By Aaron Bragman on January 13, 2014
Competes with: Porsche 911 Turbo, SRT Viper, Jaguar XK-R, Nissan GT-R
Looks like: As close to the Corvette C7.R race car as you can legally get
Drivetrain: 625-hp, supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V-8; seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission
Hits dealerships: Early 2015
The new 2014 Corvette Stingray ratcheted up the abilities of Chevrolet's halo sports car to new levels. In fact, the target for the new Stingray was the sixth-generation (C6) Corvette Z06, the performance option package that added all kinds of go-fast bits to the C6 Corvette.
Now GM has taken the wraps off of its new seventh-generation (C7) 2015 Corvette Z06 at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and revealed to the world that the target for this latest high-performance monster was the last-generation ZR1. That it also formed the basis for a lot of the C7.R race car's aerodynamics and structure should also tell you that the new Z06 is going to be one of the most extraordinary performance cars ever created.
Unlike the last Z06, which wasn't all that different looking from the standard Corvette, the new Z06 will be instantly recognizable through several changes to the bodywork. There will be three levels of aerodynamic sophistication. The base Z06 wears a new front splitter, front-wheel opening spats, a unique carbon fiber hood with a larger heat extractor vent and the rear spoiler from the Stingray's Z51 Performance Package.
Opt for the Carbon-Fiber Aero Package (in black painted or natural carbon finish) and you get larger aero pieces in carbon fiber, including removable winglets on the front wheel openings.
The Z07 Package gets even more extreme, with larger winglets and a see-through rear spoiler for track use. The result of the Z07 Package is a car with the most down force of any production vehicle GM has tested — from any manufacturer. GM says that the Z06's aerodynamics will directly translate to the new C7.R race car — to the point where the racing team didn't have to do any work to increase down force on the racer, and instead just needed to reduce drag.
The changes to the Z06's interior are less distinctive. Some unique color schemes are part of the package, as is a flat-bottom steering wheel and specific badges. Two seats are available: the standard GT seat or optional Competition Sport seat for track use.
The list of Z06-specific equipment is long, and includes bigger, more powerful brakes. Six-piston calipers replace the four-piston units on the Stingray, 2 inches larger in front and 1.1 inches larger out back. Or if you want the ultimate performance 'Vette (until the inevitable ZR1 arrives), opt for the Z07 Performance Package, which adds carbon ceramic brake rotors that are 2.9 inches wider up front and 2 inches wider in the rear. The Z06 replaces monotube shocks in the base Stingray with standard Magnetic Ride Control suspension, the company's infinitely adjustable electronic suspension.
GM started with the normal Corvette Stingray, but added a unique lightweight supercharger system to create the 6.2-liter LT4 V-8 engine. The supercharger and intercooler are designed to fit in the valley between the cylinders. The result is an engine that's just 1 inch taller than the naturally aspirated version but pumps out at least 625 horsepower, a bump of 165 hp over the regular 'Vette (final horsepower numbers have not been finalized, according to Chevrolet).
Despite this power, the engine also features all of the fuel-saving technologies from the Stingray, including cylinder deactivation — a first for a supercharged V-8 engine. That massive power goes to the rear wheels via a seven-speed manual transmission or a special GM-designed eight-speed automatic, currently unique to the Z06. The eight-speed is a traditional automatic but features quicker shifts than the Porsche 911's dual-clutch automatic; GM says it didn't use a dual-clutch transmission because one that can handle the power the engine puts out doesn't exist. The eight-speed automatic is extremely compact, featuring extensive use of aluminum and magnesium, and actually fits in the same space as the Stingray's six-speed automatic. No pricing has yet been announced for the new Z06, but Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter says GM is looking to keep the accessibility of the previous Z06. If you could afford the last one, he tells us, you'll be able to afford the new one when they go on sale in early 2015.
That kind of money for the abilities of the new Z06 should make the car highly appealing to enthusiasts. GM says that the first time it took an early prototype Z06 onto its proving grounds road course, even without proper tires or suspension settings dialed in, it broke the track record and trounced the old ZR1's lap time. If an early development Z06 can do that, imagine what the production model will be able to do.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron