Electrification is the future of the auto industry, but friends, things are still pretty damn good in the world of combustion power. If anything, the last hurrah of ICE is yielding some of the best performance cars yet. And we need look no further than the new 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and the latest Porsche 911 GT3.
By some happy coincidence, I found myself behind the wheel of the 911 GT3, in Touring form, just a couple weeks before I attended the first drive program for the new Z06. So while this isn't a direct, one-to-one comparison, to paraphrase an old colleague, “Some people like Coney dogs, some people like currywurst. Let's talk about what's great with each.”
Common Approaches, Different Results
The 911 GT3 and the Corvette Z06 are similar in spirit, drawing on the motorsports background of their respective automakers to up the ante of on-road performance. That means new, model-specific engines that are the headliners in a star-studded lineup.
For the 911, a 4.0-liter flat-six shared with the GT3 Cup racer sits in place of a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter. A six-speed manual is standard, while Porsche's excellent seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a no-cost option that is available on the Touring model for the first time (and was fitted to my tester). Its 502 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque is ample, but holy moly, the real headline is the epic 9,000-rpm redline.
The Z06's powertrain is, somehow, even more race-focused. The new LT6, a naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V8 with a flat-plane crank, has spent several seasons motivating the Corvette C8.R racer in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship and per Chevy (grains of salt), the only real divergences between the race engine and the road engine are down to regulations.
The engine share a basic architecture and subsystems, although the production LT6 enjoys a higher redline and more power: 670 hp and 460 lb-ft, along with an 8,600-rpm redline. Unlike the GT3, an eight-speed dual-clutch is the only way to fly with the Z06, which might automatically rule it out with purists.
Both cars adopt firmer suspensions, with the 911 going for a double-wishbone front derived from Porsche's racing efforts. The Z06, meanwhile, uses a trim-specific tune for its magnetic dampers. Lighter wheels and available carbon-ceramics are the order of the day, and can dramatically reduce unsprung weight. Mechanical grip improves too – the Z06 has the widest wheel/tire package ever fitted to the Corvette and is available with ultra-sticky Michelin Cup 2R tires. The 911 also adds wider tires, with a standard high-performance summer compound. Street-legal track tires are also available on the GT3 for the first time outside the RS line.
Gallery: 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06: First Drive
Neither car goes hog-wild with their cabin, though. And while there is more extreme exterior styling, the GT3 Touring and the standard Z06 are only subtly different from their lesser counterparts. The unfamiliar will know something is up with either of these cars, but it'll take a fan to pick them out from the herd. The non-Touring GT3 trim ups the ante with a huge rear wing, while the Z06's available Carbon Aero package adds a meaty front splitter, vehicle-spanning underside spoiler, and its own massive wing. Porsche claims downforce is up 50 percent over the previous GT3, while Chevy says the Z06 will generate over 700 pounds of downforce at 186 mph.
What You Should Drive On The Road
To be clear, both cars work shockingly well in the real world. For owners in warmer climes, they shouldn't even hesitate to daily a Z06 or 911 GT3 Touring. But while the Corvette's magnetic dampers provide a better, more comfortable ride, the 911's narrower tires (255 front/315 rear versus 275 front/345 rear on the Z06) lead to a slight reduction in road noise.
But the main reason the 911 works every day is down to its cabin – there's simply far, far more room. The Z06, like all C8 Corvettes, has an incessantly snug cabin and limited space for stuff. The Corvette's trump card, though, is the available hardtop convertible model and the removable roof panel on the Coupe, so every Z06 has an inherent open-air ability. Those differences aside, these two cars are remarkably close in real-world usability.
What You Should Drive On The Track
Like their real-world use cases, the Z06 and 911 GT3 are closely matched on the track. But since I only drove the Corvette on a closed course, I have to give it the nod here, even if there is an asterisk. The Z06 is at its very best and most distinctive not in base form, but with the optional Z07 and Carbon Aero packages, which add around $15,000 to the starting price. Aside from the 911's carbon-ceramic brakes (which at $9,210 cost more than the entire $8,995 Z07 package), there isn't anything to add to the GT3.
So equipped, the Z06 is both wildly capable and surprisingly accessible. Thanks to the excellent Performance Traction Management system, it's easy to tweak just how lairy the Z06 will get on the track without removing the safety net entirely. On the flip side, and while I only drove it on public roads, the 911 feels like the more focused performer. There are just three driving modes, and the stability control is less configurable.
The GT3 also feels racier when you aren't going hard. The stiff, heavy brake pedal is a reminder that pro drivers are real athletes, and the steering feels better in just about every situation. The Z06's tiller lacks feedback and even on the track, feels a little too low in effort. The GT3 weights up naturally and demands some physicality – it's fun in a more analog, serious way.
If You Have To Make This Decision, Count Yourself Lucky
There's really no bad choice between these two. And while you shouldn’t let objective things like price drive you to one camp or the other, there’s no getting around the Z06’s more affordable price. Starting at $106,695, including $1,395 destination charge, the Z06 is an entire base Stingray less than the $172,450 (including $1,450 destination and $1,300 gas-guzzler) 911 GT3. That said, the 911 is pretty fantastic out of the box, aside from the $9,210 charge for carbon-ceramic brakes. The Z06, meanwhile, has three separate trims, and basically requires an additional $15,000 to reach its ultimate form, with the Z07 and Carbon Aero packages.
The Z06 wows with its mid-engine form, flat-plane engine, surprising on-road comfort, and impressive accessibility. The 911 GT3 feels more like a race car – firm and serious, but absolutely engaging even in everyday conditions. If you have to choose between these cars, just know I envy you on a deep and everlasting level.
|Specifications||2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06||2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring|
|Engine:||5.5-liter V8||4.0-liter H6|
|Output:||670 Horsepower / 460 Pound-Feet||502 Horsepower / 346 Pound-Feet|
|Transmission:||Eight-Speed Dual-Clutch||Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch|
|Drive Type:||Rear-Wheel Drive||Rear-Wheel Drive|
|0-60 MPH:||2.6 Seconds||3.7 Seconds|
|Top Speed:||189 MPH||197 MPH|
|Weight:||3,434 Pounds||3,164 Pounds|
|Cargo Volume:||TBD||4.6 Cubic Feet|
|Base Price:||$105,300 + $1,395 Destination||$169,700 + $1,450 Destination|