Motortrend / By Frank Markus / November 18, 2022 (Photo credit: William Walker)
Behold the accessible hypercar: the 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 with Z07 package. Leave it to Chevrolet to democratize high performance, making exotic levels of acceleration, braking, and lateral grip affordable to mere hundred-thousandaires, while safely bringing thrilling performance limits to within the grasp of mortal drivers with moderate skills. How exotic are those performance levels? Let's look at the numbers.
Our first crack at a Z06 was our Car-of-the Year-contending Z06 convertible. Relative to that car, this one weighs 88 pounds less, gets lightweight carbon-fiber wheels that shave around 10 pounds of unsprung weight and rotational inertia off each corner, and a major tire upgrade from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S ZP to the Pilot Sport Cup 2 R ZP. Combined, these changes improve its performance in our racetrack-in-a-bottle figure-eight time from 22.70 seconds at a combined lateral and longitudinal g average of 0.93 to just 21.85 seconds at 0.99 g. We're showing the hundredths of a second to point out that this result was sufficient to just barely slip ahead of our previous record holder, the then-$964,996 2019 McLaren Senna (21.90 seconds at 1.02g, average).
Sadly, this record lasted only a matter of minutes, because sharing the test session was another top-performing supercar, the McLaren 765LT Spyder. That $489,110, carbon-tubbed spaceship, weighing 453 pounds less and shod with Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires, shaved 0.05 second off the Z07-ized Z06's record time, and added 0.02 average g.
Making that figure-eight result even more impressive is the fact that our Z07 coupe's straight-line acceleration results trailed those of the convertible. The coupe was slower off the line and trailed by about 0.2-second all the way through the quarter mile, which it finished going 3.4 mph slower. Increased drag from the $10,495 exposed-carbon aero package might account for some of the trap-speed discrepancy, and the stickier tires cause the Z07 car to bog a bit on launch, but we still have a hunch that a lighter, simpler 1LZ-grade Z06/Z07 operating at full strength might just be able to reclaim that figure-eight record.
The coupe may have lost to the Z06 convertible in quarter-mile acceleration, but it more than made up for it in lateral grip, recording a 1.16 g number vs. 1.10 for the convertible. That lofty mark put our test coupe in a four-way tie for the fourth-highest lateral grip we've measured, trailing the McLaren 765LT (and three others) at 1.17 g, and (perhaps surprisingly) a C7 Corvette Grand Sport alone in the 1.18 g spot (three Porsche GT3 variants share the 1.19 g title). This is a good chance to remind folks that Chevy admitted at the C8 Z06's launch that it might not beat every overall statistic and lap time established by the best front-engine Corvettes. But because those cars relied very heavily on tires, they might have only been good for a lap or two at peak performance. The C8 Corvette's inherently improved balance helps its tires last way longer, so its average lap times will generally be higher. Oh, and if you're tempted to attribute these results to aero, know that around our 200-foot diameter skidpad the Z06 is averaging 40-50 mph, so the aero's not contributing much.
No figure-eight time was lost in braking, with big, strong carbon-ceramic brakes hauling our Z06/Z07 coupe down from 60 mph in just 95 feet, shaving four feet from the convertible's best stop and coming within an average stride of the 765LT's 93-foot stop. For the record, that's eight feet longer than our best "production car" stop (from the racy Porsche 911 GT2 RS).
Most of us were badly smitten by this latest Corvette, marveling at its high grip-limits and benign, generally understeering behavior as you approach them. "Shockingly approachable for something with such high limits," said deputy editor Alex Stoklosa of the Z06/Z07. Such a combination quickly builds confidence and corner entry speeds. The engine's combination of high horsepower with less brutal torque allows for aggressive corner exit acceleration with less danger of throttle oversteer, or as senior editor Scott Evans put it, "It's hard to imagine what kind of rookie control inputs you would have to make to upset this car." (Though we're certain viral TikToks will capture such moments eventually.)
It has beautifully crafted, well-placed shift paddles on the wheel, but the eight-speed twin-clutch transmission's shift programming is so astute you won't need them—except maybe to call for gratuitous downshifts in tunnels to let the center-exit exhaust rip.
This is a big car, especially next to the Porsches folks forever compare it with. That's how it accommodates 12.6 cubic feet of luggage and can store its roof onboard. And because it's not made of carbon and offers amenities like heated and cooled seats and sound deadening, it weighs more than similar-size cars like the McLaren. So when the circuit gets bigger than our figure-eight, the Z06's lap times trail those of these lighter and/or more powerful cars. But as noted, you might be able to reduce this difference by speccing a lighter, simpler Z06—which Chevy graciously permits without charging extra. To wit, an identically performing 1LZ Z06/Z07 with painted instead of visible carbon fiber would cost just $137,180—$27,625 less than this one, or about a third as much as the McLaren 765LT.
But doing so will erode one of the Corvette Z06's biggest advantages: the comfort it provides when the red mist and adrenaline subside. Set the Magnetic Ride Control shocks to Tour mode, and the comfort surpasses almost any other supercar or hypercar you can name, making this an exotic that would be as enjoyable to drive across country as it is fun to drive at a destination like Tail of the Dragon. Get one before demand closes the price gap with those other supercars.