Chevrolet has just finally given us a look at what is very likely one of the final, fully gas-powered high-performance vehicles on the planet. In case you slept through it—unlikely—I’m talking about the C8 Corvette Z06. The standard C8 Corvette delivers already riveting performance–11-second quarter miles, 0-60 in 2.8 seconds, and nearly 500 horsepower. That’s courtesy of GM’s “LT2” engine, a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8.
The Z06 cranks all that up to the next level – and it didn’t come easy. Chevy engineers, benchmarking the timeless Ferrari 458, designed an entirely revised, flat-plane crank V8 engine dubbed the “LT6”. Spinning all the way to 8,400 rpm and producing a wicked 670 horsepower, the LT6 is a high watermark for engine design. But most remarkably, I find that the ethos and technology behind it matches up closely to what BMW M has been doing for years. So it begs the question: is it even possible for BMW M to make a Z06 competitor in 2022?
The Z06’s LT6 uses a lot of revisions from more traditional GM engine layouts. But some of it is stuff that BMW M has been doing for years. Hollow camshafts and forged pistons found on the C8 Z06, for example, go back as far as the early 2000s in the S54 engine. The cam lobe and finger follower design is arguably old news, too. It’s part of the reason regular valve adjustment is required in the S54. Allegedly, Chevy has engineered that requirement out. Point being, Chevy has treated this engine exactly the way BMW M has treated its most special powerplants.
BMW M still makes a V8, although natural aspiration is out of the question. Its newest iteration is the S68 and it powers everything from the XM, to the 760i, to the X7 M60i. While it won’t quite match the redline, nor personality of the LT6, we know it’s going to be good for at least 617 horsepower, matching the numbers from the outgoing S63. BMW M would have no problem integrating it into a dedicated high-performance sportscar application.
Chassis and Suspension
The Z06 uses standard 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels to put the power down, which are a bit bigger than the standard C8. The brakes have also been upgraded to six-pistons in the front. Brembo carbon ceramics are also an option with the Z07 package, which will also supplant the car’s standard PS4S tires with super-sticky Michelin Cup 2s. Chevy’s newest MagRide iteration is also standard on the Z06.
It’s easy to see the similarities between the C8 Z06 and virtually any BMW M product. Bigger wheels, aggressive brakes, and revised suspension work is basically “The M Cookbook.” If only there was a dedicated sports car platform in the portfolio. BMW used to have the carbon fiber i8 chassis, which would have been perfect, but it’s not longer in production and BMW felt it was too expensive to justify continued usage.
Body and Aero
Just like with suspension, the C8 Z06 follows a familiar formula—it’s lighter and grippier than a pedestrian C8. Like many former BMW M products, there aren’t a ton of indications that you’re looking at something a lot more special than the base car. Careful observers will note a revised front fascia and a three-inch wider rear track, a necessity for the massive 345 mm tires. An almost obsessive level of attention to detail has been taken when it comes to aero. Borrowing some knowledge gleaned from the racetrack, the new Z06 even sports aerodynamic “channels” on the Corvette’s undertray to better funnel air. In total, three different aero packages exist; each with a predictably larger wing than the last.
Just like in the suspension department, this isn’t anything different than what we see when it comes to BMW M’s finest productions. Especially in cars like the M4 CSL, with track-focused alterations like a rear seat delete and bespoke, aero-optimizing body panels.
What Could’ve Been
BMW can’t produce cars on the same level as the C8 Z06. That was my initial thought, anyway. But I started thinking about the upcoming 3.0 CSL. While it’s hyper exclusive and ludicrously expensive, it speaks to the level of detail modern-day BMW is capable of.
So BMW is capable. It has a special engine, with the S68. It’s already demonstrated the ability to “M-ifiy” any car it chooses to by changing suspension components, slapping on some bigger brakes, and adding wings and other bits. And it’s clearly not opposed to altering body components, even for low production-run vehicles. So why is BMW M unwilling to build the ultimate M car?
Well, I think it has. The XM is positioned as the pinnacle M halo vehicle of the modern era. And while I know it will break all sorts of records and offer mind-melting acceleration, I just can’t help imagining what could’ve been. Imagine instead the perfect Z06 fighter. A slightly modified CFRP tub borrowed from now-forgotten i8 designs. A mid-rear mounted S68 nestled right behind the pilot’s seat. Throw on carbon-ceramics from the current F90-series M cars, and grab the suspension, too. Why not? What does your Z06-equivalent M car look like?