From the July/August issue of Car and Driver.
No one could have predicted this, that Chevrolet would birth a 670-hp 5.5-liter V-8 that goes hard all the way to 8600 rpm, stepping into the void Ferrari left as it walked away from naturally aspirated, flat-plane-crank V-8s that rev to the moon. Almost as surprising: Roughly 20 years after Chevy and Porsche launched the Z06 and GT3 as distinct models to appeal to hardcore buyers of Corvettes and 911s, the latest versions are among the last keepers of the screaming, naturally aspirated flame.
The GT3’s gestation is as predictable and measured as the 911 it’s based on, two decades of honing an inspired idea. Its high-revving flat-six has grown from 3.6 to 3.8 to now 4.0 liters, with a steady rise in output. This latest 992 generation switches to a control-arm front suspension, with ball joints galore, and a swan-neck rear wing. The Corvette Z06 has had a more scattered trajectory, employing pushrod V-8s and even dabbling in forced induction before the recent big change to a mid-engine architecture and the mega four-cam V-8.
Porsche has done a remarkable job of keeping the 911 GT3’s weight in check. Compared with the first 996-generation car, the latest GT3 has a footprint (track width times wheelbase) that’s 10 percent larger, yet the car has gained a mere 27 pounds, a weight increase of less than 1 percent. The Z06 started larger and hasn’t grown quite as much, with a 9 percent increase in footprint, yet its weight has ballooned 565 pounds, or 18 percent. But for all the arguments about mid- versus rear-engine configuration, these two carry an all but identical 60 percent of their mass on the hind axle.
To drink fully from these two deep wells, we drove them down to some of our favorite roads in southern Ohio, then back to western Michigan for a track day at the 2.1-mile GingerMan Raceway. We don’t think there are two other cars that could do 850 miles this comfortably (really, the only thing that got old was excessive road noise) and then eviscerate everything else on track. These are two of the most special and involving sports cars on the market, but of course we’re going to pick a winner.
2nd Place: Chevrolet Corvette Z06
If we’re talking lap times, the Z06 is the winner, a full two seconds ahead at Virginia International Raceway in our Lightning Lap crucible. It’s in fifth place on the all-time Lightning Lap leaderboard, at a price well under half of everything above it. This latest Z06 is still a value, though Chevy has clearly been studying Porsche’s pricing practices. The Z06 starts at $109,295, but Chevrolet charges GT3 money for a Z06 with all the fixings, including the top 3LZ interior ($13,850), the unpainted carbon-fiber aerodynamic package ($10,495), exposed carbon-fiber wheels ($11,995), and the Z07 performance package with carbon-ceramic rotors ($8995). But Porsche has quietly raised the GT3’s price by nearly $24,000 to $185,850 since its 2022 launch, as that’s what dealers were doing anyway.
HIGHS: Screaming V-8, lap-time champ, superior ride quality.
LOWS: High seating perch, build quality not up to $170K standards, carries an extra 445 pounds.
VERDICT: The most tenacious Corvette ever.
Both have dual-clutch automatics that boast some of the best launch-control systems ever conceived, but there’s more to it than you might think, as Chevy suggests a tire-cleaning regimen before each launch. Pull both paddles, then release one and pull it again. Floor the throttle and release the paddles to spin the tires. Then immediately stop, stand on both pedals, and remove your foot from the brake pedal.
The Corvette’s launch control brings the revs up to 4500 rpm before letting loose, while the lower-torque 911 needs 6300 rpm. Both cars have an effective but undramatic clutch-slipping launch and leap to 30 mph in 1.1 seconds, a haste that typically requires all-wheel drive. The Z06 reaches 60 mph 0.2 second quicker and passes through the quarter-mile 0.3 second sooner. By 140 mph, the Z06 is 1.4 seconds ahead, but an upshift into the tall fifth gear allows the GT3 to reel it back in, and the gap closes to a mere 0.2 second at 160 mph.
Oddly, there’s an all-weather floor-mat option for the Z06, and our car had these slippery accessories, making precise pedal inputs difficult. This didn’t help with the Z06’s already less predictable brake pedal, which is further complicated by the three brake-response settings, a feature we don’t think anyone was asking for. By comparison, the GT3’s brakes, which lack adjustment, provide textbook effort and feedback.
With higher prices come higher expectations, and with a sticker that’s more than $100,000 above a base Corvette’s, our Z06 didn’t quite meet them. The materials look great, especially the beautiful carbon-fiber weave, but even a cursory examination of the Vette’s exterior panel gaps, paint quality (including orange peel), and interior assembly tightness shows that it lacks the meticulous build quality of the GT3. To be fair, Chevy did not make things easy on itself with all the chopped exterior styling elements and terraced, layered stacks of different materials in various outcroppings in the cabin.
More than the GT3, the Z06 takes practical considerations into account, with a much larger cargo hold (although the GT3’s bare rear seating area serves as additional cargo space) and a rear wing whose tortured shape gets it out of the driver’s rear view and allows the trunklid to clear it. Porsche seemingly set the GT3’s rear wing to hide state troopers in Ford Explorers.
Although the Z06 comes up just short of the GT3 in our scoring, it’s a remarkable achievement and a winner in just about any other setting. The screaming V-8 has a far angrier start than the GT3’s engine, as if each firing is an opportunity to step onto a stage, do a twirl, and take a well-deserved bow.
1st Place: Porsche 911 GT3
When you jump from the Z06 to the GT3, the first thing you notice is the visibility. It’s no exaggeration that the field of view in the Porsche feels 20 percent more expansive. On narrow, tree-lined roads, that makes for a major confidence boost. You also sit much lower in the fixed-back carbon-fiber buckets (a $5900 option), which manage to be more comfortable than the Z06’s optional competition seats, with wraparound support at the shoulder level that’s missing in the Corvette. Just be sure to get both cheeks over the pointy outside edge before falling into the seat. Thanks to the classic bubble roofline, the 911 has plenty of headroom for a helmet; meanwhile, in the Corvette, a taller driver’s brain bucket bangs into the headliner. On track, not having to brace yourself makes left-foot braking far easier.
HIGHS: 9000-rpm flat-six, hyperreactive steering, superior cornering and braking with less tire.
LOWS: Firm ride, lots of missing features for the price, low-grade standard interior.
VERDICT: A brilliant formula, honed to perfection over 20 years.
While the Z06’s V-8 is delightfully belligerent, it’s isolated from the chassis, whereas the GT3’s flat-six is hardwired to the experience. It buzzes the seat at its 800-rpm idle, something Porsche seemingly does for a little extra drama. (Adaptive engine mounts were removed in the 992-generation GT3 for an eight-pound weight savings, so relaxing those is no longer an option). At 1300 rpm, the powerplant resonates through the entire structure like a wet dog shaking, which we’d find wholly unacceptable in a car that costs a quarter as much as the GT3 but is appropriate here. And the engine never recedes into the background. At 80 mph, it’s turning 3300 rpm, while the Z06’s is at 1800 rpm. Nevertheless, the Porsche is the clear fuel-economy champ, better on our highway and non-highway legs and ending with a 17-mpg average.
Not that it matters much when the flat-six sings an addictive, searing 101-decibel wail to 9000 rpm. Both engines have layers of character; our favorite attributes are the throat-clearing cackles when lifting off the throttle in the Z06 and the warbles that accompany aggressive upshifts in the GT3. They hang in the air like audible smoke rings, reverberating through the car.
Both wear customized extreme Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires, and both entries were in their track-alignment setting. Porsche retains more sipes on the outer edge of the tires than does Chevy, and still the GT3 on narrower tires stops 10 feet shorter from 70 mph and 21 feet shorter from 100 mph. It also pulls a Z06-beating 1.17 g’s on the skidpad. Plus, the GT3’s stance is perfection, with tires tucked up into the wheel wells like a race car.
While the engines are a magnificent centerpiece, both chassis are on the same plane. The 911’s steering is as sharp edged as the flat-six, with immediate on-center action and a rear end that’s more playful at the limit. The GT3 shrinks when driven hard, and euphoria sets in at about eight-tenths. The Corvette’s steering has a bit more effort on-center, which aids stability on long highway commutes, but Track mode is over-the-top heavy. Both cars suffer a similar amount of tramlining, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected given the wide tires and aggressive alignment. The GT3’s structure feels as stiff as granite, while you can sometimes hear the Z06’s roof-panel seals creaking. But the Corvette has the better ride; the GT3’s softest setting is akin to the Z06’s Sport mode.
Most other Porsches live in the glow of this car’s brilliance. Driving a GT3 will haunt your daydreams and spoil the experience of nearly every other performance car. Which is to say, mission accomplished.
2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Vehicle Type: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
Base/As Tested: $109,295/$169,515
DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 333 in3, 5463 cm3
Power: 670 hp @ 8400 rpm
Torque: 460 lb-ft @ 6300 rpm
8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Suspension, F/R: control arms/control arms
Brakes, F/R: 15.7-in vented, cross-drilled, ceramic disc/15.4-in vented, cross-drilled, ceramic disc
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R ZP
F: 275/30ZR-20 (97Y) TPC
R: 345/25ZR-21 (104Y) TPC
Wheelbase: 107.2 in
Length: 185.9 in
Width: 79.7 in
Height: 48.6 in
Passenger Volume: 51 ft3
Cargo Volume: 13 ft3
Curb Weight: 3691 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
30 mph: 1.1 sec
60 mph: 2.6 sec
100 mph: 5.9 sec
1/4-Mile: 10.6 sec @ 131 mph
150 mph: 15.5 sec
170 mph: 24.4 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.2 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 3.1 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 2.0 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.2 sec
Top Speed (mfr’s claim): 189 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 143 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 280 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 1.14 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 14 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 14/12/19 mpg
2022 Porsche 911 GT3
Vehicle Type: rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
Base/As Tested: $185,850/$211,405 (2023 model year)
DOHC 24-valve flat-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 244 in3, 3996 cm3
Power: 502 hp @ 8400 rpm
Torque: 346 lb-ft @ 6100 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Suspension, F/R: control arms/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 16.1-in vented, cross-drilled ceramic disc/15.0-in vented, cross-drilled ceramic disc
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R Connect
F: 255/35ZR-20 (97Y) N0
R: 315/30ZR/21 (105Y) N0
Wheelbase: 96.7 in
Length: 180.0 in
Width: 72.9 in
Height: 50.4 in
Passenger Volume: 49 ft3
Cargo Volume: 5 ft3
Curb Weight: 3246 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
30 mph: 1.1
60 mph: 2.8 sec
100 mph: 6.6 sec
1/4-Mile: 10.9 sec @ 127 mph
150 mph: 16.3 sec
170 mph: 24.8 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.2 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 3.7 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 2.1 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.1 sec
Top Speed (mfr’s claim): 197 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 133 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 259 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 1.17 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 17 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 16/15/18 mpg
Director, Vehicle Testing
Dave VanderWerp has spent more than 20 years in the automotive industry, in varied roles from engineering to product consulting, and now leading Car and Driver‘s vehicle-testing efforts. Dave got his very lucky start at C/D by happening to submit an unsolicited resume at just the right time to land a part-time road warrior job when he was a student at the University of Michigan, where he immediately became enthralled with the world of automotive journalism.