should you wait for the 2023 Corvette Z06, or buy a Stingray now?


The official start of winter this year is Tuesday, December 21—but if you have an upcoming allocation for a Corvette Stingray, or if you’re already an owner, the winter of your discontent probably started yesterday, when Chevrolet announced the full specifications of the 2023 Z06. The C8 Vette was already a formidable performance machine by any standard, but the Z06 addresses nearly every concern a track rat could have and then some. 5.5-liter flat-crank V-8, spinning to an astounding 8600 rpm and making 670 horsepower? Wider fenders to house the sort of rubber the car should have had from day one? An astoundingly aggressive Z07 aero option package that makes it look ready for Le Mans duty while it’s sitting at a cars and coffee? Optional carbon-fiber wheels? Improved structure? Only the lack of a clutch pedal keeps the new Z06 from being hoisted on America’s shoulders as the greatest performance car to ever wear a domestic badge.

(And until they do that, your humble author will continue to suggest that the Gen V Viper ACR Extreme and previous Corvette ZR1 are at least equal to it in merit. But I digress.)

And the expected window sticker … if the estimates of $90K for a base model are correct, you’d be crazy not to buy one! After all, plain-Jane Vettes are going for that much, or more, at the dealers as we speak. At those prices, you coulda had a flat-crank V-8!

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 interior digital dash gauges

If past history is any guide, a significant number of existing Stingray owners will trade in as soon as they can get a Z06 allocation slot, and many of the people who are currently in line for a standard Stingray are ringing the phones off the hooks at their local dealership trying to change their build order. Many of those people will end up being very happy that they have a Z06 instead of a cooking-grade Vette… but not all of them will be happy they made the switch. What about you? Should you do what it takes to make sure your Corvette is chock-full of little rocket badges?

We haven’t driven the Z06 yet, and it might be a while before we do, as General Motors always likes to make sure their cars get in the hands of the Good News Bears first. Those eminently malleable “influencers,” YouTubers, and friendly faces at the car magazines are always willing to repeat the press release line-for-line in pursuit of a payday. In the meantime, however, it’s worth making some educated guesses based on our experience with previous Corvettes and with the vehicles the Z06 is trying to emulate.

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 red rear three-quarter track action

Let’s start with this: Around town, the standard Stingray will be better to drive than the Z06. The narrow front tires that limit its ability at the ragged edge of a road course cause a lot less trouble during parking and low-speed maneuvering. If you’ve ever tried parking a Viper or other wide-front-tired exotic car, you know what I mean. It can be unpleasant and there can be a lot of “hopping” in the process. Wide tires can’t be steered as sharply, either. This sounds like a real candy-you-know-what complaint, but wait for the first time you try to flip a U-turn to grab that coveted spot in front of a restaurant and it turns into a K-turn—or more. Nobody looks cool when they’re K-turning a car. Doesn’t matter what the car is. Your humble author once had to K-turn a LaFerrari on the main street of a small town in Ohio. The local kids went really quick from “whoa, look at him” to “WHOA, LOOK AT HIM (snicker).”

It’s also reasonable to guess that the “Gemini” V-8 will make less power than the standard LT2 pretty much everywhere below, say, 6000 rpm. It’s a smaller-displacement, shorter-stroke effort with a maximum torque 10 pound-feet below the LT2’s rating. This wasn’t the case with the C5 and C6 Z06es, which were usefully stronger everywhere on the dyno chart. This Gemini is a special-purpose device and it won’t display the traditional small-block love of chuggin’ off the line. Nor will it have a traditional small-block rumble. Having driven plenty of flat-crank Ferraris in my life, I can tell you that at idle they usually sound like a Yamaha dealership trying to knock the spiderwebs off a pair of sportbikes during the winter, not like something Dale Senior would have driven to a championship.

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 silver wheel brake tire

The Z06 will be more expensive to run, thanks to the tires and brakes. It will likely cost more to insure and will be a higher theft risk. That massive rear spoiler that you’ll definitely want will also keep you from seeing the Ohio Highway Patrol lurking on your six. And while there’s no way to know this for certain, and I wouldn’t want anyone to change their mind just based on historical factors, I can’t help but recall that the last high-revving Z06 to appear in showrooms ended up teaching a lot of owners the meaning of the phrase “wiggle test.” Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to let someone else be the guinea pig for a new engine.

The bottom line? Track rats, and people whose thirst for attention knows no practical bounds, will want to make sure they’re on the list for a Z06 as soon as they can arrange it. Everyone else should seriously consider the standard Stingray, which is still one of the most desirable American cars in history and which has proven itself in the hands of owners for over a year now. Your mileage, of course, may vary. (And in the Z06, it will probably be less.)

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