Not so long ago the Car and Driver long-term test fleet featured performance greats such as the Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0, the BMW M3, and Cadillac's Blackwing twins. Naturally, our taste for high-octane performance machines has only grown more insatiable since their departure.
Enter the 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Powered by a 670-hp flat-plane-crank 5.5-liter V-8, this is a Corvette gone Super Saiyan. Oh, it's also the fifth-fastest car we've ever run at Lightning Lap. Sadly, we aren't able to run our usual 40,000-mile long-term test format (as we did on a regular C8, a 2021 Stingray Z51). But we did manage to wrangle an extended loan, and we'll be producing frequent updates to let you know what life with a Z06 is like. From dropping the kids off at school to grocery store runs and potential track days, we'll be updating you on every mile for the next month or so.
Performance Testing: Flat Out Mayhem
Track testing a C8 Corvette Z06 makes for an intense day at the office. Previous test results need to be analyzed beforehand. The car’s myriad performance controls demand familiarization. On the road, its 670 horses are surprisingly approachable, docile even. But give them the spurs and they prove to be loud, angry beasts. Even in our car’s subdued grey hue, slinking through traffic is impossible.
The other current-generation Z06s we’ve tested have been set up for maximum cornering grip with their wheels in an aggressive factory track alignment. But our resident long-termer is the first one we’ve sampled with the tamer street alignment that most customers will be familiar with. Less bite from the car’s front end is the main takeaway, but the difference is minimal on public roads.
After deactivating the car’s stability controls, we trundle onto our Michigan test facility’s 300-foot skidpad in full-attack mode. Our current mule is equipped with the Z07 handling package and near-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires. which enabled us. We managed to achieve a disorienting 1.16-g score on a previous Z06 test of a car with a similar setup to ours. We only—only—manage 1.13 g this time around, yet that’s still a massive amount of stick compared to our long-term Corvette Stingray, which produced a still-Velcro-like 1.03 g of grip when new. Similarly impressive is the composure with which the Z06 orbits the skidpad, settling into mild understeer and never wagging its tail at the limit of adhesion. The car’s prodigious grip also pays dividends under braking, with stops from 70 mph requiring only 144 feet. Drop the anchor at 100 mph and its carbon-ceramic stoppers bring things to a halt in 278 feet.
With the evening sun streaming through the windshield, our car gets brutally hot inside with the climate controls off. In its default Tour mode, it shoots from 30 to 50 mph and from 50 to 70 mph in 2.0 and 2.2 seconds, respectively, just by mashing the accelerator in Drive. For our 5-to-60-mph test—which highlights the responsiveness of a car’s powertrain at low speeds—the Z06’s engine and eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox snap to attention in Sport mode, doing the deed in 3.1 seconds. That’s nearly as quick as our Stingray was to 60 mph with a full launch-control start. A formidable street racer this one.
For its main acceleration runs, we set the Z06’s adaptive dampers to their softest setting, as the straightaway gets rather bumpy at high speeds. The car’s Performance Traction Management system is impressively adept at learning track conditions for optimal launch-controlled takeoffs, though you can also manually adjust the system’s parameters in the instrument cluster.
Hold down both pedals, let the revs build to around 4000 rpm, and let go of the brake. The Z06 growls and strains against its computerized reins as it scrabbles for traction. The 60-mph dash is over in just 2.6 seconds. Pulling hard at full chat, its flat-plane-crank V-8 sends a 99-decibel shriek echoing through the surrounding forest as the car hits 100 mph in a mere 5.9 seconds. The 8500-rpm upshifts come fast as the speed increments continue to fall: 132 mph (in 10.5 seconds) through the quarter-mile; 150 mph in 15.0 seconds flat. Our field of vision narrows, and time slows considerably as our VBOX display ticks over 170 mph at 24.8 seconds. The Z06 has more to give, but it’s fighting against the wind and the braking zone is approaching at roughly 250 feet per second, so we get on the left pedal. Checking our data at the end of the straight, we take a deep breath and turn around to do it again.
The Z06’s optional ventilated seats offer cooling relief as we pull up to the facility’s exit gate to return our radio and day pass. Another day at the office. “This thing is awesome,” says the wide-eyed security guard. Yes, it is. —Mike Sutton
5510–5906 miles: Caddy Daddy
How to (over) compensate for having the worst handicap index among a group of 16 guys headed out to a marathon golf weekend? Show up in a Corvette Z06, of course.
Supercars and even sports cars usually don’t mix well with golf, where the clubs are often forced to ride shotgun. But that’s not true of the Corvette, including the Z06, which retains the same wide rear trunk that’s plenty lengthy enough to accommodate the sticks, without removing the woods. In fact, the trunk is deep enough to get two modestly sized bags in there, while still leaving the front trunk to swallow a couple duffle bags and other weekend supplies.
Although a Z06 is total overkill for any normal driving duties, a couple-hour highway trundle to Michigan’s thumb area seemed especially beneath the most weaponized Corvette yet, especially when wearing the full Z07 kit and aero upgrades.
Initially the cabin feels tight, but you get used to it and even with the most aggressive competition seats, the Z06 ends up being plenty comfortable for multiple hours at a time. Sure, the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires thwack over sharp impacts, the road noise can be excessive, and it still tramlines even with street-alignment settings—I’d like to try one on the base Michelin PS4S tires—but the Z06 is amazingly civil for a car that ran the fifth-fastest lap time at Virginia International Raceway in all our years of Lightning Lap.
I could almost feel the Z06 rolling its eyes at me as I pointed its track-focused tires down a rutted dirt road to our rental house on Lake Huron, but the front-axle lift kept the carbon-fiber splitter out of harm’s way. The crew was suitably impressed, rides were requested and given and, although we bemoan the loss of the manual transmission in the eighth-generation Corvette, having the automatic does have its benefits. Like doing a remote start while standing behind and letting the aggressive initial rev of a cold flat-plane-crank LT6 V-8 wash over you while taking in an over-water sunrise before heading to the course. There aren’t many better ways to start the morning.
Playing 72 holes over two and a half days didn’t leave a lot of time for driving. At least the kind where I don’t have a high probability of ending up in the woods. The Z06 still had plenty of room left to transport home the trophy, but it wasn’t meant to be this year. –Dave VanderWerp
5320-5330 miles: Morning Glory
This morning, I got up from my desk at 10:30 and took the Z06 out for a drive. I dialed the exhaust to its loudest setting and the ride to its softest, and just drove, no destination in mind. I blazed it down a section of interstate near the office, thin with mid-morning traffic. I hurled it around my favorite entrance-ramp cloverleaf, holding tight to the square steering wheel against the fierce g-force. Then I did it again. I soaked in the mesmerizing howl of the engine, looking for opportunities for a quick squirt of acceleration to the 8500-rpm redline whenever traffic cleared.
This blog is supposed to be about all the special and not-so-special things we do with the Z06. There will be many such opportunities. But for that short time today when I was behind the wheel, the rest of life faded into the background; thoughts of responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, frustrations—all gone.
The Z06 goads and seduces with its brutal high-rpm lunges and fierce full-throttle shouts. It makes you pay attention, accelerating so hard that you can’t be thinking about anything else. It’s thrilling, enthralling, challenging. It’s therapeutic and freeing; you feel like you can fly. There are a lot of fun things you could do with a Z06, but I didn’t do any of them—except drive it. That was more than enough. Head clear, nervous system vibrating as the Z06 cooled down out front, I sat back down at my desk, now with a smile on my face. —Rich Ceppos
5304-5320 miles: Grocery Getter
The Z06 is an incredible machine, but driving it around town and doing mundane things on a normal Tuesday evening felt like overkill. At the same time, the Corvette made me feel like I was living my best life, with the V-8 shrieking behind my head while was I nestled in the jet-fighter cockpit. So, I leaned into the ridiculousness, putting the car in manual mode to allow the transmission to reach lofty revolutions before snapping off crisp shifts like thunderclaps with the paddles.
It was definitely one of the most exhilarating drives to Target I've ever taken. Plodding through the parking lot, the Vette draws the eyes of every other shopper. Part of it is the styling, which looks particularly Batmobile-esque in this dark grey hue. Then there’s the noise—even at lower rpms, when the engine's note is a lower burble, the radiator fans are often emitting a cacophonous whirr. Some people eye the car with curiosity or admiration, others with an air of disdain.
Emerging from Target's automatic doors with my shopping completed, it was difficult to spot their Corvette's low-slung silhouette among the vast field of crossovers. Luckily, I was able to see the assertive rear wing poking skywards. Though, in a pinch I figure the ear-splitting remote start would give a good sense of where the car is hiding.
The frunk fit my small grocery haul perfectly, and unlike larger cargo spaces in normal cars, there was no room for the bags to slide around and distribute my purchases into every crevice. If you have a problem with over-shopping, perhaps consider a Z06—there's just enough room for only the essentials. I decided on taking the long way home—it is a Corvette after all, and I wanted to experience highway speeds.
Although I had driven the latest Z06 a couple of times prior, the transparent ferocity of the Vette's performance still left my mouth ajar. The rush of power hits immediately, and the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires slip a bit before hooking up and rocketing the Z06 forward. The response from the throttle is so immediate that it's difficult to get the gas pedal fully to the floor—and when you do, the acceleration is almost more than the brain can handle. When I got home, I found that while the frunk was the right size for my groceries, it also got surprisingly warm during the 10 minute drive. Thankfully, I had resisted the urge to buy ice cream. The Z06, like the standard Corvette, served as a daily driver surprisingly well, screaming flat-plane crank V-8 aside. —Caleb Miller
4300–5304 miles: City Living
Our first road trip in the Z06 saw us travel from Detroit to Chicago for the Riot Fest music festival. And what better car to bring to Riot Fest than the Z06, which is its own miniature riot? Earplugs are not required for this one, thankfully—although Track mode definitely pumps up the volume.
The drive to Chicago wasn't bad. The magnetorheological dampers and decent tire sidewalls do a good job of keeping the ride from being truly intolerable, but impact harshness remains severe—one particular pothole had us worried that we'd turned one of the front wheels into a square. Noise is ever-present; the targa-style top did a good job sealing out wind noise, but those aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires made a whole lot of road noise, in addition to tramlining on grooved or wavy pavement.
Stop-and-go traffic is not the Z06's favorite place to be. Left to its own devices, the transmission can be reluctant to upshift out of first. Shifting for ourselves in Manual offers a bit more comfort bouncing between zero and 25 mph.
Speaking of bouncing—the tall, slab-sided buildings of Chicago provide the perfect acoustic environment for the Z06. The flat-plane-crank V-8 positively shrieks above 3000 rpm, emitting a wail that may feel out of place in a Corvette, but it feels right at home in a supercar.
You know that feeling you get when you can tell somebody's looking at you from... somewhere? That's every waking minute in the Z06. It's a long, low, brash wedge with race-car front aero and a wing the size of a dining-room table. It pulls eyes and comments wherever it goes. As you might expect, the dudes are very into it. Here's a feather for Chevrolet's cap: One person asked us if the car cost $250,000.
Perhaps the biggest concern is fitting anywhere. The Z06 is wide, and the giant canards at each corner of the front bumper look sharp enough to slice an ankle and vulnerable enough to crumble at the first sight of a curb. There are no front parking sensors, merely front cameras activated with a button on the center console. It makes parking a slow and steady job, but one that can be done without much frustration. Parallel parking isn't as bad since there are sensors at the back.
Visibility is also a point of contention. There simply isn't any in the blind-spot region, requiring us to rely heavily on the blind-spot monitoring system, in addition to the occasional head out the window. Not that there's a risk of accidentally changing lanes into someone; between the noise and the visual theater, people show deference to the Z06 and give it a wide berth wherever it goes. Perhaps all the bad Corvette drivers of yore have secretly benefitted those of us merely trying to weave around double-bunched buses and arbitrarily placed construction horses. Would the Z06 have been our first pick for a trip to the city? Absolutely not. But now that we're here, we wouldn't have chosen any other car. Except maybe that McLaren Senna we saw on Michigan Avenue. —Andrew Krok
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