If you're anything like me, when you're buying a car, you have to have the version with the most performance potential. For example, when my dad bought what I now refer to as his midlife crisis car, a 2003 Infiniti FX35, back when I was in eighth grade, I remember being disappointed that he left the dealer with the V-6 version instead of the burly 320-hp, V-8-powered FX45. I imagine this existential crisis plagues many a Corvette Stingray buyer; after all, if the 460-hp Corvette Stingray Z51 is great, wouldn't the 650-hp Corvette Z06 be even better? Having been daily-driving our long-term 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 for almost a year now, I spent a week doing my thing in a Corvette Z06 to find out.
Over the past year, the MT long-term Corvette Stingray Z51 has seen its fair share of traffic, commuting, and open road. For a low-slung two-door sports car, there are worse things to commute in than our long-term Corvette. Although not necessarily ideal for my city-heavy slog through Los Angeles traffic, the 'Vette has a great ride for a sports car, good clutch feel, and great brakes. I find throttle response in the default Touring drive mode to be pretty slushy, so I instead drive everywhere in Sport mode. Hey, it's a Corvette. The manual transmission is mostly up to the task, too. Once the gearbox is warmed up, shifts are light and slick. While it's still cold, though, the gearbox has a tendency to fight being put into first gear or pop out of second gear; it's annoying, but my old Mustang did the same thing.
With the keys to a bright yellow Corvette Z06 in hand, I sought to replicate how I'd been driving our long-term car as faithfully as possible. At first prod of the start button, things in my Z06 tester felt the same as the Z51, save for the extra loud staccato from the LT4 V-8. After a couple dozen miles or so, the differences start to reveal themselves. For starters, although the LT4 is great at making power, it's not so great at putting it down. In the regular Stingray, you can pretty easily use all 460 hp on tap without overwhelming the rear tires. The massive powerband of the supercharged Corvette Z06 is less accessible in every day driving—gotta get ahead of the bus about to pull out in front of you? Need to avoid the Prius meandering aimlessly between lanes? Better be mighty careful with that throttle pedal because it's quite easy to get the rear end to step out, even with traction control on.
Truthfully, the mode I chose could partially be to blame. As is the case in my long-term Corvette Z51, I spent most of my time in Sport mode in the Z06 because I wasn't happy with the non-linear throttle response in the street-oriented Touring mode. In addition to changing the throttle and traction control parameters, Sport mode also firms up the Corvette Z06's Magnetic Ride Control suspension system. The ride isn't at all objectionable on L.A.'s poorly maintained streets, but I preferred the ride in Tour mode and in our Corvette Z51 long-termer without MRC. It's too bad Chevy doesn't give you an additional customizable drive mode where you can adjust throttle response, steering feedback, suspension settings, and exhaust to your liking like BMW does with M mode on cars such as the M3.
Ultimately, as good as the Corvette Z06 is, I think I've found the rare exception where I'd rather have the "slow" version of a car rather than the high-power version. For me, driving a car where all the horsepower on tap is easily accessible far outweighs having performance potential that I'll never use.
More on our long-term 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51:
- Update 1: Daily-Driver Performance
- Update 2: Practically Speaking
- Update 3: New Perspectives on our Long-Term 'Vette
- Update 4: A Week at the Dealer