Music to a Car Guy’s Ears
by Brendan R. Appel
Chevrolet just wrapped up their introduction of the long-awaited, performance oriented, Z06 Corvette. Available both as a coupe or hard-top convertible, this is the first variant of the C8 Corvette to be officially acknowledged, and we think there will be at least two more coming: a hybrid, AWD “eRay” (adding electrification for the first time to any Corvette), and a King-of-the-Hill ZR1, possibly called the “Zora”, that if rumors prove true, could marry the best of the Z06 and eRay, add turbos or a supercharger, and reach about 1,000 horsepower.
But those rumored models are for some other day, well into the future. What Chevy dropped on us today is a five-senses stunner, starting with the heart of the Z06 – a flat-plane crank, 5.5L 670hp naturally-aspirated, fire-breathing, hand-built masterpiece of a V-8 engine. Dubbed the LT6, this all-new engine is unlike anything the Corvette team has built to date, complete with such high-cost goodies as aluminum forged pistons and titanium connecting rods. Do the math and you’ll find that for each of the 5.5 liters of displacement, you’ll get 122 ponies under foot. For reference, that’s a higher ratio than you’ll find in a Lamborghini Aventador (115) and only one less than you get in Lambo’s Huracan Performante. When the Z06 arrives, it will hold the top spot for most powerful naturally aspirated V-8 engine in a production car. You can tell the team takes great pride in this power plant as they include a signed plaque on each one telling you who built it.
Those 670 ponies all arrive at an eye-opening 8400rpm (just short of the 8600rpm redline), which is what flat-plane crank motors are well known for. The other thing they’re well known for is an exhaust note like no other, a sound that spy videographers have been teasing us with for over a year. When Chevy testers found that the driver and passenger weren’t treated to as good a symphony as those listening from outside the car, they took action to completely redesign the exhaust system to project sound back towards the passenger cabin using a “reverse megaphone” exhaust tip. The result of all this is something we predict you will soon see in thousands of Instagram and Tik Tock videos: Z06’s blasting through tunnels and under bridges to bring smiles to faces and heartbeats up several notches.
So why don’t all V-8’s use a flat-plane crank? For one, they’re very expensive to make and, as Ford Mustang GT350 owners have learned, sometimes prone to tolerance issues. The other downside is a relative lack of torque. These engines tend to generate tons of horsepower, which is the feeling of something pulling you hard by the front bumper, a sensation that happens in the upper limits of the engine (here, at 8400rpm). Torque is the feeling of something pushing you hard from behind and has thus far been the hallmark of Corvette engines – step on the gas and get instant torque like you were just shot out of a cannon. The LT6 makes only 460 lb/ft of torque, five less than the C7’s LT1 made and ten less than the LT2 makes in the C8 Stingray. It also makes that peak torque very late at 6300rpm, compared to 4600 in the LT1 and 5150 in the LT2. That means the Z06 will likely be a very rev-happy car, which will probably suit its owners just fine – just maybe not their neighbors. We’ll have to reserve judgment on whether the top-heavy performance negatively affects around-town usability until we get behind the wheel, but we suspect ultimate power and the addictive exhaust note will cure just about any low-rev deficiencies. Besides, the Z06 hits 60mph from a dead stop in 2.6 seconds, which is legit supercar territory, so this may be a moot point. Ironically, low-speed torque is an area where having a Z06 engine and a front electric motor could really make one amazing supercar with insane power throughout the entire powerband. That Zora is looking better by the minute.
Top speed wasn’t announced but is apparently 186mph as that is the speed Chevy chose to pair with the Z06’s claimed 734lbs of downforce. We’re guessing that number is achieved with the Z07 package, which (as in previous generations) features much more aggressive aerodynamic accoutrements (including a spoiler straight off the Batmobile) along with more aggressive rubber and grabbier carbon-ceramic brakes. We’re very interested to learn what performance differences are gained with the Z07 package, whether through lap times, stopping distances or lateral acceleration. The last of those metrics comes out to 1.22g’s for the Z07, but the base Z06’s figures are unknown. That number represents a huge gain over the Z51 C8, which only manages 1.04g’s.
The big jump in lateral grip will come primarily from the much larger contact patch the Z06 provides. The car is 3.6″ wider than a Stingray, allowing much bigger 345mm-wide, 21” rear tires paired with 275mm-wide tires up front. A stock C8 runs a combination of 305/245 on wheels one inch smaller at 20/19, back to front. Chevy has used the “wider is better” approach before with similar results in the C7 Z06, Grand Sport and ZR1. More rubber means more grip, but at a cost of fuel economy and tire noise. When you’re on the racetrack chasing down cars costing three times your Z06, however, you won’t care much about the EPA rating on the window sticker.
Speaking of price, we have no idea what it will be at this point. Rumors put the coupe base price around $80,000 with the hard top convertible adding another $10,000, and we expect official pricing to be rolled out when your ability to order is announced. This being a Corvette, we’re sure there will be no shortage of order form leaks to come in the near future.
What we do know is that specing out a Z06 with all the bells and whistles won’t be cheap. Z07 packages have historically been about $8-9k, while the available carbon-fiber wheels will probably run about the same. If you go for those wheels, you might want to look up the replacement cost – they can run around $4k each for other models that have used them. The good news is that those wheels reduce unsprung mass by 41lbs, so if you’re the kind who likes to squeeze every tenth out of your track car, you’ll likely see a benefit.
Speaking of carbon fiber, the video showed (but did not mention) that the Z06 will receive its own carbon-fiber steering wheel with Alcantara coverings at 3 and 9 o’clock. There’s an available carbon-fiber interior package, and if that’s not enough, you can get even more carbon in your brakes with the aforementioned Z07 package. Iron brakes are enlarged to 14.6″ front/15.0″ rear rotors with new 6-piston calipers up front, while the carbon ceramic rotors measure 15.7″ in front but only 15.4″ rear, an odd dichotomy for a mid-engine car (or maybe it’s just a specification typo).
While that is a long list of what to look forward to on the new Z06, there were some disappointments as well. While everyone in the world already knew Chevy took the car to the Nürburgring, and while Chevy discussed how great a track that was to test the Z06, it failed to (again) give us a lap time. We certainly hope that’s only because they want to tease another announcement, but given the lack of times given for the C7 thus far, it’s looking like more disappointment instead. Chevy confirmed (although didn’t expressly announce) a C8 Stingray time of 7:29.9, but that was quite a bit slower than a ZL1 1LE Camaro that did the deed in 7:16:04. If the new Z06 can’t beat a 2018 ZL1, that would be a very good reason for Chevy not to release the time. We were also hoping the Z07 package would feature some level of active aero, but alas, it doesn’t seem in the cards. Neither is a manual transmission, a constant sore spot for Corvette purists everywhere. This will be the first Z06 not available with three pedals.
Also disappointing is having to wait on pricing and the ability to place orders, which we can confirm is not yet possible at your local Chevy dealer. For a vehicle that’s supposedly coming in the summer of 2022, however, it would seem those details should be coming soon. Finally, not that Z06 shoppers are all that interested, but we also don’t yet have EPA figures.
In summary, while the regular C8 looks like a Corvette and a Ferrari had a baby, the Z06 version sounds like a Corvette and a Ferrari had a baby, and that baby got the Ferrari’s voice. We cannot wait to drive one!
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