Ever since rumblings of a new, supercharged Z06 hit the Interweb, there’s been two different but equally forceful narrative-explosions: the first, natch, was "How much power will it make?” And the second was, "DURRR YOUSE GONNA PUT A BLOWER ON A ROAD COURSE CAR DURRR IS YOU STUPED?” And that second quote was mine.
Truth is, today’s car lovers are so spoiled, we instantly look that gift horse(power) in the mouth. In 2013, the previous-generation Z06 was a highly capable road and track monster that bowed only to its 638-horse ZR1 stablemate. And its naturally aspirated, 505-horse 427 was hella rev-happy, thanks to GM powertrain cunningness that slipped titanium connecting rods past the bean counters, and acted like 7,000-rpm redlines are a normal, everyday thing.
During the 2015 Z06’s development, Chief Engineer/Corvette Yoda Tadge Juechter and his team tried to one-up the supercharged ZR1’s power with a big-inch bullet. Trouble was, their monster mill couldn’t hit emissions targets, so the production 2015 Z06 got a 376-inch, supercharged LT4 instead. And the LT4 not only makes more peak power (650 hp) and torque (650 pound-feet) than the ZR1’s 638 horses and 604 pound-feet, it makes more usable power under the curve than the ZR1’s LS9 did, so it’s easier to drive at 7/10ths and emissions-friendly too. That, my friends, is called progress.
YouCar recently got some time with the mighty 2015 Z06 at Road Atlanta. And as it inhaled vast stretches of track, we formed a few strong opinions. First, the Corvette team has perfected the sound of high performance. The new Z06—like the 2009-up ZR1—uses an adjustable exhaust system that trumpets forth a tremendous bellow. Combine that with the LT4’s high-strung supercharger howl, and you get the best WOT soundtrack in cardom.
The LT4 also borrows some of the high-revving LS7’s tricks, including titanium intake valves, and it devours air with a 1.7-liter TVS supercharger containing two 4-lobe, 160-degree rotors. At its 20,150-rpm limit, this blower spins faster than the old ZR1’s, which means quicker transitions, more low-rpm torque and extended high-rpm boost pressure.
Combined with a downforce-producing body, GM’s superb magnetic-shock suspension and available 15-inch, carbon-ceramic brakes with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 "street” tires, the new Z06 laps GM’s Milford Road Course quicker than the outgoing ZR1—and destroys the old Z06. TL;DR: it’ll road course just fine.
Finally, as we watched it gracefully carve corners and gleefully spit tire chunks, we realized that this new Z06 gives enthusiasts more choices than ever before: you can have the Z06 in either a removable-roof-panel coupe or a full-on convertible. You can change gears with a 7-speed manual, or a paddle-shifted, 8-speed auto transmission. You can spec it out with one of three aero packages with Level Three including those hardcore ceramic brakes and Cup 2 tires. You can get 23 mpg with a light right foot. And amazingly, this rocket’s cost of admission is just over $78,000—tens of thousands lower than the $100,000-plus 2013 ZR1.
If you didn’t get enough the first go-round, check out the official release from Chevrolet as Tommy Milner of Corvette Racing takes the new Z06 around Road Atlanta in an expedited fashion.
It truly is the best of times to be a car lover, and we’re clearly spoiled rotten. Hey GM, I’ll take mine in Crystal Red please.
So which 2015 performance ride do you think is the best bang for the buck? Change our minds in the comments section.