It’s not often that you get a look behind the curtain, but Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter treated Corvette enthusiasts to just that on a recent forum thread (or, more accurately, a person that identified themselves as Tadge). Perhaps the greatest nugget came at the very end, when he revealed that last week performance validation on the 2015 Corvette Z06 was completed on the famous 12.9-mile Nürburgring in Germany. “I can tell you we were more than satisfied with the results.” We’ll have to wait for the official times due out “shortly,” but speculation is that it falls between the C6 ZR1’s 7:19 and the all-wheel-drive Nissan GT-R Nismo’s 7:08 earlier this year (only two regular production cars have gone faster). This post was in reaction to some loaded questions about the C7 Z06’s apparent departure in design philosophy.
While the 2015 Corvette Z06 may have been adored by many in the automotive press; it received some sharp criticism from diehard fans that wanted something more faithful to the nomenclature. After all, the Z06 was traditionally a track car with a high compression, naturally aspirated engine. The LS7-powered C6 Z06 may have been the pinnacle of this achievement in the modern era, bearing closer resemblance to the racing program than any other model. Apparently it is also the only Corvette that Tadge Juechter has purchased for himself. “I was working for Dave Hill as the assistant chief engineer and I took the lead in defining what could be done to create a more capable version of the standard Corvette. I was very proud that we introduced the C6 Z06 at 3,132 lbs, by many measures the most mass efficient vehicle in the world.”
He then revealed that the inflated weight of the C7 Z06 was the result of customer input that stated a desire for an “open air option” as well as media scrutiny of the seats and chassis. “If you read some of the media scrutiny of the C6 Z06, we were often criticized for not being as secure or confident at speed as our competitors, which had a lot do with vehicle structure. We were relentlessly blasted for ‘floppy’ seats on the C6. Each C7 seat weighs about 10 pounds more than its C6 counterpart. My point is much of the mass increase has nothing to do with a change in philosophy, but rather improving the driving experience in many different areas…”
As for the use of a supercharger, which also adds mass, Juechter stated that a 7.0L with direct injection and variable valve timing simply wasn’t enough of an upgrade over the previous model. “The main reason we ended up going to a charged solution had to do with regulatory changes and a strong desire to increase performance, not to stay the same or inch up only slightly. For performance, we knew the standard Stingray was gong to be a pretty big upgrade over even the Grand Sport, so the Z06 had to be an even bigger step up… Like it or not, regulators around the world are pushing manufacturers into lower displacements and charging to achieve higher output. With this reality, when we studied an LS7-like solution for the C7 Z06 we found only a very modest power boost would be possible while still meeting all the other new requirements.”
Despite some outcry, Juechter also reaffirmed that a lot of the design and option choices were in reaction to sales. While a vocal minority of enthusiasts cry for a pure track car, the sales show that the buying public wants fully loaded Corvettes. This is reaffirmed by the “sales figures of cars like the Viper ACR and Porsche 911… So why did we call it a Z06? Yes, it is a bit different formulation than the last few generations. It is, however, consistent in that it is the quickest car around the track we know how to make.” I guess we’ll find out shortly what all that know-how amounts to…