The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06: The first true American supercar

There are a few monumental moments in American history: signing of the declaration of independence, the moon landing, and the unveiling of the 2015 Corvette Z06 here in Detroit.

If you think I am overselling this debut, you might be right. If you have even a modicum of American pride pumping through your veins, you might well agree with me. Honestly, the now-unveiled Z06 is already a thing of legend and stamp on the history books.

First-look video

Highlights

Let’s start with the highlights – and one I think perfectly encapsulates the adroitness of the Z06. When fitted with the Z07 package, the Z06 – even during preliminary testing – has already recorded some of the fastest lap times ever for a Corvette, surpassing even the last-gen $100,000 Corvette ZR1. Let that sink in for a second.

How has it bested its older brother? It’s the first Z06 model to offer a supercharger. That’s right; under that long, shapely hood, Chevy wedged the all-new 6.2-liter LT4 V8 that makes over 625 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque. Backing that up is either a seven-speed manual or an all-new eight-speed automatic developed in-house by Chevrolet. To top it all off, the Z06 grips the road like never before thanks to its downforce-inducing body.

And oh what a body it is. Look at the damn thing. With that massive carbon fiber splitter, it looks like evil incarnate. I joked when we saw a teaser image of the Z06 that it was slathered in ‘combat yellow’ paint. Seeing the Z06 in its full livery is truly awe-inspiring. I’d say that, even with that yellow paint, the Z06 looks less combative than it does ominous. It draws you in with its razor-edge beauty but makes you a bit nervous for what’s in store for you behind the wheel.

Muscle to the nth degree

Chevrolet has made supercharged pushrod V8s for decades. None, however, is like the all-new 6.2-liter LT4.

Engineers were able to fit the supercharger and intercooler down into the valley of the motor, making it only about an inch (25 mm) taller than the standard, naturally aspirated LT1 V8 that powers the Stingray. Amazingly, for as compact as it is, the LT4 makes 37 percent more horsepower and 40 percent more torque than the LT1.

Engineers didn’t just get tricky with the supercharger packaging; they also added cylinder deactivation (one of the only supercharged V8s on the planet to receive such fuel-saving tech), direct injection, and variable valve timing. The result is a hunk of American aluminum built in Tonawanda, New York that makes at least 625 hp and 635 lb-ft.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 front left macro

Sending that power to the rear wheels is the standard seven-speed manual or the all-new 8L90 eight-speed automatic, which, as I mentioned before, was designed in-house by Chevrolet. Shifted manually with paddles behind the steering wheel, owners can enjoy the comfort of an auto without sacrificing the sportiness of on-demand shifting.

Why did Chevy take on the challenge of making its own transmission? Simply, it couldn’t find an automatic that could handle the torque put out by the LT4 while also offering high-speed shifts. What does that look like in the real world, exactly? The 8L90 shifts up to eight-hundredths of a second faster at full throttle than the seven-speed dual clutch transmission in the new Porsche 911. When was the last time you thought you’d ever read about a Chevy out-doing a Porsche for precision?

Don’t think those are all the benefits offered by the 8L90. No, it also weighs eight pounds less than a six-speed automatic. Astonishing.

Downforce

You know how some brand names become synonymous with a concept? Think about it, we don’t call them tissues; we call them Kleenex, which is a brand name.

That same way, I think we ought to just start calling ‘downforce’ simply ‘Z07’. When the Z06 is fitted with the Z07 performance pack, it pushes the Michelin Sport Cup tires so feverishly into the pavement at high speed; it’s likely to tear up most track tarmac.

When fitted with the Z07 package, which includes a carbon fiber front splitter with extended winglets and a see-through rear spoiler, the Z06 produces “the most amount of aerodynamic downforce of any production car that GM has tested.”

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 steering wheel macro

In addition to the new front splitter and winglets, the Z06 also features a distinctive front fascia with a new mesh grille that not only looks menacing but also improves airflow over a blank opening. The Z06 designers explained this phenomenon to me like this: “It’s like the aerator on your faucet. Without it, water would just go every which way. Give it that disruption, and you can route it more efficiently.”

It’s not just the front that’s been embiggened, the sides and rear-end of the Z06 are wider, too. The front wheel arches are 2.2 inches wider in the front and 3.15 inches winder in the rear. Designers stretched the rear fascia out to match, making the distinctive square taillights three inches further apart than they are on the Stingray.

Stiff, open-top motoring

With the last Z06, buyers had to forgo open-top motoring in order to enjoy a rigid body structure. In the 2015 Z06, they won’t have to. Just like the Stingray, the Z06 will have a removable hardtop roof. Pop it out and the all-new Z06 will be an admirable 20 percent stiffer than the last-gen, fixed-roof model. Click the roof back I, though, and the new Z06 will be 60 percent stiffer than its processor. The C7 Corvette chassis is so firm and planted; it remained virtually unchanged in the C7.R racecar.

American supercar

I hope you now agree with me that the 2015 Corvette Z06 is not only an awe-inspiring Corvette, it’s carbon fiber nose to carbon fiber nose with a number of European supercars that cost three times as much money. Think McLaren MP4-12C.

Ultimately, though, I can’t give my final diagnosis on the Z06 until I’ve driven it, which I hope will be later this year, as the 2015 Z06 goes on sale in late 2014.

What do you think of the Z06? Tell us in the comments.

Want to know what else is debuting? Make sure to check out our 2014 Detroit Auto Show for full details.

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