Is there a more American car than the Chevrolet Corvette? The Ford Mustang fan base may quibble with the thought, but there’s no denying that countless enthusiasts believe it to be true. And because of that, each new iteration of the sports car stokes excitement among Chevy loyalists. But it had been decades since the announcement of a new ‘Vette garnered as much anticipation as the unveiling of the eighth-generation model last year.
That’s because, after years of rumors and speculation, the 2020 C8 Corvette Stingray was the first iteration of the model to feature a mid-engine layout. For Corvette diehards, that news was momentous. After all, moving the engine back would almost certainly allow the car to compete more directly with its high-performance European peers. Yet, it would also likely alter its signature look—a mid-engine placement would mean a new frame. Indeed, Chevy took the opportunity to completely reimagine the Corvette’s design, discarding more than a few signature features for the new C8, including the elongated nose of its predecessors. The result is a sports car that looks primed to compete for attention, not only with American devotees, but with collectors of European supercars as well.
Engine, Specs and Performance
Any discussion about the C8 Corvette can only begin in one place: the engine. After 67 years of commitment to a front-engine configuration for the Corvette, Chevrolet decided to kick off the new decade by repositioning the car’s powerhouse behind the driver and passenger seats. And this isn’t just any old engine—it’s a brand-new, naturally aspirated 6.2-liter LT2 V-8.
While that base motor, which is mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, isn’t all that different from the one featured in the C7, it is more powerful, bringing a solid 490 hp of grunt and 465 ft lbs of torque. The new power train enables the car to rocket from zero to 60 mph in less than three seconds. The C8 can also complete the quarter-mile in just over 11 seconds and reach a top speed of 184 mph. And if that’s not enough for you, a Z51 performance package will boost the horsepower and torque figures to 495 hp and 470 ft lbs, respectively, giving all other performance numbers a lift as well. One thing to note: There is only one transmission option, something that has caused consternation among the faithful.
To help manage all that power, the C8 Corvette has a Driver Mode Selector that allows you to pick from six driving modes, including Tour, Sport, Track, Weather, MyMode and Z Mode (the latter two of which are customizable). It’s also equipped with a four-wheel anti-lock brake system, with disc brakes and four-piston calipers on each wheel. The Z51 package also includes an electronic limited-slip differential, new final drive ratio, improved cooling system for the brakes, an enhanced suspension and a performance exhaust.
A New Exterior
Like any other vehicle, the iconic sports car has seen its shape and design shift since it was introduced in 1953. But from generation to generation, no design overhaul has been as jarring as the C8’s. For that last 25 years or so—about the time the C5 debuted in the mid ’90s—we’ve been able to see the previous generation of ‘Vettes within the new iteration’s design. That stops with the C8.
Chevrolet used the change in layout as a chance to alter the ‘Vette’s profile, discarding some of its trademark features. Gone is the long, signature nose and slightly squared-off back. The front still comes to a peak, but the rest of the lines and angles are sharper and the cockpit has been moved forward. That shift rids the car of the slinky elegance that’s been a part of its shape since the ’60s but gives its a new boldness. This is a vehicle designed for speed, and it looks like it. The new design, which is available as both a coupe and convertible, gives the American vehicle a decidedly more European aesthetic.
Interior, Infotainment and Cargo
But it’s not just the car’s exterior that’s been given a makeover. Open up the C8’s doors and you’ll find a cabin that actually looks like the cockpit of a futuristic fighter jet. Sit down in the low-slung driver seat and you’re met with a rectangular steering wheel, which includes two large paddle shifters. Behind that is a 12-inch digital instrument cluster, which includes a new tachometer, to help keep track of your vehicle and its performance as you drive.
Embedded into the center console is an 8-inch infotainment screen that’s angled toward the driver. It’s equipped with Chevy’s Infotainment 3 Plus system, which features Bluetooth connectivity, a 4G mobile hotspot and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The vehicle is also equipped with a high-performance, 14-speaker Bose audio system that is sure to be music to any audiophile’s ears. You’ll also have three different styles of bucket seats to choose from, as well as a variety of color and material options, including Napa leather and suede microfiber. And for those worried about cargo space due to the design changes, the C8 offers a front compartment and rear trunk that still has room for two sets of golf clubs.
Like anyone else interested in high-performance vehicles, we were excited to get behind the wheel of the 2020 Corvette. But that test-drive through Nevada made one thing abundantly clear: While definitely a step in the right direction—and an incredible vehicle for its price—the new C8 wasn’t fully ready to shine. This is a car, after all, that wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Lamborghinis and McLarens, but it simply didn’t feel fully refined yet. From our “First Drive” write-up earlier this year:
“The new ‘Vette is a remarkable achievement for something starting under $60,000, but it’ll be a while before the C8 matures into the outstanding machine I’m confident it can be. Maybe that machine is the forthcoming Stingray convertible. Maybe it’s an eventual higher-powered Corvette variant. Either way, I feel the magic looming.”
Of course, it’s important to remember that the 2020 model is the very first installment of the C8. On average, different ‘Vette generations have managed to stick around for more than eight years. That gives the brand some time to improve the car—and find that magic.
Pricing: Is the Corvette C8 Worth It?
When Chevrolet first announced the mid-engine C8 Corvette, they promised it would start at less than $60,000. As far-fetched as that sounded at the time, the automaker delivered on that promise. Just like last year, the ‘Vette starts at $59,995 for the coupe and $67,495 for the convertible. Of course, with a near-endless list of options and trim levels, its price can quickly climb skywards, with a fully loaded convertible available for north of $100,000. Still, when you consider the kind of vehicles that the C8 is competing with, even the most expensive version seems like a bargain in comparison.
What’s Next: More Ways to Customize
As promising as the C8 Corvette may be, its first year has gone anything but smoothly. First, the United Auto Workers strikes delayed production of the eagerly anticipated vehicle, then the coronavirus pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill and raised serious supply concerns. Chevy has responded by offering more standard features and a raft of exciting new options for the car’s second go-around.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now come standard with the C8, as does a redesigned digital cluster and GM’s Buckle to Drive safety tech. As for the new options, there are two exterior finishes to choose from (Red Mist Tintcoat and Silver Flare Metallic), two new interior color schemes (Sky Cool Grey and Yellow Strike) and you can add racing or stinger stripes. Most exciting of all, though, is that the Magnetic Ride Control from the Z51 performance package is now available as a stand-alone option.
If none of that sounds sexy enough for you, don’t worry. Rumors are swirling that a high-performance Z06 variant packing a 600 hp, DOHC 32-valve 5.5-liter V-8 could arrive as soon as next year.
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