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2023 C8 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Chicago Auto Show article highlights:

  • Chevrolet brought two C8 Corvette Z06s—a coupe and a convertible—to the 2022 Chicago Auto Show
  • The show offers attendees a chance to pore over these mid-engine super sports cars’ exterior and interior designs, as well as their engines
  • While some of the differences between the Z06 and Corvette Stingray are easy to spot, others require a careful look

Displays and concepts may come and go, but the thrill of seeing exotic machines at a car show never fades. And automakers brought several of these thrills to the 2022 Chicago Auto Show. Ford unveiled the GT Alan Mann Heritage Edition, while local dealers filled Supercar Alley with multiple denizens. But my attention was drawn even more to the attainable exotica parked roughly between them: the 2023 C8 Corvette Z06.

Even without carbon fiber, the 2023 Corvette Z06 stands apart from the regular C8 Corvette

Chevrolet brought two C8 Corvette Z06 models to the Chicago Auto Show: a Targa-topped coupe and a convertible. These Z06s had some differences besides their roof choices, though. The convertible Z06 came with the Z07 Performance Package, which adds Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, some chassis upgrades, and a plethora of carbon fiber. Namely, the wheels, front dive planes, front splitter, rear diffuser, underbody aero elements, and sharply-contoured wing.

Compared to the Z07-equipped convertible, the C8 Corvette Z06 3LZ coupe is significantly tamer. And at first glance, it looks more like the stock Corvette displayed nearby. However, upon closer inspection, several things stand out.

For one, the Z06 has bigger wheels because it has bigger brake rotors than the standard ‘Vette. Those bigger wheels are also wrapped in wider tires, which in turn require bigger fenders. In addition, the C8 Corvette Z06 has different front fascia and vent designs as well as more radiators, for reasons we’ll discuss shortly. Plus, it has a different exhaust layout and a standard electronic limited-slip differential. And while the 3LZ doesn’t have the Z07’s carbon-fiber aero, it does have a functional front splitter and rear spoiler.

Some of the biggest changes Chevrolet made to the C8 Corvette Z06 are hidden, though. Firstly, the standard MagneRide dampers have new springs that are so stiff, they need helper springs to keep high-load jostling in check, Road & Track explains. Those helper springs are a Corvette first, as upper ‘slipper bushings’ in the suspension components. And besides the springs and bushings, the C8 Z06 has stiffer powertrain mounts, too; again, for reasons.

Also, remember how the Civic Type R Limited Edition had different suspension software to maximize its lighter wheels’ benefits? Well, Chevrolet does the same thing with Z07-equipped Z06s’ dampers, because the carbon-fiber wheels drop 41 pounds of unsprung weight.

And then there’s the crown jewel of an engine.

The Chicago Auto Show cutaways show how deeply different the LT6 and LT2 V8s are

2023 C8 Chevrolet Corvette Z062022 C8 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Engine5.5-liter ‘LT6’ V86.2-liter ‘LT2’ V8
Horsepower670 hp490 hp
Torque460 lb-ft465 lb-ft
0-60 mph time2.6 seconds2.8 seconds

Both the regular C8 Chevrolet Corvette and Corvette Z06 have mid-mounted V8s. But the only other things the LT6 and LT2 share are bore-center dimensions, R&T reports. And that becomes abundantly clear once you look at the two side-by-side.

For starters, there’s the LT6’s flat-plane crank, which gives a Ferrari-like shriek amplified by the redesigned exhaust system. Then there’s its distinct piston designs, motorcycle-like valve lifters, dual intake plenums and throttle bodies, titanium connecting rods, and C4 ZR1-esque dual-overhead cams. And because flat-plane engines have a built-in tendency to shake themselves apart, the C8 Corvette Z06 has a stronger transmission casing and upgraded oil pump. Plus, the LT6 swaps the LT2’s port fuel injection for direct injection. The Z06 has a shorter final drive ratio, too, for better acceleration.

Also, while the Z06’s exhaust tips aren’t technically connected to the pipes, they’re not ‘fake’ per se. They let the occupants bask in the noise more by reflecting sound into the cabin. And in doing so, the Z06 eschews electronic means of engine-note amplification.

It also helps that the most powerful naturally-aspirated production engine is intriguing to look at. It’s a cliché at this point, but the whole watch movement analogy feels appropriate here.

On the inside, the Z06 is mostly identical to the standard C8 Corvette

Although the 2023 C8 Corvette Z06 is wildly different from the regular car on the outside and under the skin, their interiors are fairly similar.

Both C8 Corvette models have digital dashes, numerous buttons angled towards the driver, and heads-up displays. Like the regular Corvette, the Z06 offers multiple sport seat options, which also feature heating and ventilation. However, it does get two kinds of carbon-fiber trim packages, which include a carbon-fiber steering wheel and paddle shifters. And as with the standard C8, Chevrolet offers the Z06 with a variety of interior, exterior, and brake-caliper color options.

There is one big difference between these two, though. While the standard C8 Chevrolet Corvette redlines at 6600 rpm, the Z06 redlines at 8600 rpm.

When will the new Z06 face its supercar rivals?

Admittedly, Chevrolet calls the two C8 Corvette Z06s at the Chicago Auto Show ‘prototypes,’ but they’re essentially production-ready. And they should arrive in dealerships by summer 2022 as 2023 models.

So far, the only person outside of GM that’s gotten serious seat time is Jay Leno. But based on his impressions, the C8 Z06 is just as cool to drive as it is to look at. And hopefully, the lucky owners who take delivery will drive these machines enough to make them feel a little less rarified.

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