2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is a Race Car for the Street

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

There are about to be a lot of sports car owners with feelings of inadequacy. The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 will be prowling a track near you soon and it is looking for blood.

Say what you will be about some of General Motors’ other products, but when it comes to performance cars, GM does it right. Last year saw the release of the all-new Corvette Stingray that brought the iconic American sports car to a whole new level of refinement, luxury and speed.

This increased performance slots the new Stingray between the 2013 base Corvette and 2013 Z06 model. Many thought Chevrolet would design the next Z06 in a similar vein and split the difference between the outgoing Z06 and the awesome Corvette ZR1. A shot of power here and a bit of grip there would have been enough to keep the Corvette faithful happy and make GM some money. But Chevrolet engineers had other ideas; they wanted the new Z06 to obliterate the ZR1.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Review

The goal set forth was to design a car that battles supercars, not sports cars. As outlandish as this claim may seem for Chevrolet’s little composite-bodied-wonder, a plan was set forth nonetheless to create the ultimate Corvette. More of everything was ordered – more braking, more cornering, more power, more cooling and more aero. This car is the basis of the new C7.R racer and Chevrolet has added a lot of race car technology to the new Z06 right out of the factory.

Fast Facts

  • Powering the Z06 will be a supercharged 6.2 L LT4 V8 making at least 625 hp and 635 lb-ft.
  • A seven-speed manual transmission will be standard with an eight-speed automatic optional.
  • A Z07 package will be available that adds carbon ceramic brakes, grippier tires and more aerodynamic downforce.

All Hail the LT4

Let’s start at the heart of this beast; the new engine. For a while now, the rumors have been flying that a more powerful version of new LT1 V8 would find its way into the Z06 and be called the LT4. But most did not expect this; the LT4 6.2-liter V8 receives a supercharger and will make at least 625 hp and 635 lb-ft according to Chevrolet. Let those numbers sink in for a moment. That is more power than the outgoing ZR1 and GM claims torque is more readily available thanks to the new Eaton R1740 TVS supercharger that can spin at up to 20,000 rpm. That is 5,000 rpm more than the supercharger found on the Corvette ZR1’s LS9 V8 allowing for more low-end torque.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

As mentioned, the Z06 incorporates a lot of engineering borrowed from racing. By housing the supercharger within the engine block, the LT4 is only one inch taller than LT1. Other goodies include high strength heat resistant aluminum cylinder heads, titanium intake valves, unique forged aluminum pistons, lightweight stainless steel exhaust headers, an aluminum balancer and a faster-cooling dry-sump oiling system. As an extra party trick, the LT4 V8 also has cylinder deactivation and direct injection – a first for a supercharged V8 equipped vehicle.

An Automatic Z06?

Sending this power to the rear wheels will be an updated version of the Stingray’s seven-speed manual transmission or an optional eight-speed automatic. Before you start sharpening a pitchfork and lighting your torch at the thought of a Z06 with an automatic, remember that the Porsche 911 Turbo and GT3 are automatic only as is every Ferrari and Lamborghini. Yes, those are dual-clutch gearboxes, but Chevrolet says it’s a non-issue. The manufacturer claims the new eight-speed’s computer analyses executes commands 160 times per second and can perform upshifts up to eight hundredths of a second quicker than those of the dual-clutch transmission (DCT) offered in the Porsche 911. A pretty bold claim and one we can’t wait to put to the test.

See Also: 2015 Corvette Gets Digital Performance Driving Coach

GM stuck with a traditional automatic as no current DCT could fit in the rear housing of the Corvette and handle the massive power of the LT4, although GM did say it would build a DCT one day. The new eight-speed automatic was built specifically for the Z06 and is eight pounds lighter than the six-speed automatic found in the 2014 Corvette Stingray. Fun fact – the Z06 is the only 600+ hp car to offer both a manual and automatic transmission choice.

Big Tires, Big Brakes

With this much power on tap, Chevrolet had to design a chassis that can handle it. Standard on all cars is GM’s magnetic ride control and an electronic limited slip differential. To achieve the Z06’s performance goals, a serious tire is needed. Chevrolet commissioned Michelin to design a custom set of tires for the car. Standard Z06s come with Pilot Sports while those opting for the Z07 performance package receive barley legal Michelin Sport Cup tires. Both tires are mounted to wide 19-inch tall by 10-inch front wheels and 20-inch tall by 12-inch wide rear wheels. This allows for massive 285/30ZR19 front tires and 335/25ZR20 rear tires.

With that much rubber touching the road, Chevrolet is able to install a potent set of brakes on the Z06. With six pistons up front and four pistons in the rear, standard Z06 models are fitted with 14.6-inch front rotors and 14.4-inch rotors in the rear. The ZO7 performance package takes things up a level and adds carbon ceramic brake rotors measuring 15.5-inches up front and 15.3-inches in the rear.

Wider Body Work? Or Wilder Body Work? Yes.

With fat brakes and even fatter tires, the Z06 has to be stretched out. The car is now 2.2-inches wider up front and 3.15-inches wider in rear than the regular Corvette Stingray. To keep things in proportion, items like the hood vents and rear taillights are also place further apart to keep the Z06 from having an awkward too-wide look. For the first time, the Z06 is now a targa as well since the basic Corvette structure does not include any middle roof rails. Chevrolet said feedback received from current Z06 owners is that they wished they weren’t forced into a hardtop only model when selecting the Z06 version. Those worried about lost structural rigidity shouldn’t fret; the new Z06 is 60 percent stiffer with the top on than the old Z06 and still 20 percent stiffer with the roof panel removed.

See Also: Chevrolet Corvette C7.R to Debut at Detroit Auto Show

And that brings us to the aerodynamics. Three different aero packages will be available on the Z06 ranging from mild to ridiculously wild. Standard cars receive a small rear spoiler like Z51 equipped 2014 Corvette Stingray and a small lip spoiler. From there customers can step up to level two, which features a “wicker bill” rear spoiler that bolts onto the standard spoiler and raises the height on either side, but keeps the middle section lower to allow rearward visibility.

As well, a larger front spoiler is installed that extends up into down-force generating spats forward of the front wheels. Completing stage two are a set of side sills that are wider at the front and taper off near the back. The reason for this is when wind tunnel testing the Z06, Chevrolet engineers discovered the “hot spot” of downforce only occurred near the front. This allowed the back portion to be tapered so owners would not accidentally step on it when exiting the vehicle.

Insane Down Force

Finally there is the third down-force option with the Z07 package. The front splitter and side spats grow significantly in size as do the side sills. A larger, adjustable rear spoiler is bolted on featuring a see-through center section for track use. With this package, the Corvette Z06 delivers the highest amount of aerodynamic down-force of any production car that GM has tested in the company’s wind tunnel – that includes many competitor’s cars as well. Removable front splitters and power deployed rear spoilers suddenly seem like child’s play.

See Also: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Review

More than just wings and spats, other aerodynamic factors have been incorporated into the Z06. The front grille has been painstakingly designed and allows air into the car better than if it was removed altogether. This grill is also larger, allowing for front fender vents and a larger hood outlet. Flanking the front grill are two brake cooler ducts for the front rotors. Rear brakes also receive the typical Z06 rear fender vents.

Inside, the Z06 receives a unique flat bottom steering wheel, a new optional blue color scheme and few other design revisions. Like the 2014 Stingray, the Z06 will be offered with two seating choices; the regular GT seat and a Competition Sport seat with more aggressive bolstering and support.

Still a Year Away

The Z06 is still in the final stages of development but Chevrolet did take a pre-production model out to GM’s Millwood proving grounds where it beat the ZR1 and set a new lap record; all without fine tuning or set-up testing. The new Corvette Z06 should be on sale in early 2015, with official performance numbers and pricing announced closer to the start of production at the end of this year. However, Chevy did say that the new Z06 shouldn’t differ much in pricing from the outgoing model. With performance better than the ZR1, the Z06 is poised to be one hell of a performance bargain.

GALLERY: 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Live Photos

GALLERY: 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

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Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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