Did the C7’s Drastic Departure Change Your Opinion of the Corvette?
The New Corvette C7 is an absolutely stunning example of a pure sports car. It has loads of power, loads of torque, looks amazing, and can go around corners like a squirrel on acid. But when the new Z06 came out with a supercharged engine, automatic, and targa top, many of the corvette Z06 loyalists came down hard on Chevy about the decisions.
In Corvette Forum‘s “Ask Tadge” section, Corvette’s Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter answers one member’s question about such decisions. Here’s what they had to say…
There is a segment of Corvette loyalists that want a track originated car. The C5 and C6 Z06’s are perfect examples. Unfortunately the C7 Z06 doesn’t follow the same design philosophy as the previous Z06’s. It’s much heavier, overheats, provides an open air experience, and has rpm limiting cylinder deactivation. You did succeed in broaden the appeal by adding an automatic transmission option, but by trying to broaden the appeal beyond the track, it is no longer the purely focused track car of previous generations. Why did you call it a Z06 and I hope you understand what we really want in a Corvette Z06?
Whenever we design a new car, there are many things we have to take in to consideration, some of which are obvious to the public, but many are not. I understand exactly the sentiment behind this question because I was the principle engineer putting together the product plan and content for both the C5 and C6 Z06. 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 3132 lbs, by many measures the most mass efficient vehicle in the world. The only Corvette I have purchased for myself is a 2006 Z06.On the C7, our original Z06 concept was much the same as the previous two generations except we did have very strong customer input that they would like an automatic and open air options. I assumed a naturally aspirated 7.0L with direct injection and variable valve timing would be the power train choice. The main reasons 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 going to be a pretty big upgrade over even the Grand Sport, so the Z06 had to be an even bigger step up.On the regulatory side, on average, every business day, a new law governing the design of automobiles goes into effect somewhere in the world, and no space is more active than fuel economy and vehicle emissions. Porsche just announced an all turbo line up for the 911 in the future. 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. Cylinder de-activation played no role in constraining our choice. We only added it back in when we went to the supercharged solution where the rpm limiting was no longer an issue. You are right, charging brings mass, and cooling challenges, but it also brings a lot more horsepower.I have heard comments that we shouldn’t have added mass to go to open-air or improve our structure. However, the net mass penalty for open air is relatively small, as the added mass is attributed to many things. There are a bunch of regulations that either don’t apply to convertibles or have delayed implementations, and meeting them adds mass. We knew chassis loads were going to go up with better aero and more capable tires, so we had to react those forces. 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 to do with vehicle structure. We were relentlessly bashed for “floppy” seats on the C6. Each C7 seats weights 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 (not just an open air top, or new seats).Believe me, we are well aware of the very vocal group of customers that demand a more focused track vehicle. Although I hear claims that many people want that type of vehicle, it is not validated in the sales figures of cars like the Viper ACR or Porsche 911.
If you look at the Z06 (C6 or C7), hardly anybody orders the pure track car – no options but Z07 and maybe Competition seat. The vast majority (93% in 2015) are ordering their cars with uplevel option packages. This is not surprising, as every time we added features to the C5 and C6 Z06 (power seats, power column, heads up display, leather interior, magnetic ride control, to name a few), they quickly became incredibly popular.
Obviously, I am defending our choices for the C7. And our sales are very strong, ensuring we will have Corvettes for years to come. However, we take customer requests very seriously and usually find a way to incorporate them into our future plans. So don’t lose faith. We are listening.
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. That has been validated by numerous third parties. Last week, we were finally able to confirm the performance of the car on a continuous lap of the Nurburgring. We are putting together the press release and will have the lap time and video out shortly. I can tell you we were more than satisfied with the results.
Now, Tadge answers most of the questions we send him really well, but we’d still like to know a few things about this one. How much weight and “issues” are you all willing to sacrifice for the overall Corvette improvements before going to another car? Has the C7 hurt your opinion of the Corvette brand, or has it only strengthened it? Personally, I believe that the C7 is by far a better car than any Corvette before it, but you all are the diehard Corvette fans, what do you think?
Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>