Saying sports car enthusiasts are excited for the C8 Corvette Z06 is a bit like saying kids enjoy Halloween candy. It’s true, but it’s also a significant understatement. The 2023 Z06 is shaping up to be a full-on American supercar, not just a track-ready sports car. And this high-powered Corvette does so without supercharged benefits. But why did Chevy decide to ditch the blower for the mid-engine generation? As it happens, tradition—as well as performance and spectacle.
Only one Corvette Z06 was supercharged from the factory
While there’s no shortage of shops that offer supercharged Corvette builds, only one Z06 offered it from the OEM. That’s the 2015-2019 C7 Corvette Z06. While the standard C7 had a 450-hp 6.2-liter LT1 V8, the Z06’s 6.2-liter LT4 made 650 hp. That’s more powerful than the 205-mph C6 Corvette ZR1, by the way.
On paper, the idea of a supercharged Corvette Z06 seems sound. Even with a convertible top and manual transmission, the C7 Z06 goes 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds, Car and Driver reports. An automatic coupe can do it in three seconds flat. True, Callaway’s turbocharged Corvettes offered similar horsepower and acceleration figures. But superchargers don’t need to spool up like turbochargers to help engines make massive power. So, even light accelerator prodding can summon expletive-inducing acceleration, Car and Driver notes.
However, as wild as the supercharged C7 Corvette Z06 is, it wasn’t without its flaws. Firstly, supercharging any car requires cooling and air-intake upgrades. And uh, let’s just say C7 Z06s are more than a tad prone to overheating. Secondly, that LT4 also sent 650 lb-ft of torque exclusively to the rear wheels. The C7 Z06 didn’t have “any evil handling characteristics,” Car and Driver says, but it was “inherently traction challenged.”
Arguably more importantly, though, was what supercharging meant to the Corvette Z06 formula. The original Z06, the Gulf One, was a straight-up race car. And its first two ‘modern’ Z06s, the C5 and the C6, embraced that tradition with low curb weights, track-inspired features, and rev-happy naturally-aspirated V8s. So, in some ways, the supercharged C7 Corvette Z06 felt too far removed from this heritage.
The C8 Corvette Z06 doesn’t need a supercharger when it’s got a naturally-aspirated flat-plane V8 like the LT6
Now, there’s nothing wrong with forced induction, especially if performance is the goal. But when Chevrolet engineers bought a Ferrari 458 during C8 Corvette Z06 development, they didn’t just have performance in mind. They were “chasing an experience, not just a lap time,” Car and Driver explains. And from the sounds of things, they got what they were chasing.
The 5.5-liter LT6 V8 in the C8 Corvette Z06 isn’t just a flat-plane-crank V8. With 670 hp on tap, it’s not only more powerful than the old LT4—it’s the most powerful NA production engine ever. And some of its features are more familiar to motorcycles than cars. The C8 Z06 has more radiators than the C7, too, as well as a larger intake manifold. So, overheating should be a thing of the past, The Drive reports. Plus, the C8 Corvette Z06 redlines at 8600 rpm, accompanied by a brilliant shriek.
So, who needs a supercharger?
You can still buy the C7 Z06’s supercharged V8 in a brand-new car
If you do want the warbling whine of a supercharged Corvette V8, though, you can still get it. And not just in a used C7 Z06, but in a new car: the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing. This RWD luxury super sports sedan has the same LT4 V8 as the C7 Z06.
Well, it’s nearly the same. For one, it makes 18 more horsepower and nine more lb-ft of torque in the Blackwing. Also, it has a more efficient intercooler and a new supercharger lid. And because it’s in a sedan, not a coupe, the Blackwing’s engine has more radiators. Combined with the car’s bigger grille, these upgrades have seemingly eliminated the overheating problems.
Also, supercharged luxury cars have a longer established history than Corvettes. If you have the right engine, the ‘Vette does just fine without a blower.
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