The run up to the reveal of the all-new generation Corvette was a bit of a rocky one, partly because of the various leaks and general skepticism by the enthusiast community of its new mid-engine layout, essentially altering one of the car’s core ingredients.
Another reason such a configuration took such a long time to gestate and finally materialise as a fully formed production car was, as Chevrolet explains, the automaker’s longstanding desire to introduce such a vehicle - a true super sports car that could compete with some of the fastest and sharpest in the world.
With the all-new C8, the company had the opportunity to realise that dream while staying true to most of the tenets that distinguish it as a product of Americana. The idea conceived by the famous racer and engineer, a man pivotal to the Corvette’s creation and success, Zora Arkus-Duntov, who tried to bring the type of racing cars he saw in Grand Prix racing, particularly the Auto Union Types C and D, to Chevrolet.
While the company did experiment with such cars in its multiple CERV (Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicles) cars with admirable results, the production Corvette remained a front-engine sports car. The dream was shelved.
The C8, then, is seen by the Chevrolet as the expression of what the Corvette could be, and by some who were involved with its initial conception, always should have been, while living up to the nameplate’s fundamentals of functionality and attainability
Mounted behind the passenger cell is a new V8 dubbed the LT2, a progression of the previous LT1 in the previous-generation car but extensively modified to suit the new engine placement and the increased power it is expected to produce.
The 6.2-litre unit is naturally aspirated - quite deliberately so - and delivers 365kW, sending power to the rear wheels via a newly developed 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. Proponents of the three-pedal-only approach will have much to sulk for as there isn’t plans to a manual further down the road either.
The fast shifts, V8 muscle and lightweight construction, in addition to its now-improved balance, have resulted in a 0-100km/h sprint time of less than 3 seconds. That is, if the car is equipped with the enhancements from the optional Z51 Performance Package.
Chevrolet is keen to emphasise the how much of a dynamic improvement the new C8 is, even in this introductory variant. “Thanks to sophisticated suspension geometry, tailored tire technology and exquisite attention to structural details, we have improved ride and handling,” said Tadge Juechter, Corvette executive chief engineer. “No Corvette has ever felt so comfortable, nimble and yet completely stable.”
In terms of design, many of the C7’s styling cues have reappeared here. The new Corvette’s exterior is rather angular and though it has now adopted a mid-engine layout, does not particularly derivative of any other comparable sports car. The roof is also removable, just like it should be in a ‘Vette.
The C8 turns into a targa and its single-piece roof is stow-able in the rear boot which also happens to be large enough to accommodate a full set of golf clubs despite the small block V8 just ahead of it. In total, the car boasts an impressive 356 litres of cargo space.
Step inside, the C8’s cabin is completely unlike anything we’ve previously seen from GM and seems to be extremely driver-centric, ensconcing him or her in a cozy leather cocoon with easy access to any in-car function at an arm’s reach. The vents are positioned low for a low dashboard height, giving the cabin a more spacious feel and improved forward visibility.
It’s steering wheels takes on a rounded rectangular shape beyond which is a digital instrument cluster that is supplemented by the infotainment system display right next to it, but angled to face the driver and interacted with via touch the physical controller on the centre console. Meanwhile, all other switchgear are arranged in a single row of buttons on the passenger divider.
The interior itself has a generous helping of high quality materials such as clear coated carbon fibre and satin finished metals in addition to the hand-stitched leather and Alcantara used on body contact points. It is touted as a car equally adept at being agile and responsive but also comfortable at a cruise and daily drivable.
Another huge difference between the previous C7 and the new C8 Stingray is that the car has been engineered to allow left- and right-hand drive versions to be made. Chevrolet clearly has broader horizons in mind for the car and a handful of international markets for its launch.
Toward the end of the introductory presentation of the all-new ‘Vette, Chevrolet announced that prices were yet to be fixed but that its base price would sit below US$60,000 which, considering the performance on offer, looks very attractive.
And remember that this is just the start of a new line-up of cars. From here there are sure to be even more powerful and capable variants such as the Z06 and ZR1. It will be interesting to see how Chevrolet translates those around this new, more focused C8 formula.