It wasn’t that long ago that the Z06 was the alpha male of the Corvette wolfpack, a position that it had held for nearly a decade. From 2001 to 2009, it was the fastest and most expensive Corvette on offer. The ZR1 changed all that, launching the Corvette into six-figure and six-hundred horsepower orbit. The mighty Z06 was suddenly on the second rung.
One thing that hasn’t changed about the Z06 is its high bang-for-the-buck quotient. With a 505-horsepower engine, a race-ready chassis and a 198-mph top speed, the $74,305 Z06 offers more performance per dollar than any sports car available—ZR1 included. Despite this, Z06 sales have flagged since that supercharged Corvette debuted. Despite its lofty $112,050 price tag, the ZR1 outsells the Z06 nearly two to one. Surprised? We were, too.
In an effort to spur Z06 sales and allow customers to close the performance gap between the Z06 and ZR1, Chevrolet now offers the Z07 Performance Package. This $9,495 option includes four chassis upgrades from the ZR1, including that model’s Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, 19- and 20-inch wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires (285/30ZR19 front, 335/25ZR20 rear) and Magnetic Ride Control shock absorbers.
To close the appearance gap, as well as to improve the Z06’s aerodynamics, Chevrolet offers the $3,995 CFZ Carbon Fiber Package, which equips the Z06 with the ZR1’s carbon-fiber front splitter, rocker panels and roof (all painted black, as opposed to clear-coated on the ZR1), and also its full-width body-color rear spoiler. Combine these two packages, and you ostensibly have an LS7-powered ZR1 with a price tag that is $22K short of the 638-horsepower real deal.
You also get a car with 158 fewer pounds to propel—3,175 pounds versus 3,333. Because the ZR1’s extra mass is centered over the front axle, its weight distribution is a less than ideal 51/49 percent front/rear; a Z07/CFZ-equipped Z06 comes in right at 50/50. This trait should appeal to track-day afficionados, something Chevrolet had in mind when it decided to offer these packages.
Less money, less weight—this unique Corvette obviously has a lot going for it. Still, we wondered just how much performance the Z06 gains with the additions of these option groups. Objectively speaking, there is only one way to find out: perform a track test, which is exactly what we set out to do. Having secured a 2011 Z07/CFZ-equipped Z06 from the press fleet during the week of a Hooked On Driving track day at Thunderhill Raceway Park, we started trolling for a ZR1. Thanks to Hooked On Driving’s head honcho David Ray, we found a ZR1 owner who was already planning to bring his car out to the Willows, California circuit for the one-day event in November. A track-day regular and an experienced vintage racer—he raced a ’54 Corvette for years—Richard Ravel needed little convincing. True to form, his only proviso was that we leave him with enough track time. No sweat, Richard!
With its Supersonic Blue Metallic exterior paint, Competition Gray 20-spoke wheels, dark gray brake calipers and black roof panel, our Z06 test car was a model of visual restraint. Make no mistake, the model’s aggressive stance, ultra-wide tires and race-ready front spoiler make its sporting intent clear. Let’s just say it makes this statement a bit more gently than a brightly colored Z06, which we find intriguing. It was easily the best-looking C6 that has graced our office parking lot.