These sub-$100k sports coupes are worth a look.
Ever since the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 was shown, the price of this more extreme C8 has been the cause of much speculation. After all, the base Corvette C8 is considered one of the great performance bargains when compared to German and Italian exotics, so would the more powerful Z06 be viewed in the same way? Last week, we discovered that the new Z06 would start at $106,395, including the destination charge. While it's still far cheaper than a Ferrari, it is pricier than we expected. In fact, we found six cheaper sports cars, both new and used, you should consider if the new Z06 is simply priced too far out of your range.
Porsche charges a substantial premium for the same level of performance as the Z06. The Cayman GTS 4.0 is priced from $90,300 before destination or any options. It is a cracking sports coupe with its 4.0-liter naturally-aspirated boxer-six making 394 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque. With the dual-clutch transmission, the 0-60 mph sprint takes just 3.8 seconds and it's one of only two cars here to share a mid-engine layout with the Z06. Despite all of this, the Z06 looks wilder, is far more powerful, and is much quicker. If you want to keep up with the Corvette in a straight line and you simply must have a new Porsche, you'll have to drop $216,100 on a 911 Turbo S.
In the last decade, it's possible that BMW hasn't made a finer M car than this one, and we wait with nervous anticipation to see if the all-new M2 can recreate the same magic. Like the Z06, the agile M2 is rear-wheel drive, but the two cars have little else in common. The 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine in the M2 is great, but it can't match the sheer drama and power of the Z06's 5.5-liter naturally-aspirated flat-plane crank V8. You can have the M2 with a manual, though. While the Corvette will steal attention away from some Lamborghinis, the M2's more reserved coupe body at least allows for a back seat and an acceptable trunk. An almost-new 2021 BMW M2 can be picked up for under $70,000, and you can save even more on an older model year.
Ford doesn't have a direct rival to the Corvette Z06, but the bellowing Mustang Shelby GT500 has character and power aplenty. Its 5.2-liter supercharged V8 makes 760 hp, much more than the Corvette's 670 hp. Unlike some muscle cars (here's looking at you, Dodge), the Mustang handles with poise, so it's more than just a straight-line dragster. It can't match the Z06 in either area, though, and the Corvette is alone in its ability to rev to over 8,500 rpm. We would rather drive off in a new Corvette Z06, but you can buy a brand-new Shelby GT500 for $79,420, around $25,000 less than the Z06.
If you want to get close to the new Corvette Z06's outputs, you can do a lot worse than the iconic Dodge Viper. In its final model year, this coupe's monstrous 8.4-liter V10 engine produced 645 hp and 600 lb-ft. It's uncomfortable and drinks gas at an alarming rate, but it can rip its way to 60 mph in under 3.5 seconds and is an exciting, challenging car to drive. Power goes to the rear wheels with the engine out ahead of you beneath the long hood, and it comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. The Corvette is now a much better car to live with and has a more modern interior, not to mention the fact that it's a lot quicker. But we spotted a 2016 Viper GTC for $92,000 with only 13,629 miles. This trim bags you Brembo brakes, driver-adjustable dampers, and other tempting extras. No, it's not as good as the new Z06, but you can save around $13,000 and drive off in V10 sports car that is enormously fun to drive.
A new Jaguar F-Type R makes 567 hp from its 5.0-liter supercharged V8 and starts at $108,500, so you'll need to go for a 2021 example or the slightly older SVR with the same engine to get away with one that costs $90,000 or less. In either case, you're getting a beautiful coupe, a premium badge on the pretty nose, and a plush cabin. The Jag has quick steering and is a joy to drive but the downside is a harsh ride. And, despite a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds, that's nearly a second off the pace of the new Z06. Still, a saving of $15,000 or more - depending on how old it is - could sway a few buyers in the direction of the Jag.
A new generation of one car doesn't always render its predecessor worthless. The C8 Corvette raised its game in a big way when it transitioned to a mid-engined layout, but the C7 remains a formidable performance car. In Z06 guise, it started at just over $80,000 when new, but such is the sustained respect that this car commands that a used 2019 example can go for around $90,000 or more today. Still, that represents a saving over the all-new Z06.
The C7 Z06 uses a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that produces 650 hp and 650 lb-ft. It takes 3.2 seconds to reach 60 mph, which is brutally quick alongside almost everything besides, perhaps, the new Z06. It also has a sweet chassis and communicative steering, but the cabin does come across as rather dated in 2022. Still, it's a phenomenal car and some may prefer its aggressive front-mid-engine proportions.
All the alternatives above represent a saving over the new Chevy Corvette Z06 if you are looking for an engaging sports coupe. Some have plusher cabins, a more desirable badge, or are more practical to live with on a daily basis. And yet, what this exercise has proven is that there is nothing else on the market like the Corvette at its price point. It's a mid-engined exotic with a spine-tingling V8 and the presence of a Ferrari, yet its price places it in line with cars that simply aren't as evocative or capable. If you can't stretch to the Z06, a strong case can be made for each of these six options, but even though it's pricier than we thought it would be, the new Corvette is still a comparative performance bargain.