You can’t help but expect to hear the mellifluous woofle of a conventional ‘small-block’ V8 in a Corvette, but the new Z06’s engine greets you differently. In place of all that typical burbling soul, it has that industrious, smooth but tonally homogenous idle that all flat-plane-crank V8s seem to adopt. After listening for a second, blip the accelerator to see what awaits you, though, and you’ll unearth the whip-crack response and crisp, manic appetite for revs that instantly justify the LT6’s place.
Let it pull from lowish revs with a mid-pack intermediate ratio locked in and you’ll find that little very dramatic happens below 4000rpm. But from that point, the Z06’s noise and potency start to really gather.
This engine has a pretty linear and progressive style of delivery. If you’re somewhere suited to bigger speeds and can let it spin to 6000rpm and beyond, though, you’ll notice the V8 suddenly finding some extra legs (the effect of which you can see in our in-gear acceleration figures). It’s not quite dramatic enough to feel like a Honda VTEC kick, but it’s a noticeable characteristic even so.
Until that point, the V8 sounds a little like some gigantic, extraterrestrial trombone, but over the last 2500rpm to the 8600rpm redline, it reveals a howling metallic effervescence to rival anything from Maranello or Weissach – and the all-out fury to go with it, too.
If outright pace is the measure of the Z06’s success, then it’s made real strides. The car’s launch control system was a little dependent on warm Cup 2 R tyres on our test day, and dry asphalt with plenty of grip to yield. But given both, it sent the car to 60mph from rest in just 3.1sec, to 100mph in 6.8sec and over a standing quarter mile in 11.2sec – figures that a current 911 GT3 PDK couldn’t live with, although, among rivals with forced induction and/or hybrid assistance, a 911 Turbo S would monster, as would a McLaren 720S or Ferrari 296 GTB.
In normal driving, the Z06’s wide selection of driving modes adds complication to the driving experience that some testers would have preferred to be without. Although it has ‘custom’ settings, it doesn’t quite let you tailor and refine the ride, steering and powertrain calibrations as finely as you’d like to, so you find yourself switching settings frequently. It’s a bit of a distraction, but nothing irksome.
Although they can squeal after hard use, the carbon brakes have manageable bite and progression, and the dual-clutch gearbox’s shifts are mostly fast and positive when you want them to be. But it’s the V8 you come back for – and its blend of potency, urgency, razor-sharp edge and buzzing mechanical charm would be endlessly captivating.
The Corvette Z06 would be much better suited to a wide, fast, flowing circuit like Silverstone or Laguna Seca than the tightish confines of the Millbrook Alpine Hill Route. Even so, it showed really distinguishing pace and handling precision around tighter bends, huge grip and uncompromising body control.
The stiffly held chassis feels like an ideal platform for fast circuit work on smooth surfaces. After a usefully progressive turn-in, it maintains great adhesion and tenacious steering, allowing you to carry lots of speed without running wide. The dampers work the tyres very evenly, and the electronic stability aids allow you to accelerate away from apices with total confidence.
Switch those aids off and the car’s heavily weighted rear axle, with its 13in-wide rear tyres, can break away predictably quickly if you provoke it. It can take fast hands to quell oversteer, though the car remains controllable and predictable enough on the limit.