The Corvette Z06 Is Not A Supercar

Let’s get this out of the way. The Corvette Z06 is a fantastic sports car. It’s put America properly on the map as a place that can build a high end sports car and dominate that space. It’s a car that is embarrassing it’s competition in higher price brackets by managing to put supercar performance into the hands of people that could otherwise not afford it.

It’s a truly wonderful car.

But it’s not a supercar.

Chevrolet are very eager to tell you it is though, and on their website you’ll find this little gem:

“Located at the intersection of Le Mans and the autobahn, you’ll find the 2016 Corvette Z06. A true world-class supercar, Z06 was conceived on the track and is engineered with a lightweight and rigid aluminum space frame as well as a supercharged 6.2L aluminum V8 engine delivering 650 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque.”

You’ll also see this:

Yes, amidst the hail of marketing nonsense Chevy claim the Corvette Z06 is certified as a supercar. I would love to know who runs this supercar certification program, and I’m sure Lamborghini, Ferrari and Mclaren would be interested as well so they can get their stuff certified to plaster notification all over their websites.

What we have here is Chevy trying to take advantage of the watering down we have had of the term “supercar”.

To understand that though, we need to understand the term supercar and how it gets applied. In the U.S for example, it actually predates the term “muscle car” and was used to describe drag strip development going into rear wheel drive V8 mid size cars in the 60’s and 70’s. During this century the definition has evolved and become clearer. It came to mean a very powerful mid engined car limited in production and sales by cost. A car that is capable on the racetrack, drivable on the road, eye catching in design and with a price tag to match it’s exclusivity. To that end most supercars are mid engined, stylishly designed both inside and out and prohibitively expensive.

Unfortunately, the term has become diluted and over applied to cars that are not super cars but are in fact specialist sports cars. The Corvette Z06 sits in that slot right alongside cars such as the Porsche 911 family, the Nissan GTR, Honda/Acura NSX, and the Lexus RC F.

So, let’s take a look at the Z06 which starts at $79,400. I mentioned price being an element of a supercar and while that’s a lot of money it is attainable to someone that sets their heart on owning one, or someone that is already fairly rich. I know a few people who could go buy one as a toy but I don’t know many that could drop $199,800 on a base Lamborghini Huracan.

That’s like having enough money laying around to go buy a second home to watch depreciate in value.

Whereas new Corvette Z06 money is a great deposit on a new home.

But price is not actually the point, the real issue is the exclusivity of a supercar. Supercars aren’t made for selling in quantity – they simply wouldn’t scale. The price isn’t just random to keep the peasants from owning one. Of course for Ferrari it is, but screw Ferrari.

Let’s instead take the Ford GT as an example, and before anyone in the comments uses the label “hypercar” let’s remember that term only exists because the term supercar has become so diluted.

500 Ford GT’s will be sold in 2017 for $450,000 each. That demonstrates that an American company that makes its money in the everyday road car market can indeed make a real honest to goodness supercar. Badge is not everything, but to get that status they built from scratch a mid engined low production run car with the aim of winning at Le Mans – they didn’t just build the next version of a common car and proclaim that it’s a supercar. We know it’s a supercar and they don’t have to try and brand it as one.

Best of all, they did it to beat Ferrari again.

If you look at any supercar it has something special about it on top of stats. Supercars aren’t only about an expensive game of Top Trumps.

Look at a Ferrari 488 GTB and despite the elitism you are looking at a thing of beauty for the most part. Look at a Lamborghini and you’re looking at something that is oozing vulgarity and money, check out a McLaren and you’re looking at something that is so race car it’s hard to believe its road legal. Look at an Aston Martin Vanquish and you can believe a British spy would drive one because it oozes style and could outrun the bad guys in a death defying chase.

Mostly though, a supercar is built on it’s own platform. I’m not saying a supercar necessarily has to be, after all we have no certification process to define something as a supercar but I suspect we can all agree that there needs to be a certain amount of ingredients to make a car a supercar rather than a specialist car.

You look at a Corvette Z06 though and… it’s an upgraded version of the Stingray sports car that your neighbour keeps in the garage for the weekend drive to an American car meet and while the ZO6 Corvette performs up there with supercars on the track, it’s basically a trim level on a pre existing sports car. It completely lacks the exclusivity, style or prestige associated with a supercar. If you want to give it a term to describe a sports car that is developed to be completely at home dominating a track, the term you are looking for is performance car.

Buying a Corvette Z06 as a supercar is ordering gourmet hamburger and fries at a restaurant while everyone else is having the olive-rosemary bruschetta with oven roasted tomatoes, garlic aioli, pine nuts and fresh basil.

Buying a Corvette Z06 as a specialist sports car though… that’s eighty grand extremely well spent.

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