– Santa Susanna, California
The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is an excellent sports car, but in spite of its mid-engined layout, it’s not quite the budget-priced exotic that many thought it would be. It accelerates as quickly as a Porsche 911 Turbo and its 6.2-liter V8 makes torque for days, but the whole thing just feels a bit too brawny, like a mid-engined muscle car instead of a slinky Italian.
Not to worry, because the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 is here to give us a decidedly different take on American performance. Gone is the pushrod LT2, with a flat-plane-crank 5.5-liter V8 taking its place just a few inches behind the passengers’ eardrums. Perfect positioning, then, to observe the so-called LT6’s fear-inducing banshee wail of an exhaust note, especially with the convertible’s folding hardtop stowed. The engine note is a tantalizing amuse bouche to be sure, but there are plenty more ingredients to the Z06’s performance.
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|Quick Specs||2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible|
|Engine||5.5-Liter Flat-Plane V8|
|Output||670 Horsepower / 460 Pound-Feet|
|Transmission||Eight-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic|
|0-60 MPH||2.6 Seconds|
|Price As Tested||$144,210|
Gallery: 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible Review
Spec Sheet Superstar
Packing 670 horsepower at 8,400 rpm and 460 pound-feet of torque at 6,300 rpm, the Z06’s engine does most of the work to convince passersby that the car is a genuine exotic. The undersquare bore and stroke – 4.10 inches by 3.15 inches – give it that sky-high rev limit and outrageously quick throttle response. Bore spacing is shared with other members of the GM small block engine family, but in most other ways, the LT6 is uncharted territory for the Corvette. The standard Stingray’s lopey muscle car woofle is nowhere to be found, replaced by God’s own reciprocating saw.
Of course, if you’re checking out those numbers, you’ll see that the Z06’s revs seem to come at the expense of torque, since the regular 'Vette doles out more twist (470 lb-ft) at lower engine speeds (5,150 rpm). Chevrolet says that the higher rev limit and 175 extra horses more than compensate, helping the Z06 haul its way to 60 miles per hour in 2.6 seconds, shaving two-tenths off the Stingray Z51.
But the flagship (for now) Corvette adds more than mere power to the equation. The short-long-arm suspension layout remains, but its geometry has been tweaked to take advantage of a 3.6-inch-wider track. Magnetic Ride Control dampers are standard on the Z06, retuned to for the wider summer tires – 275 millimeters up front and 345 in back. Brakes are stouter as well, with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers clamping down on 2.0-inch-larger front and 1.7-inch-larger rear rotors.
The Corvette’s structure is so stiff that the suspension settings are the same from convertible to coupe. The wider, more angular bodywork is also a knockout, from its shovelnose front fascia to the George Barris–chic quad center exhausts. Unfortunately, my droptop tester wasn't equipped with the optional Z07 handling package, which includes more aggressive aerodynamics, sharper suspension settings, and carbon-ceramic brakes. Shoppers looking for circuit-friendly additions like those probably aren’t shopping convertibles anyway. One excited Motor1 staffer enjoying a seasonably crisp fall afternoon, however…
Go For L(a)unch
My first trip in the Z06 was devoid of any pomp or circumstance – we needed a couple bell peppers for dinner that night. But even with the adaptive exhaust in its quietest setting idling down my neighborhood street, the Z06 offered a thrilling view forward over its low dash and chiseled front end. After a few minutes, the engine was warm enough for a responsibly swift pull away from a red light, and as the digital tach swept toward its 8,600-rpm redline, I was reduced to a series of involuntary Homer Simpson giggles. Groceries secured, it was time to head home to make dinner, but my appetite for the Corvette only grew.
Luckily, I’d carved out the following afternoon to sate it. With no obligations in the way, I set off on Angeles Forest Highway toward Palmdale, where a root beer float lay at the other end of a brilliant set of high- and low-speed corners. I started timidly, keeping in mind that this 3LZ convertible’s $3,995 carbon fiber ground effects kit wouldn’t play nicely with any of the stones and boulders that sometimes scatter the canyon road. But before long, the V8 beckoned me to push harder.
I called up my presets on the “Z Mode” steering wheel button – mid-level suspension stiffness, heavy steering, sharp throttle, paddle shifting, full-bark exhaust, and moderate stability intervention – and began to feast on the asphalt. At low revs, the torque deficit relative to the Stingray is apparent, but let the Z06 hang out near redline and it snarls like a mountain lion in full hunt. Kellogg-spec snaps, crackles, and pops emanate from the quad exhausts on overrun, and the metallic zing! of the induction system sings a gothic duet with the tailpipes under full throttle. Keep the engine boiling and forward momentum is a toe-twitch away.
Retaining that momentum is the work of the retuned magnetorheological shocks and standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. The widened rubber gives the Z06 laser-precise grip on turn-in, and the broader track helps bring body roll to near zero. At the same time, the adjustable dampers keep individual wheel motion in check, helping the Chevy slough off road imperfections and off-camber cornering moments to inspire immense driver confidence. Best of all, the throttle-on understeer in the Stingray is nowhere to be found in the Z06, allowing me to get on the gas earlier in each corner.
And even though I wasn't enjoying either the Pilot Cup 2 track tires or carbon-ceramic stoppers found in the Z07 handling package, I didn't miss their absence. At least on the crisp, cool day during which I found myself in the Corvette, I couldn’t detect any hint of fade. The pedal is firm and a bit touchy, but once I negotiated that initial bite, they were easy to modulate, and the tires have more than enough grip to dispatch the 3,637 pounds of Chevrolet riding above them.
Even though the loaded Z06 convertible I drove is philosophically the least aggressive member of the family, it still boasts incredibly high levels of performance, a communicative set of primary controls, and well-integrated stability software that flattered me into feeling like a driving hero. But what’s more, the hot Corvette is still a decent commuter car. Those magnetic dampers provide a borderline-cosseting ride in their softest settings, and the exhaust’s Quiet mode – while still loud on cold starts – at least reduces freeway drone to perfectly acceptable levels.
The 3LZ model’s GT2 seats (optional on lesser Z06s) fit my 6-foot, 165-pound frame well, and the top trim’s leather-wrapped dashboard and microfiber-suede headliner feel appropriately posh given the monetary outlay. Be sure to budget some extra time in your commute, though; every fuel stop will conclude with a 10-minute Q&A session from your new best friends about the car.
Ergonomic woes from the Stingray carry over to the Z06, including the stylish-but-confusing strip of climate control buttons separating the driver and passenger, the squared-off wheel that is a pain to use in low-speed parking maneuvers, and the poorly placed cupholders that make using the infotainment a pain. But beyond those frustrations, the Corvette convertible is a fine daily thanks to two decently sized trunks, good ride compliance, and a power-folding hardtop that works even at neighborhood speeds.
To some, the Corvette will always be a budget sports car, damning it with elitist faint praise that denotes its relatively humble provenance. But if any car can convince the Tifosi and Lamborgioli that a Chevy can compete with their F8 Tributos and Huracans Evo, it’s the Z06. From an engine hits all the right notes in its sound and power delivery to extensive (bordering tacky) use of carbon fiber inside and out, the 2023 Corvette Z06 earns that mercurial title of “exotic.”
And even if it is the most expensive C8 variant so far, the flat-plane firecracker is still a decent bargain, matching the acceleration of the $232,050 Porsche 911 Turbo S and nearly keeping up with the $338,255 Ferrari 296 GTB. Hell, I’m not convinced the staggeringly brilliant and staggeringly expensive Lamborghini Revuelto I drove recently would outperform the Corvette given the right tires and the right track. Imagine buying six Z06s (or three Z06s and three all-wheel-drive E-Rays) for the price of one scissor-door Lambo.
What a vehicular feast that would be!
2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible 3LZ