I recently had the chance to drive the latest Chevy Corvette Z06, which is a ridiculously insane vehicle with incredible numbers: It does zero to 60 in like 3.3 seconds, it has 650 horsepower and it’ll reach a top speed of 202 miles per hour. Fifteen years ago, these figures would’ve only been achievable by the very best supercars. Now, you can get them for eighty grand at the same place where people are deciding whether they want to spend an extra $75 on all-weather floor mats for their Equinox. Still, this begs the question: Is the Chevy Corvette Z06 now a supercar?
Before I give you my opinion, let’s go back to the start. I rented this Z06 on Turo, which is this service that lets you rent cool and interesting cars instead of boring, normal rentals; you can sign up for Turo using this link and get $25 off your first rental. Turo gives me a budget to rent cool cars, and I wanted to check out the Z06 before the ZR1 arrived and rained on its parade. So I did: I rented it at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, and I spent a few days driving it, and I came away shocked at its existence.
Shocked in a good way. The Z06 is monstrously, incredibly, indescribably fast. Whenever I get into a $200,000 exotic car and it’s this fast, there’s always some component of me that isn’t surprised in the slightest, because of course a McLaren is going to be really fast. The Z06 is different: You expect it to be fast, but really it’s incredibly fast; as fast as everything that costs three times as much as it does. Its speed is impressive — and almost scary, in fact, given how reasonably affordable it is.
Of course, it also sounds amazing; the Z06 has that wonderful exhaust note you can only get from a gigantic, fuel-burning, rumbling V8; in this case it’s a supercharged V8 that makes a whopping 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. It just goads you into going faster, and that’s very easy to do, since all you have to do is drop your foot and you’re in the next dimension of speed.
Handling, too, is impressive. The Z06 isn’t quite as sharp as the top exotic cars — but for $80,000, that’s forgivable. Plus, it’s really close, delivering impressive stability and balance in corners, along with a predictable steering feel with no vagueness and excellent precision. As I said, it’s no exotic supercar in terms of most of that stuff — especially since most exotics have midengine designs, which improves their balance — but it’s hardly one-third of the car that, say, a McLaren 650S is, even though it’s one-third of the price.
Or is it? The main problem with the Z06, to me, is how common it is. You can put down all the amazing numbers you want — but at the end of the day, a base-level Corvette still starts at $56,000. When you’re selling a car at that price point, it doesn’t matter how you dress it up or what kind of engine you’re putting in the nice version: It’s still just a sports car, never a supercar. A “supercar” isn’t just about performance — it’s also about rarity, specialness, the chance you won’t see another one driving around for a while. Given that Chevy built something like 14,000 Z06 models in 2016 alone, it just doesn’t fit into the “supercar” world.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t embarrass supercars at the racetrack — and it surely can. It also feels a lot like a supercar, with a harsh ride, and a low ground clearance where you always have to worry about scraping everything, and some weird interior quirks I’ve covered in the video above. But to me, you can have all the objective facts you want, and it doesn’t change the subjective reality that the Z06 just isn’t quite special enough to be a supercar.
But it is a sports car with supercar numbers. And that, in itself, is pretty special: Even if the Z06 doesn’t quite make it into the upper echelon of automotive terminology, it’s faster than a lot of the cars that do. And it’s a lot cheaper.
Also published on Medium.