From the February/March 2023 issue of Car and Driver.
Lap time: 2:38.6
Class: LL3 | Base: $137,180 | As tested: $141,855
Power and weight: 670 hp • 3646 lb • 5.4 lb/hp
Tyres: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R ZP; F: 275/30ZR-20 (97Y) TPC, R: 345/25ZR-21 (104Y) TPC
With a 670-hp LT6 V-8, the new Corvette Z06 isn’t the most powerful Vette ever, and at 3646 pounds, it’s certainly not the lightest, but no Vette is its equal on a racetrack. This C8 Z06 is the best street legal Corvette ever.
The last few Corvettes have come with a bogey time from Chevrolet engineers, but aside from a few development laps at VIR, the Z06 has yet to set a good time on the Grand Course. At other tracks, the Z06 ran similar laps to the 755-hp C7 ZR1. So we were excited to beat our old ZR1 time by nearly a second despite the ZR1’s 85-hp advantage and 4.5-mph higher top speed on the front straight. The Z06’s 2:38.6 time is the fifth-fastest in Lightning Lap history, and it’s also the best lap time for a naturally aspirated car. Everything faster is significantly faster down the straight and costs more than twice as much. Please don’t think the engine is a weak point—far from it. Out on the street, this Z06 is all car, screeching at 8500 rpm and scaring pedestrians with its howl. But on the street there is no safe way to exploit the lofty limits of this chassis. It’s capable of 1.22 g’s in Turn 1 and averages 133.4 mph when climbing the climbing aces. The longer we licked it, the more we came to the conclusion that this Corvette really is meant for the track.
Equipped with optional carbon fiber wheels, which shave 41 pounds of rotating (and unsprung) mass, this car turns in at high speeds like no other. There is almost no understeer at any speed, and the chassis is so balanced that you can easily adjust the nose grip by applying brake pressure. Turn-in willingness was so pronounced that we ran the car in the heaviest steering setting, not because it offered more feel than the other modes, but because the heavier on-center effort offered a bit more resistance to to duck into a corner.
Once you’re in a corner, the optional competition sports seats don’t hold you in as well as Porsche’s equivalent. Instead of the seat holding the driver’s body in place, arms and legs are left to fight massive g-forces, leading to fatigue. Put the GT4 RS’s bucket in the Z06, and it might shave some time off the shot.
As much as the Z06 story is one of power and chassis balance, it is also one of temperature. Run the LT6 hard for 10 laps, and the oil temp is barely spoiled. During development of the LT6, the engine team found hot spots in the main bearings that they attributed to cavitation near redline as the oil thinned out at higher temperatures. To combat this, the Z06’s nose has a number of heat exchangers that keep oil temps below 200 degrees. Those coolers are what other cars on the track see in their rear view, but the Corvette Z06 never lingers there for long.
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