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Chevrolet Corvette C8 Z06 hype is through the roof, and why not? Not only is the C8 the first mid-engine Corvette, but the Z06 produces a record 670 naturally-aspirated horsepower with a flat-plane crankshaft. It has the makings of a Ferrari at just $85,000 MSRP. However, we know that sometimes things don’t pan out in real life the way they do on paper. Thankfully Jay Leno has answered that question for us, that is, how well does the Chevrolet Corvette C8 Z06 actually drive? A short test run with Leno in the driver’s seat centers on a few aspects of how the car drives on the streets.

Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06 offers superb balance

With Z06 Lead Development Engineer Aaron Link on the passenger side, Jay Leno drove the prototype Z06 through the streets of Burbank before venturing into the hills. While steering the Z06, Leno makes a point that the car feels like it’s turning from the center rather than the front, which may have been the case with previous Corvette generations. It makes sense considering the engine’s placement between the front seats and the rear axle. 

A mid-engine placement provides the best balance at the expense of cabin space. By adopting a mid-engine configuration, engineers can evenly distribute weight to the front and rear ends, equalizing traction on all four tires. It’s less prone to under and oversteer as opposed to front-engine and rear-engine configurations.

The most powerful naturally aspirated V8 ever made

Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06 Engine
Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06 Engine | Jay Leno’s Garage

Another aspect of the Corvette that Jay Leno and Aaron Link touched on was its engine. The Z06 uses a bespoke 5.5-liter V8 with 670 horsepower, making it the most powerful naturally aspirated production V8 ever. American V8s traditionally use cross-plane crankshafts, which use counterweights for a more balanced assembly. The result is a smooth engine that’s quite heavy yet can’t rev very high. The C8 Z06 uses a flat-plane crankshaft, which doesn’t use counterweights and thus is lighter and revs higher. Leno hits the gas in a straightaway, unable to escape the noise and power of the V8. 

Carbon fiber wheels allow the Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06 astounding acceleration

Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06 wheel
Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06 wheel | Jay Leno’s Garage

Leno and Link also talked about the wheels. Customers can choose carbon fiber wheels for their Chevrolet Corvette C8 Z06. Each wheel saves about 10 pounds of unsprung mass, which allows the car to respond quicker in the corners with more agility. Reducing unsprung mass allows the suspension a little more breathing room, which helps keep traction more consistent. The only drawback of carbon fiber wheels is they can be expensive to replace. When Leno steps on the gas, you can see the car’s effortless acceleration; no doubt helped along by its carbon fiber wheels. 

Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06 vs. everything else

Jay Leno driving the Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06
Jay Leno driving the Chevrolet C8 Corvette Z06 | Jay Leno’s Garage

The Corvette C8 Z06 uses a mid-mounted flat-plane crankshaft V8 which also happens to be the most powerful naturally aspirated production V8 ever made atop carbon fiber wheels. These are all features of supercars that cost anywhere between $300,000-$2 million. The Corvette manages to incorporate all of them in a package that costs less than $100,000. Leno reminisced that carbon fiber wheels used to cost $20,000 each, which add up to about half of the C8 Z06’s MSRP, so hats off to GM for keeping the price down. As good as it sounds now, we simply won’t know just how good the C8 Z06 is until Chevrolet releases it in places like the Nurburgring and Laguna Seca. 


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