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Camaro Z/28 vs. Corvette Z06 vs. Callaway Stingray vs. Supercharged 1LE

Spoiler, Everyone Wins

Elana Scherr Aug 5, 2015
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Versus, versus, versus—there are more automotive “This vs. Thats” floating around the Internet than on the docket for Judge Judy. We love a good matchup, but when it comes to buying advice, are there really people out there trying to decide between a Z07 Corvette and a Nissan GTR? Between a Camaro and Porsche? We don’t think so. If you’re a Chevy guy, you know you want something wearing a bowtie, so your big question isn’t Z/28 or 911, it’s Camaro or Corvette, and then, buy it or build it?

To help you with this difficult decision, we parked all our leaky projects and spent a month driving a fab foursome of stock and modified new muscle. We commuted, we road-tripped, we dyno-tested, we drag-stripped, we road-coursed, and we bonded with fellow car guys and gals at a local cruise-in. Which car is best? We’ll let you decide.


2015 Corvette Z06

Cost as tested: $94,620
Engine: 6.2L Supercharged LT4
Transmission: Seven-speed manual Tremec TR-6070
Rear gears: 3.42:1
Brakes: 14.6-inch iron rotors (front); aluminum six-piston monoblock fixed calipers, aluminum four-piston rear calipers, custom yellow calipers
Wheels: Aluminum 19x10-inch (front); 20x12-inch (rear)
Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat P285/30ZR19 (front); P335/25ZR20 (rear)
Rated hp/torque (at crank): 650 hp/650 lb-ft
Tested hp/torque: 574 hp/612 lb-ft
Lap time Big Willow: 1 minute, 30.57 seconds
Weight: 3,541 pounds


2015 Callaway Corvette Stingray

Cost as tested: $92,590
Engine: 6.2L LT1
Transmission: Seven-speed manual Tremec TR-6070
Rear gears: 3.42:1
Brakes: 12.6-inch iron rotors (front); aluminum four-piston front and rear calipers
Wheels: Callaway nine-spoke wheel, matte black 19x9 (front); 20x10.5 (rear)
Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP 245/35ZR19 (front); 285/30ZR20 (rear)
Shifter: Billet short-throw shifter
Rated hp/torque (at crank): 627 hp/610 lb-ft
Tested hp/torque(at wheels): 511 hp/480 lb-ft
Lap time Big Willow: We didn’t track test the Callaway, but Motor Trend did, and saw lap times very close to a Z/28 tested the same day.
Weight: 3,539 pounds


2014 Camaro Z/28

Cost as tested: $85,000
Engine: 7.0L LS7
Transmission: Six-speed manual Tremec TR-6060
Rear gears: 3.91:1
Brakes: 15-inch Brembo carbon ceramic, six-piston front/four-piston rear calipers
Wheels: Aluminum 19x11 (front); 19x11.5 (rear)
Tires: Pirelli PZero Trofeo 305/30R19
Rated hp/torque (at crank): 505 hp/470 lb-ft
Tested hp/torque (rear wheels): 438 hp/420 lb-ft
Lap time Big Willow: 1 minute, 32.44 seconds
Weight: 3,820 pounds (non-air-conditioning car)


Lingenfelter/Magnuson 2014 Supercharged Camaro 1LE

Cost as tested: $51,000
Engine: 6.2L LS3 with Magnuson supercharger
Transmission: Six-speed manual Tremec TR-6060
Rear gears: 3.91:1
Brakes: Brembo 14-inch iron rotors, four-piston front/four-piston rear calipers
Wheels: Forged aluminum ZL1 20x10 (front); 20x11 (rear)
Tires: BF Goodrich Rivals 285/35R20
Shifter: ZL1 six-speed
Rated hp/torque (at crank, stock): 426 hp/420 lb-ft
Tested hp/torque (at rear wheels, supercharged): 525 hp/450 lb-ft
Lap time Big Willow: 1 minute, 34.47 seconds
Weight: 3,860 pounds

2015 Corvette Z06
Warning: The 2015 Corvette Z06 will make you a bad person. At first, we thought it was just us, already prone to excessive street speed and impatience in traffic. When we mentioned it to fellow staffer Brandan Gillogly—as we used the Vette to transport his Pontiac rotating assembly to the machine shop—the conversation went like this:

Elana: (after um, vigorous acceleration) "Somehow I always seem to drive like an a**hole whenever I have heavy engine parts in the trunk."

Brandan: "You always drive like an a**hole. You only notice when there are heavy engine parts in the trunk."

Fair enough, Brandan, but when he took the wheel the next morning, our normally easy-going commute into work became a road-raging, high-g-turning death race. He was yelling at people, revving the engine in anger, passing people in the turn lane, and we were in full support, because do they not see what we’re driving? Do they not know who we are? When EIC David Kennedy got his turn in the car, we asked if he’d noticed any change in his driving style. “Oh yeah,” he said immediately, “It turns you into a shark.”

The reason the Z06 has this effect is because it makes the driving experience effortless. In the captain’s chair, bolstered literally by leather and figuratively by miraculous handling, even the most mediocre driver feels capable of lightning-fast maneuvers just inches away from fellow drivers. This sense of control is accentuated by a level of comfort almost absurd for a 650hp sportscar. The clutch isn’t stiff, the visibility is good, the exhaust is quiet until you stomp it, and if the suspension is riding rough over the expansion joints, you can just dial it down from Sport to Touring and float over the potholes like a hovercar. The hardest part about driving a Z06 is remembering not to ram the front splitter into parking blocks, a problem Kennedy solved by simply backing in to every parking space. Why not? It has a back-up camera. If there’s a downside to driving the Z06 every day, it’s that its various driver assists would eventually reduce you to a blob of jelly, incapable of downshifting without rev-match or parallel parking without sensors and helpful warning chimes. We risked that fate for you, though, with two solid weeks of Z06 daily driving.


Any car we own has got to do double duty as a parts hauler, and the C7 Corvette proved surprisingly roomy, capable of carrying an Eagle stroker kit for a 461ci Pontiac or a full load of groceries. In what we hear is a long-standing Corvette tradition, the decklid did require a firm hand to close, and in most cases, multiple attempts.


Dyno runs in new cars are tricky, requiring a thorough knowledge of the various modes and traction nannies—so you can turn them all off. Eddie Rios at Addiction Motorsports put the Z06 in Track mode, then held the traction-control button for 10 seconds until all the Performance Traction Management (PTM) was off. Then he revved it up and recorded 570hp at the rear wheels..


Maybe this is where Kennedy decided that the car makes you a shark. Certainly it looks menacing spraying a roostertail of sand.


We had high hopes for the Z06 on the dragstrip, as Chevrolet advertises it as capable of low 11-second quarter-miles. We only had access to our local Thursday grudge night at the Irwindale Speedway eighth-mile track, but we expected to see low- to mid-7s. After the first burnout, the car started pulling power, giving us a dead spot just after launch and resulting in a disappointing 8.59 at 93 mph. A second pass had the same result and lit the check-engine light. A scanner showed us code P0503, “Vehicle Speed Sensor A Intermittent, Erratic, or High.” Convinced that it wasn’t in danger of blowing up, but also that it wasn’t going to run the number that night, we limped it home. Note that reduced power in a Z06 Corvette is still plenty fast enough to get you in trouble. The light was off the next day and everything was back to normal. We checked in with Chevrolet and Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter explained that we had probably triggered the code during the burnout. “It typically occurs when the driver breaks traction in Second or Third gear, and then quickly pushes in the clutch.” The ECM reads that rapid change in tire speed as a sensor fail and goes into a safety mode. After a few on/off cycles, the car realizes it made a mistake and goes back to normal. This is what happened to us, although it took more than a few cycles before the light turned off and we got full power back. Juechter says there is an updated calibration that should prevent the issue for customers. If we had driven the car around a bit and turned it on and off a few more times, we might have been able to keep racing that night. Oh well, our mistake is your knowledge gain.


Testdriver Kevin Wesley took his first-ever lap around the 2.5-mile Big Willow course at Willow Springs International Raceway in the Z06. Then he proceeded to knock second after second off his lap time as he got used to the car and the track. He had high praise for the driver position, power delivery, and handling. Complaints about the Corvette were mostly about the seats—which were the leather-covered GT buckets, rather than the tighter-fitting and less slippery competition sport seats we had in our Z07 drive (HRM, April 2015). When it came to race settings, the most obvious, Track, was deemed too rough for Willow’s textured surface. Three clicks back to Sport 1 was where Wesley made his fastest lap. The road course is where the Z06 really shines, where all the aggressive tendencies it inspires in the driver can find their outlet, and where everyone from beginners to professionals can find both challenge and satisfaction.

“The power is smooth and there’s lots of it.” — Kevin Wesley on the Corvette Z06

2014 Camaro Z/28
The last time we had a Z/28 on track, it snowed (HRM, June 2014). The weather was much kinder to us this go-round. Speaking of kind, we’d like to thank our test car’s owner, Big Red driver R.J. Gottlieb, who brought his personal 2014 Z/28 to the track, handed the keys over, and let us beat on it. Wesley had no complaints about the seats in the Camaro, declaring the Recaro race buckets and suede, flat-bottomed steering wheel, “very, very nice.” He wasn’t as complimentary about the rest of the interior, and certainly the dash is a big, featureless slab when compared with the Corvette’s carbon, silver, and leather details. But the Z/28 wasn’t designed to impress with stitchwork and inlay, it was intended to be a naturally aspirated hero on the racetrack, so every detail in its design is dedicated to consistent, fast laps. The Camaro’s 7.0L LS7 is down 145 horses compared to the supercharged LT4 in the Corvette, and Wesley missed the Z06’s instant torque, but he applauded the Z/28’s handling, declaring it very responsive with “tons and tons of grip.” The Z06 is a faster car around the track, but the Camaro’s simplicity and consistency might make it the better choice for track days.


R.J. Gottlieb has been racing his 850hp 1969 Z/28 Camaro, Big Red, since 1987. After testdriving the new Z, he bought one, and dubbed it Little Red.


With the only naturally aspirated engine in our foursome, the Z/28’s 505hp LS7 isn’t going to win the dyno races, but there’s a lot to be said for the consistency of an unblown engine.


Part of the Z/28’s magic is from its shocks, designed by Multimatic Inc. and inspired by F1 racing. Unlike the magnetic ride dampers in the Z06, the spool-valve technology in the Z/28 allows for a very specifically tunable shock—from the factory. That technology and the carbon-ceramic brakes explain much of the Z/28’s $75,000 price tag.


While the handling of any car is a system, depending on multiple components, there’s no replacement for really good rubber. The Z/28 rolls on 19x11 front, 19x11.5 rear wheels and wraps them in Pirelli PZero Trofeo 305/30R19 tires; $2,200 can get you a set of the Pirellis for your own car, assuming you have enough fender clearance to wear them.

2014 Callaway Corvette Stingray
What if your interests are horsepower-heavy, but not quite so track-focused as the Z06 or the Z/28? Perhaps you’d be interested in Callaway’s supercharged Stingray. Upping sportscar output with forced induction is old hat to Reeves Callaway, who turned a racing career into one in aftermarket horsepower when he built a turbo kit for BMWs in his garage. That was back in the 1970s, but it led to engineering and development work for race teams and production cars, including the Corvettes we now associate with the Callaway name. Callaway maintains a close relationship with Chevrolet; in fact, you can order the Callaway package at Chevy dealerships. What you can’t do is bring your already-purchased car to Callaway and ask for a tune-up. “We aren’t tuners,” Reeves told us, rather heatedly. “We don’t just get in and turn the boost up. We are engineers, and the cars are designed to work as a package.”

That package includes a supercharger, intercooler, custom tune, wheels, short-throw shifter, and a truly excellent-sounding dual-exhaust system, as well as some cosmetic touches around the interior and badging. Reeves and Pete Callway came themselves to drop off the 627hp Stingray, and by the time you see this, Callaway should also be offering its upgraded LT4-powered Z06, so consider this a teaser.


The number one question we heard while driving the Callaway was if its subtle metallic navy paint was a custom color. Nope, that’s Night Race Blue Metallic, and it’s right there on the Corvette option list. The shaker hood, now that’s all Callaway.


In order to package it under a flat hood, Chevrolet had to go with a relatively small blower on the Z06. Callaway was under no such obligations, so the Stingray boasts an Eaton TVS–based 2,300cc supercharger, with a three-intercooler design that Pete Callaway says results in air-inlet temperatures that change less than 10 degrees during heavy use, considerably less than the average supercharged car.


It took us a minute to figure out what was going on here. Get it? It’s a supercharged Stingray.


Our test car was on prototype wheels, so customers won’t be getting the semi-matte-black finish but rather a black chrome coating on their 19x9 and 20x10.5 nine-spoke rollers—a $3,890 option. No matter the finish, the custom wheels are wrapped in OE Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP tires, 245/35ZR19 and 285/30ZR20. Brakes and suspension on this car are the factory Stingray components.


Callaway has been offering upgrades to Corvettes since 1987, and when we stopped at our local Bob’s Big Boy Friday night cruise, we were surprised how many people recognized the car and had happy stories of owning previous Callaway-edition Corvettes.


The Callaway was easy-going on the dragstrip, running the eighth-mile in 7.89 at 96.43 mph without any of the burnout-induced code-throwing that the Z06 gave us. It left a little soft for a 600hp car, but in general, the power came on a little later in the range.


We can’t say enough good things about Callaway’s short-throw shifter. Once you got used to the feel of it, all you had to do was edge it in the right direction and let go. It was excellent on the dragstrip and fun on the street. Pete Callaway says the difference is that the factory shifter is a rubber-isolated stick that relies on the gearbox's internal detents for feel, while Callaway’s piece uses spring-assist and positive stops in a CNC-machined billet assembly.

Lingenfelter/Magnuson 2014 Supercharged Camaro 1LE
Maybe you’re looking at the previous three cars and thinking, “What’s the fun in a prebuilt hot rod?” For you, we brought out Matt Hately’s Lingenfelter/Magnuson Camaro 1LE. With a package made up of a track-tuned suspension as well as shifter and drivetrain goodies from the ZL1 and a price of $3,500 over the base SS, the 1LE is an affordable alternative to the high-dollar top dogs. As we found on track, with the addition of a Magnuson supercharger, race pads, and BFG Rival tires, the 1LE was snapping at the heels of cars nearly twice its price. In fact, as it was running about two seconds off the Z/28, Kevin said that replacing the decent BFG Rivals with the Z/28’s stellar Pirellis and brakes could put the two Camaros neck and neck, although it would add quite a bit to the “budget build.”


When Magnuson’s Matt Hately heard Chevrolet was bringing back the 1LE package, he went straight to the dealership. “I’ve always loved the factory handling packages, and because the 1LE has many of the same parts as the ZL1, we knew it could handle the horsepower from adding a blower kit.”


Magnuson’s Heartbeat kit includes the Eaton TVS 2300, twin dual-pass charge-air-coolers, coolant-circulation pump, heat exchanger, and all the hardware. Hately also upgraded the fuel pump to a Lingenfelter unit and added LS9 injectors. It all fits under a factory hood. From outside, you’d never know the Camaro was anything but a clean SS.


One of the only options Hately added to his 1LE was the Recaro seats. “It makes a big difference in your concentration level to not have to be holding yourself in or bracing against the door while you drive,” he said, echoing Kevin Wesley’s complaints about the non-competition Corvette seats. The shifter is the slightly shortened-throw from the Zl1, part of the 1LE upgrade.


Hately chose the BFG Rivals over the 1LE’s factory Goodyear Eagles because he says he prefers the Rivals’ track characteristics. The brakes are the stock Brembos, but Hately upgraded to braided lines and race pads. “One of the best things about this car is that there’s so much adjustability in the factory alignment,” he said. “We were able to add 2.5 degrees of negative camber in the front without having to buy camber plates or anything. Even the alignment shop was amazed.”

The truly incredible thing about all the cars we tested is how adaptable they are in almost any situation. We put more than 1,000 miles on the Z06, sat in horrific traffic and several drive-ins in the Callaway, and saw that Hately, who drives the 1LE every day, has more than 25,000 miles on the year-old car. Even the Z/28, the most “race” of the four, would be a perfectly acceptable daily driver—and downright comfy if you’re used to classic cars. We asked Wesley what made a car good on track, and his main requirement was ease of driving, something he mentioned as being excellent in all the cars we tested.

“You can’t have a car you are afraid of, regardless of how fast it could be,” he says. “The more confidence you have, the faster you will be in any car.” With that in mind, who’s the winner? We told you, everyone wins. Somewhere in here there’s the car for you, even if it’s the one you build to beat the ones we tested.


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