2023 Corvette Z06 extends legend with radical new engine, 2.6-second 0-60 dash
The 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 will go into production next summer in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It will be available as both a coupe and a convertible. Pricing and fuel economy will be announced closer to the start of sales.
Corvette Z06 through the years
C2 (1963): 5.4L V-8 engine, 360 horsepower, 4-speed manual transmission
C5 (2001-04): 5.7 L V-8, 385 hp (2001) and 405 hp (2002-04), 6-speed manual
C6: 7.0L V8, 505 hp, 6-speed manual
C7: 6.2L V8, 650 hp, 7-speed manual or supercharged 8-speed automatic
C8: 5.5L V8, 670 hp, 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
When tenths of a second become hard to find
“Visceral”, “urgent” and “scalpel” were the key words when the ‘Vette team began work on the Z06 in 2019.
The body has been widened to accommodate a 3.6-inch wider stance necessitated by massive 345-series rear tires and larger side vents for cooling.
Four 5-foot-long “strakes” on the underbody direct air out from under the car to reduce air pressure and increase handling.
“The steering response is out of this world” because of the big tires and lightweight wheels, Juechter said. Engineers retuned the Vette’s steering, suspension and eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for more power and higher speeds, but core components, including the MR adaptive suspension, are common to the Corvette Stingray.
Racing features available on the Z06 include:
—A 3.6-inch wider stance than the Corvette Stingray
—A whopping 734 pounds of aerodynamic downforce to keep the car firmly planted on the track instead of risking taking off at top speed — 186 mph
— Standard 20-inch front and 21-inch rear aluminum wheels
—Optional carbon fiber wheels that reduce weight by 41 pounds
—Optional Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes with 15.7/15.4-inch diameter front and rear rotors, respectively
The Z06’s grille, front fenders and fascia are new to accommodate more airflow for cooling and aerodynamics. The rear fascia and corners are also new, including repositioned taillights. The hood and headlights are shared with the Stingray.
The engine, however, is new from scratch. In development for more than five years, it features 32 valves and double overhead camshafts, plus small-block firsts. The high-pressure directional fuel injection system is exactly the same used in the Corvette C8.R race cars on the tracks from Daytona to LeMans. Engineers also borrowed a few tricks from Chevy’s Indy Car engine, including moving the fuel rails to the exhaust side to make room for larger intake valves.
The resulting improved airflow helped the absurdly powerful engine meet emissions standards.
Top speed is 186 mph. The 0-60mph time dropped to 2.6 seconds, about 0.2-0.3 seconds quicker than the Stingray.
It was unexpected, Juechter said. “Tenths of a second get pretty hard to come by when you only have a few.”
The goal of all the upgrades was to allow the Z06 to run its best lap times all day, with less attenuation from heat and other factors than previous models.
The Z06: Zora’s secret project
The Corvette Z06 dates back to the early days of the sports car, when legendary chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov wanted a Vette he could race and win on the track. The name goes back to the special feature set created for this purpose in 1963: Zora Option 6 or Zora 06. The Z06 (pronounced “Zee Oh Six”, but spelled with a zero, not an O) was born.
The model name wasn’t even in the order book. It was a secret set of features concocted by Zora, an avid and accomplished runner.
Savvy buyers might ask for it to get a track-ready ‘Vette. Chevrolet has not officially acknowledged the existence of the Z06, possibly because GM briefly abandoned motorsport in 1963.
The original 1963 Z06 packaging included:
—Heavy duty brakes
—Thicker front stabilizer bar
—A 36 gallon fuel tank to reduce the number of pit stops in longer races
—A fuel-injected 5.4-liter V-8 engine (327 cubic inches)
—A close-ratio four-speed manual transmission was required with the package
The 5.5L V8 engine — the first small block with a flat-plane crankshaft — has the distinctive high-revving exhaust note that was once the province of exotic cars like McLaren and Ferrari. Without digging too deep into the weeds, a flat crankshaft reduces engine weight and improves airflow. This leads to more power. The design also results in more engine vibration than conventional counterbalanced crankshaft engines and a distinctive exhaust note, very different from traditional Detroit V-8s. It revs to the 8,600 rpm redline quickly like a hiccup.
There will be Z06s as long as there are Corvettes, that is to say as long as there are Chevrolets. Someday they’ll have electric power, and probably even 0-60 times faster than the 2023, but they may never outgrow the visceral appeal of the small, flat 5.5L block.
2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at a Glance
Two-seat mid-engine coupé or convertible
Price: to be determined
On sale: fall 2022
On sale December 2021
Engine: 5.5L DOHC flat-plane V8
Power: 670 hp at 8,400 rpm; 460 lb-ft of torque at 6,300 rpm
Transmission: eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
EPA Fuel Economy Rating Rating: TBA
Wheelbase: 107.2 inches
Length: 184.6 inches standard; 185.9 with carbon fiber ground effects
Width: 79.7 inches
Dry weight: 3,434 pounds with carbon fiber wheels and Z07 package
Cargo volume: 12.6 cubic feet
Assembled in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Mark Phelan is the auto critic for the Detroit Free Press. He can be contacted at [email protected]