If I told you that this year, someone was going to launch a new supercar without hybridization. Not even the slightest turbo. And that this engine would be the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 ever marketed on this planet.
That would block a corner, wouldn’t it? You would be right to be incredulous. Especially after reading that the new Ferrari core range could now run 100% electric. You’d wonder which manufacturer would be foolhardy enough to go against the establishment, which nation would have a large enough market to consider producing such a machine in 2022.
But you know the answer. Because you know a Corvette when you see one (and then read a title and a hat, too). As surprising as it is, it should be on free sale in France by 2023 if all goes well. With 679 hp of atmospheric fury perched at 8,400 rpm, and a titanium intake.
Do these numbers sound crazy to you? It’s that we’re not talking about a brave basic Corvette C8 Stingray (on test here), but the Z06. If the Corvette is America’s 911, then this is its GT3. Suffice to say that in automotive folklore across the Atlantic, there is not much that can compete.
I’m in Los Angeles, in the parking lot above the mall, my eyes squinted by the blinding sun. A roar of T-Rex under my feet signals the arrival of a Corvette duo: a Z06, and a Z06 with the Z07 pack. Think GT3 and GT3 RS. The concrete barely stifles the vociferations of the monsters below. These are brutal cars, brimming with rage. The eighth generation Corvette is the first to put the engine behind the driver, breaking with 70 years of tradition. The huge air intakes behind the doors leave no doubt about this. For style, everyone has their own tastes. Me, I find it a little flashy, a little « my first supercar », but I suppose we can forgive them since it is their first supercar. Still, we are far from the liquid flanks of a McLaren, the rigorous curves of a Porsche or the retro nods of a Ferrari.
What really matters is below. Because like that of the GT3, the engine of the Z06 has nothing to do with that of the standard model. The latter uses the famous 6.2 small block while here we are dealing with a brand new V8, the LT6. A 5.5 V8 with dry sump and flat crankshaft borrowed from the racing C8.R. 679 hp, 623 Nm, 0 to 100 km/h in 2.7 seconds (even if this does not include the « one-foot roll-out » in force on drag strips, in other words the first 30 centimeters of launch ).
More explicit, the weight / power ratio: 405 hp / t, compared to 355 hp / t of a 992 GT3 of 510 hp. The maximum torque comes in at 6,300 Nm, so we’ll have to roll up our sleeves. Alas, it is not today that we will drive it. For the moment, we will have to content ourselves with tickling the accelerator in neutral.
At startup, you would swear a Ferrari. Fast, no fuss. Here, no endless blub-blub-blub before firing. Then, switch to D on the box selector, press M then pull and hold the two paddles: this is the cheat code for venturing into the heights of the rev counter. The comparison with Ferrari still stands. The V8 isn’t as strident and demonstrative as that of a 458, but at least it doesn’t overdo it. The sound is rough, unfiltered, like in a racing car. Ditto for the response to the accelerator: it fuses towards the breaker as soon as you press, it falls just as dry when you lift your foot. Do you want to forge even more intimate links with this engine? If you feel like it, you can go to the factory in Bowling Green (Kentucky) and join the dozen or so fellows in charge of assembling your V8.
The suspension has obviously been revised, although it hasn’t changed as drastically as the V8. The Z06 is 9cm wider than the Stingray. It’s huge, but it had to accommodate the monstrous tires chosen by Chevrolet to increase lateral grip. 345 wide at the rear, 4 cm more than on a standard C8. As a result, completely new body panels had to be designed to accommodate them. The Z06 also benefits from oversized rims and brakes. Optional on the Stingray, the controlled differential and the magnetorheological suspension are standard here, the springs are firmer. The gearbox has seen its axle ratio shortened to compensate for the lack of torque of this V8 atmo (10 Nm less than the standard C8, nearly 260 Nm less than the old C7 Z06 and its 6.2 at compressor).
Americans love numbers: 0 to 60 mph, force g, slalom tests, etc. The Z06 has what it takes to score in each of these stats. But if you want to be doubly sure, then you’ll have to opt for the Z07 pack, which should cost around €10-15,000. It includes a new rear wing providing twice the downforce, or 333 kg at a top speed of 300 km/h. Which doesn’t mean much: downforce is more useful between 100 and 200 km/h. And given how downforce works (the square root of the hypotenuse divided by the age of the rider, or something like that), 333 kg at 300 km/h translates to « not that much, actually. at more usual speeds. Nothing for the physics lesson, it always makes us happy.
Not exactly a support car, then. But you can still afford a 15cm stiffer suspension, carbon-ceramic brakes and Michelin Cup 2Rs for even more grip. And opt for the carbon rims that you can see in the image, which saves 18 kg. At 1,560kg, the Z06 weighs 150kg more than a GT3 and retains many of the attributes of the standard car, starting with the removable roof panel. The Z06 is also available as a true convertible (the orange Z07 at the top of the page) but all Corvettes are drivable in the wind. The roof then stows away (by hand) in the trunk behind the V8, without reducing the Corvette’s cargo volume to zero since there is also a small trunk up front.
Yes, yes, it’s almost opulent. God knows what went through the head of the guy who configured the interior of this one, in red on red, but the ergonomics are correct, and the perceived quality is much higher than what you imagine, I assure you . The only regret is that there is no manual gearbox: the Z06 is right to be proud of its naturally aspirated V8, but the only choice in terms of transmission is an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Does this make your mouth water? There is the question. On me it works. I’m open to new technologies, but more technology – unless your name is Ferrari, as evidenced by the new 296 GTB – means more complications, and more distance between driver and emotion. The Z06 promises emotion at your fingertips.
Will it find an audience outside the United States? It is not forbidden to hope so. We think what Ford has achieved with the Mustang, which was first officially imported into Europe in 2015 and immediately became the continent’s best-selling sports car ahead of the Audi TT. Let’s hope the Z06 finds the global outlets it deserves. No wonder it was the United States, the country that lives by the sound of the V8, that produced something so magnificent in the twilight of the combustion engine.