The auto industry is undoubtedly heading towards electrification as the future. However, it’s important to acknowledge that combustion-powered vehicles still have a lot to offer, especially when it comes to performance cars. Two prime examples of this are the 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and the latest Porsche 911 GT3, which both deliver exceptional performance. While I had the opportunity to drive the 911 GT3 in Touring form shortly before attending the Z06’s first drive program, this article won’t provide a direct comparison between the two. Instead, let’s focus on what makes each of them great.
The 911 GT3 and the Corvette Z06 share a similar spirit, drawing from their automakers’ rich motorsports heritage to enhance on-road performance. They both feature model-specific engines that take the spotlight in their respective lineups. The 911 GT3 is equipped with a 4.0-liter flat-six engine, which is borrowed from the GT3 Cup racer and replaces the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while Porsche offers the excellent seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox as a no-cost option on the Touring model (which I had the chance to test). With 502 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque, the 911 GT3 delivers ample power. However, the real highlight is its epic 9,000-rpm redline.
On the other hand, the Z06 takes its powertrain to an even more race-focused level. The all-new LT6 engine, a naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V8 with a flat-plane crank, has already proven its capabilities in the Corvette C8.R racer in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. According to Chevrolet, apart from a few regulatory differences, the race engine and the production engine share a similar architecture and subsystems. The production LT6 boasts a higher redline and more power, delivering 670 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, along with an 8,600-rpm redline. Unlike the GT3, the Z06 only comes with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, which might disappoint purists.
Both cars feature firmer suspensions, with the 911 GT3 adopting a double-wishbone front suspension derived from Porsche’s racing efforts. The Z06, on the other hand, comes with a trim-specific tune for its magnetic dampers. Lighter wheels and available carbon-ceramic brakes help to reduce unsprung weight and improve mechanical grip. The Z06 boasts the widest wheel/tire package ever fitted to a Corvette and can be equipped with ultra-sticky Michelin Cup 2R tires. The 911 GT3 also features wider tires with a high-performance summer compound as standard, and street-legal track tires are now available for the first time outside the RS line.
In terms of exterior styling, both cars exhibit a subtle difference from their base models. The GT3 Touring and the standard Z06 share a resemblance with their respective counterparts, making it easier for an enthusiast to spot them among the crowd. The non-Touring GT3 trim features a large rear wing, while the Z06’s optional Carbon Aero package adds a substantial front splitter, vehicle-spanning underside spoiler, and its own massive wing. Porsche claims that downforce has increased by 50 percent compared to the previous GT3, while Chevy asserts that the Z06 generates over 700 pounds of downforce at 186 mph.
When it comes to daily driving, both cars perform exceptionally well in the real world. Owners in warmer climates can confidently use the Z06 or 911 GT3 Touring on a daily basis. However, the Z06’s magnetic dampers provide a better and more comfortable ride, although the 911’s narrower tires lead to a slight reduction in road noise. The main advantage of the 911 for everyday use is its spacious cabin, providing far more room compared to the snug interior of the Z06. Nevertheless, the Corvette has the advantage of offering a hardtop convertible model and a removable roof panel on the Coupe, allowing for an open-air experience. Overall, these two cars are quite similar in terms of real-world usability.
On the track, the Z06 and 911 GT3 are closely matched. However, since I only had the opportunity to drive the Corvette on a closed course, I have to give it the slight edge. The Z06 truly shines when equipped with the optional Z07 and Carbon Aero packages, which add around $15,000 to the starting price. Although the 911 GT3 boasts carbon-ceramic brakes that cost more than the entire Z07 package, there’s nothing else to add to the GT3 in terms of performance enhancements. With the Z07 and Carbon Aero packages, the Z06 becomes incredibly capable and surprisingly accessible. Thanks to the excellent Performance Traction Management system, drivers can easily adjust the level of performance the Z06 delivers on the track without compromising safety.
On the other hand, while I drove the 911 GT3 only on public roads, it feels like a more focused performer. It offers just three driving modes and a less configurable stability control system. The GT3 exudes a racier feel even under normal driving conditions. The stiff, heavy brake pedal serves as a reminder of the athleticism required from professional drivers, and the steering feels superior in virtually every situation. In comparison, the Z06’s steering lacks feedback and feels slightly less effortful, even on the track. The GT3’s steering weight increases naturally and demands a more physical driving experience, making it fun in a more analog and serious way.
Ultimately, choosing between the Z06 and 911 GT3 is a fortunate predicament. Both cars offer exceptional performance and driving experiences. While price shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor, it is worth noting that the Z06 has a more affordable starting price compared to the 911 GT3. The Z06 starts at $106,695, including destination charge, which is an entire base Stingray less than the 911 GT3’s starting price of $172,450 (including destination and gas-guzzler charge). Additionally, the 911 comes well-equipped as standard, except for the costly carbon-ceramic brakes. On the other hand, the Z06 offers three separate trims and requires additional packages totaling around $15,000 to unlock its full potential.
The Z06 impresses with its mid-engine layout, flat-plane engine design, surprising on-road comfort, and incredible accessibility. The 911 GT3, on the other hand, feels more like a purpose-built race car – firm and serious, yet engaging even in everyday driving conditions. If you’re faced with the decision between these two cars, consider yourself extremely fortunate.