The recently-introduced 2023 Corvette Z06 is slowly transforming from videoed Vaporware to a reality that can be seen, heard, and touched by mere mortals. A case in point is this recent video posted by Jay Leno’s Garage where Jay gets the profound privilege of being the first person outside of GM to actually drive the car!
There are so many things one might be envious of Mr. Leno for, but getting the fob to the world’s newest supercar is definitely at the top of any enthusiasts list! The fact that Jay is familiar with foreign exotics, as well as Corvettes, makes perfect sense for GM’s choice to help get the new car some valuable exposure. To help Jay bring all the car’s features to light, GM’s Aaron Link, Lead Development Engineer for Corvette Z06, talks with Jay both candidly, and proudly.
One of the first things Jay states right up front is his fondness for American muscle. He also praises the new Z06 as the, “Best America can do!” He goes on to clarify the value GM has poured into this car, “Done at a price that is, uh, I don’t know HOW you build it for that price. I restore cars and I can’t restore them for under 100-grand!”
Whether Jay has any “off-the-record” insights as to the cost of the car or is simply assuming its sub-$100K price is unsure. But he does emphasize numerous times stating the Z06, “Competes with the very best at 1/3 of the price, or even one quarter!” If we’ve got any say, let’s shoot for the 25-percent version.
A “Bespoke” Performer
One point Jay drives home is the fact the 5.5-liter LT6 engine is only found in the C8 variant of the Corvette Z06. Aaron confirms this engine was designed for the mid-engine Corvette platform. Aaron also states the engine is built in the Performance Build Center by the dozen or so GM employees but also states that GM will be bringing back the “Build your own” program used on earlier versions of the Z06. We’ve got to wonder how engineers squeezed this singular configuration through the board rooms and bean counters and still kept the low cost of the vehicle (relatively speaking)? Will we see this engine show up in a high-revving Camaro variant? Only time will tell.
The two enthusiasts spend a fair amount of time discussing the engine’s high-revving character. As we all know, the LT6 enjoys an 8,600 rpm redline, but how does that relate to Corvette engines prior? Aaron explains that on a typical road-course thrash, the average rpm of the Z06’s engine is around 6,700 rpm. This engine’s AVERAGE rpm doing what it was designed to do, is higher than a typical small-block’s max speed.
That also bears mentioning a few things. Firstly, Aaron states the Z06’s final drive ratio of 5.56:1 to help account for the engine’s proclivity to spin. On the other side of the coin, he also states, “It wants to. It has to!” Aaron goes on to say a little more without saying it, “We find… (slight pause) …it’s a different experience.”
While driving a 2023 Corvette Z06 is sure to be an exhilarating experience, it is also “different” than your torquey V-8s which came before it. Ask any friends who have driven vintage Ferraris if there is any difference. The one ace in the hole for Z06 is the electronically-controlled 8-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Whereas ignorant choices of an early “sportscar’s” gear selector could cause issues, the ECU found in the Z-car surely has been optimized to all but eliminate any maladies.
The Wheel Deal
Jay began talking about the Z06’s Carbon Revolution wheels recalling a decade ago, when “ ’they’ came by with these wheels and you could put them on Porsches, McLarens, and stuff.” He mentions those wheels were $20,000 back then, going on to say, “These four wheels used to cost what this whole car costs!”
This car is the Z07 version, which Aaron calls “the ultimate expression” of the Z06. The tires, brakes, and suspension all point to the purpose of this car. The carbon-ceramic brakes are the largest ever put on a Corvette and the massive rear tires carry the same distinction. Aaron explains he worked with Michelin for at least four years in developing these Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2R zero-pressure tires for this car.
Another value-laden fun-fact for Corvette guys is in the front splitter. Jay explains how with his McLaren P1, “if I ruined the front splitter, I could either replace the splitter or buy a Z06 Corvette!” Tough decision. But Aaron goes on to say the car’s front-lifting option is a “good buy” at a minimum.
Car Of The Year Candidate?
The demand for C8 Stingray Corvettes remains high, but it pales in comparison to the wide acceptance of Chevy’s latest performance variant Corvette. Reading the comments section below the video, many enthusiasts fess up to being Blue Oval loyalists but appreciate Chevrolet and the new Z06 for its accomplishments. Even Mustang GT350 guys are giving the Z06 a nod of appreciation.
It just goes to show that performance crosses all boundaries and when a car comes to market and is true to its intent and engineering, the world truly will sit up and take notice. Now, we can hardly wait to notice our own first sighting of the Corvette Z06 in the wild.