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What’s this? This is the Z06 version of the new C7 Corvette Stingray, which was Top Gear’s Not the Muscle Car of the Year 2014. If that info doesn’t immediately tell you that you are in the near presence of greatness, here is your one sentence primer. Z06 is an internal code used by Chevy to denote a ‘Vette that has been substantially upgraded in every way to make it perform better than the standard car. In previous generations of Vette, it has meant a substantial power upgrade, better brakes, tyres… that kind of thing. It’s always been a useful upgrade. For this generation, though, GM has gone completely, stark-staring mad. Mad good or mad bad? Good. Very good. Instead of just making a breathed on version of the C7 - the normal route for the Z06 - Chevy’s engineers have used the previously range-topping supercharged ZR1 as the benchmark for this new car. So it’s not a bit better than the old one, it’s in a different class altogether.
Let’s start with the engine. It shares its block with the LT1 lump but everything else above that in this 6.2-litre LT4 engine is new. And that includes a supercharger which is now a little smaller but spins 25 per cent faster than the ZR1’s, to improve throttle response. Max power is 650bhp and max torque is rated at 650lb ft. That’s roughly 200bhp and 200lb ft more than the standard C7. What about the chassis? Plenty to love here, too. To get the power down, the Z06 is fitted with much wider and stickier Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres rolling on lighter weight 19-inch (front) and 20-inch (rear) wheels . This has pushed the bodywork at the front and rear 56mm and 80mm wider respectively. So it looks impossibly low and mean now. What adds to this effect is the standard aero equipment, which includes a front splitter, a larger vent in the bonnet and the rear spoiler borrowed from the Z51’s Performance Package. Brakes are the de rigeur Brembo steel saucepan lids. Any options I should know about? Yes. The Z06 is available with three different levels of aero. This standard set up (stage 1), this plus an optional aero package (stage 2), which uses carbon for all the aero bits including a larger rear spoiler and front winglets. And then there’s the full-house Z07 package, which adds bigger winglets and an adjustable clear centre section for the rear spoiler. On top of this, the Z07 package also includes bigger carbon ceramic brakes and almost tread-free Sport Cup 2 tyres. What’s it like to drive? In the same way the standard C7 immediately feels a world better than the C6, the Z06 feels a similarly and instantly vast improvement over the standard car. The speeds you can achieve on the track are scarcely believable. On Road Atlanta’s back straight there is a right-handed blind kink. In the standard C7 you can, if you swallow hard enough, take this at around 140mph. In the Z06, you can hit it at 155mph and still have plenty of time to brake before the chicane. So you can really feel the aero? On the base Z06 you can a bit, but when you step up to the Z07 it feels like a proper race car. You have to go through the learning process for a couple of laps, but once you’ve tried it once and felt the car sucker into the track, you can go utterly beserk. Is it better than a Porsche, Ferrari or McLaren? Think it’s fair to say it’s going to crush anything less than a 918, P1 or LaFerrari. Its combination of relentless power, unshakeable chassis - with all its clever technology that works with you - and vast brakes is unbeatable at the moment. And that’s just on the track. On the road, it’s just as much fun. Dial back the chassis, flip off the roof panel - a first for all Z06s - and it’ll cruise along in comfort. It’s available with an eight-speed automatic or the seven-speed manual, now with uprated rev matching (this is being implemented across the whole Corvette range) that now makes it properly seamless. Should I buy one? Considering it starts at just $78,000 and rises to just over $100k for the Z07 with every box ticked, this is the performance car bargain of 2015. Which is why it’s already sold out. If you can get your name on the list for 2016, we suggest you do it now. Thrills don’t come any better - or for better value.