It’s that time of the year when we look back upon what the calendar year had to offer automotive-wise and announce the TopSpeed Car of the Year awards. For 2014 we have three different categories - Performance Car of the Year, Best Car of the Year and Best Truck of the Year. TopSpeed’s first award for 2014 goes to the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, the near-unanimous choice among our editors for the Performance Car of the Year title. The brand-new Z06 received the most number of votes against stiff competition that included the likes of the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, making it the second Corvette to win TopSpeed’s Car of the Year award. In 2013, the then new 2014 Corvette Stingray was voted the 2013 TopSpeed Car of the Year.

The 2015 Corvette Z06 debuted at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show alongside the Corvette C7.R, sharing underpinnings with GM’s new race car. That was the first sign the Z06 will become a tremendous street racer and we soon learned it is more powerful and quicker than the mighty 2013 Corvette ZR1. With 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque coming from a brand-new, supercharged, 6.2-liter, LT4 V-8, the 2015 Z06 needs only 2.95 seconds to charge from naught to 60 mph, a figure that puts it in a rather exclusive league of supercars. The exterior is equally aggressive, with a host of aerodynamic enhancements setting it apart from the Stingray and moving it closer to the C7.R race car.

The Z06’s interior sets yet another new benchmark for the Corvette nameplate, offering premium, soft-touch materials like Nappa leather, Alcantara and micro-suede, as well as weight-saving trims in aluminum and carbon-fiber. The flat-bottom steering wheel speaks of the Z06’s special relationship with the C7.R, as do the lightweight wheels wrapped in Michelin sport tires, high-performance Brembo brakes or the smart electronic limited-slip differential. Making the 2015 Z06 even more impressive is its relatively affordable sticker, which sits at $78,995. Granted, the Z06 is unbeatable as far as bang for the buck goes. And the fact that it can be taken to the track without any modifications whatsoever makes it that much of a better deal.

Click past the jump to read more about TopSpeed’s 2014 Performance Car of the Year.

The Finalists

2nd Place - 2014 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe

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The Jaguar F-Type has been making headlines and gathering awards since 2013, but the R Coupe model is as fresh as it gets for 2015 thanks to a host of new features it received. A much-needed manual transmission was added, along with an all-wheel-drive system. Sure, no design changes were operated for 2015, but the R Coupe is as sexy as it gets with its fastback-like rear end and muscular shoulders. More importantly, the F-Type is finally complete with a three-pedal option available. All these new features made the R Coupe finish as runner-up in this year’s Performance Car of the Year awards.

3rd Place - 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

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With 2015 Mustang joining the Camaro as the second muscle car to ditch the live rear axle for an independent suspension setup, we began to wonder how long until the pony car as we know it becomes extinct. This was when Chrysler did something we never thought possible by launching a supercharged version of the Dodge Challenger with no less than 707 horsepower on tap. The insanity was possible thanks to the company’s newly developed Hellcat engine, which displaces 6.2 liters and comes with a 2.3-liter, Lysholm-style supercharger on top. The end result is simply astonishing, making the Challenger Hellcat the most powerful, factory-built muscle car ever, as well as the quickest from naught to 60 mph and in the quarter mile. Pricing is equally impressive, with the Hellcat retailing from $59,995, cheaper than a Corvette Z06.

4th Place - 2015 BMW i8

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The i8 is a marvel in terms of design and technology and represents many things for BMW. Firstly, it’s the company’s first true sports car since 1981, when the iconic M1 was discontinued. It’s also the first mid-engined Bimmer in 23 years and Munich’s first high-performance hybrid. The drivetrain combines a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine that generates 231 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque and an electric motor that produces 131 ponies and 184 pound-feet. The former motivates the rear wheels, while the latter spins the front axle, with total output sitting at 362 horses and 420 pound-feet of torque. Routed through a six-speed automatic transmission, the oomph enables the German sports car to hit 60 mph from a standing start in 4.2 seconds. The i8’s major drawback is its $135,925 sticker, making it the most expensive vehicle of the TopSpeed Performance Car of the Year short list.

5th Place - 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

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The Camaro Z/28 returned with a bang for the 2014 model year, hitting showrooms with an incredible amount of aerodynamic tweaks, weight-saving measures and race-bred chassis components. Under the hood, the Z/28 comes equipped with an all-motor, 7.0-liter, V-8 that cranks out 505 horsepower and 481 pound-feet of torque and mates to a six-speed Tremec manual transmission. The perfect combo for many enthusiasts. A no-nonsense interior devoid of most convenience features makes the Z/28 a perfect track day car; pretty much what the original Z/28 was when it was introduced back in 1967. A solid contender for TopSpeed’s Performance Car of the Year, but not as enticing as the Corvette Z06.

What the TopSpeed Team Thinks

Christian Moe - Associate Editor

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From a technical standpoint, from a speed and performance standpoint, and from a quality standpoint, the Z06 proudly proclaims that not only can America build a car, we can make a DAMN good one.

"The Z06 is one of the biggest machines to come from an American manufacturer in decades. In most of the world, American cars are cheap jokes that are good at nothing. As you move further up the performance scale this becomes even more exacerbated. But now we have a car with an advanced aluminum chassis that is so stiff we can cram 650 horsepower inside of it, and cut the roof off. The Corvette has always been a bargain performance machine. It’s cheaper, flimsier and a little slower than all of its competition, but man look at how cheap it is. Now the latest iteration of the Z06 proves that America is not a joke. We have created a true street-legal racer that is capable of tackling basically any machine you can find for less than $500k.

Best of all it still looks, sounds and feels American with brash paint colors, wide fenders and a V-8 roar that you can hear for miles. From a technical standpoint, from a speed and performance standpoint, and from a quality standpoint, the Z06 proudly proclaims that not only can America build a car, we can make a DAMN good one."

Mark McNabb - Associate Editor

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There's no doubt about it, the Z06 is perhaps the best all-out supercar out there, even without its pricing advantage.

"It’s hard not to automatically think of the Corvette Z06 when considering the best performance car for 2014. Sure, there’s plenty of competition, but the Z06 just pulls ahead for the win. Things start off right with the Vette’s lightweight and ridge chassis. Then from there, the carbon-fiber bodywork adds the shape and all the downforce needed to keep the car planted at high speeds. The suspension is even more track focused thanks to its tuned magnetic ride control, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and carbon-ceramic brakes. Of course, at the heart of the Z06 lies the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8.

The small block Chevy makes 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque — enough to send the car to 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds and 11.2 seconds to the quarter mile with the manual transmission. Opt for the new eight-speed auto, and things are even quicker: 2.95 seconds to 60 mph and 10.95 seconds through the quarter.

Still, 0-to-60 times isn’t everything. The Vette doesn’t disappoint in those other areas either. It road holding abilities rival — if not outshine — the best Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche have to offer. Add to that the Z06’s relatively cheap asking price of roughly $80,000.

There’s no doubt about it, the Z06 is perhaps the best all-out supercar out there, even without its pricing advantage."

Kirby Garlitos - Associate Editor

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Everything about the Z06 represents American sports car ingenuity at its finest.

"I’m always a sucker for finding value on whatever I buy. Call me a bargain hunter, if you so wish, but if that means going to clearance racks, so be it.

The Chevrolet Corvettes Z06 is a lot of things. It’s powerful enough to put supercars to shame. It’s got the mechanicals normally reserved for track-prepped race cars. Everything about the Z06 represents American sports car ingenuity at its finest.

But the biggest and yet most understated thing about the Z06 is that it’s a bargain compared to some of Europe’s finest exotics. Sure, you can drop somewhere around $300,000 for those well-bred Germans and Italians, but why do it when you can patronize a true blue American product for a fraction of the cost.

So get your Ferraris, Porsches, or McLarens. That’s all well and good. Just be sure that you can handle the heat when the Corvette Z06 comes knocking at your door."

Jonathan Lopez - Associate Editor

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It’s a slice of American pie with a stick of dynamite jammed into the crust.

"The Corvette Z06 is absolutely deserving of the title ‘Performance Car of the Year,’ and the reason why is simple: when it comes to going fast, there’s no better bargain. For less than $80k, you basically get a street-legal race car, with the numbers clocking in at less than three seconds to 60 mph and a top speed around 200 mph. It’s also one of the best-handling Corvettes in history, with enormous tires, big brakes, a trick differential, and a variety of aerodynamic packages. Everything about it is track-focused. Most incredibly, though, is the fact that the Z06 can easily outgun performance cars that cost twice as much.

It’s loud, brash, and in your face, which is exactly what you’d expect. Subtlety is just a whiff of exhaust from the supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 rumbling under the hood. It’s a slice of American pie with a stick of dynamite jammed into the crust. You could go with something more elegant, more sophisticated, more refined, but really, what’s the point? If the idea is speed, then go bowtie. Congrats, Chevy."

Ciprian Florea - Associate Editor

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Rather than taking a standard Vette and stuffing it with a supercharged engine and chassis upgrades, Chevy developed the Z06 alongside the C7.R race car.

"I must confess I’d find it hard to choose between a Corvette Z06 and a Challenger SRT Hellcat, but, feelings aside, the Z06 is the better car and the best performance vehicle 2014 had to offer. I’m not particularly excited about the Stingray’s looks, but the Z06 gets my vote for what lies underneath that sleek shell. It’s not too often that Chevrolet builds a street-legal Corvette based on its track-prepped sibling and this is what makes the Z06 unique. Rather than taking a standard Vette and stuffing it with a supercharged engine and chassis upgrades, Chevy developed the Z06 alongside the C7.R race car.

I’m talking about race-bred underpinnings and input from Pratt & Miller, the folks behind every track-prepped Corvette since the C5-R and a host of other GM racers. This is what Ferrari used to do back in the good ol’ days, and for that particular reason I consider the Z06 a classic in its infancy. How many street-legal race cars can you buy for about $80,000? Not many I assure you, especially if you’re looking for massive amounts of power and torque."

Justin Cupler - Editor in Chief

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Then GM came along and delivered a swift kick to the testicoli of Ferrari with the Z06, blowing us all away.

"The Corvette is a legend, but it became a little soft over the years and lost a lot of its edge. When the Stingray first debuted, I was happy with it, but it still lacked that certain something. Then GM came along and delivered a swift kick to the testicoli of Ferrari with the Z06, blowing us all away. With 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, a 0-to-60-mph time of under three seconds, a sub-11 second quarter-mile and a price tag of under $80K, it was the obvious choice.

Congrats, GM and Chevrolet. You were challenged with making the Corvette special again, and the 2015 Z06 six does that and then some."

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