DETROIT – General Motors on Tuesday unveiled a new high-performance Z06 version of its famed American sports car that brings it back to its roots.
The 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 – an important track-focused model – will be powered by a new 5.5-liter V-8 naturally aspirated engine with 670 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It’s the most powerful engine of its kind in any production car, according to GM.
It’s a return to normal for ‘Vette enthusiasts. The previous Z06, which was last produced for the 2019 model-year, was the only in its history – dating back to 1963 – to feature a V-8 engine with a supercharger. The supercharger pumps up performance of an engine but is heavier and can be viewed as a shortcut to boosting power.
“We didn’t think we could go any farther regarding naturally aspirated, which is when we did the supercharged,” Tadge Juechter, Corvette executive chief engineer, told CNBC. “But this time we started with a blank sheet of paper. This car is more blank sheet of paper than we’ve ever done for a Z06.”
Officials declined to release specific pricing but said it would be comparable to the 44% premium between the last-generation Z06 and the base model. That would put the starting price at about $86,400.
The 2023 Corvette Z06 is expected to begin production next summer at GM’s Bowling Green Assembly plant, according to GM.
‘Defines the American supercar’
The new Z06, including a hardtop convertible version, is wider than the current mid-engine Corvette Stingray and features a freshened exterior that includes larger grilles for air circulation as well as wider wheels. Additional packages to increase aerodynamics and track performance also will be available.
“The new Corvette Z06 defines the American supercar,” GM President Mark Reuss said in a statement. “It builds on the distinctive design and groundbreaking dynamics introduced with the mid-engine Corvette and elevates them to deliver refined but uncompromising track capability with world-class performance.”
The car is expected to achieve 0-60 mph in as fast as 2.6 seconds, making it the fastest Corvette to date. That’s comparable to other supercars that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars from Lamborghini and others, but slower than some Tesla all-electric cars such as the Model S Plaid at under two seconds.
The company said other details about the Z06 such as top speed and fuel economy will be released closer to the car going on sale.
Sales of Z06 models hit as much as 30% of Corvette’s sales, according to Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. He said he expects that to continue, if not be higher, with the new version.
“There’s just a couple things in our portfolio that you can, to use an overused term, you can ‘lean into’ and really be magnets for the brand. And Z06 is certainly one of them,” he told CNBC.
GM unveiled the 2023 Corvette Z06 online Tuesday before an ad for the car is scheduled to air during the first game of the World Series later in the day.
This is the fifth generation of the Z06. It is the first Z06 since GM debuted the Corvette as a mid-engine car in 2019. Before then, the engine was located under the front hood.
Finale before electric Corvette?
GM plans to become an all-electric automaker by 2035, ending production of light-duty trucks and cars with internal combustion engines, which would include the Corvette.
While GM has said little to nothing to confirm an electric Corvette, rumors and reports about the vehicle – potentially a electrified hybrid named E-Ray – have been swirling for years. Most notably, President Joe Biden has at least twice said he’s been told an electric version of the sports car is coming.
When asked about an electric Corvette, Juechter said “only the future will tell.” He later said that he’s “pretty sure” the company is reaching the limits of a V-8 engine and that the Z06 could be the coup de grace for the traditional gasoline-powered car.
“Nobody’s investing in this space anymore,” he told CNBC. “We’re bucking the trend here. I don’t know how long we’ll do it, but we’re happy to be doing it right now.”
Auto forecasters expect at least one hybrid version of the Corvette ahead of an electric version of the car and potentially an electric Corvette SUV as early as 2025. AutoForecastSolutions expects a hybrid variant as early as the 2023 model-year, while LMC Automotive expects an all-electric Corvette crossover SUV in mid-to-late 2025.