Last night, Chevrolet revealed the long-awaited 2020 Corvette Stingray to a crowd of gathered journalists, Corvette aficionados and social media influencers. (Sadly, Hemmings did not get an invitation to the party.) On paper, the C8 sounds like an impressive package, capable of raising the model’s performance bar even higher, without an astronomical rise in pricing. While it will certainly be a capable sports car, we can’t help wonder – is it still a Corvette?
The mid-engine design brings with it both advantages and drawbacks. On a track, a car with a balanced front-to-rear weight distribution will—generally speaking—handle better than a car with a pronounced front or rear weight bias. The C7 Corvette had reached the limits of what was possible with a front-engine, rear-drive car, meaning that to improve performance (and lower the all-important Nürburgring lap times), a change in platform was needed.
In the real world of rush hour commutes and weekend getaways, mid-engine cars tend to suffer from packaging problems. Luggage space, for example, can be limited (though Chevrolet was diligent in showing that the new Corvette’s rear trunk could swallow a pair of golf bags), and some insist that having the engine behind the driver’s head is noisy, hot, or both. Earlier mid-engine cars, built in the days before stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes, could be unforgiving at the limit, suffering no fools behind the wheel. Thankfully, with today’s electro-nannies, snap oversteer is no longer an issue.
Though a production mid-engine Corvette is new, the idea behind it is not. Zora Arkus Duntov first tested the waters for a such a vehicle in 1960, with the introduction of the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle (CERV) 1, which served as a rolling testbed for a variety of engines over the years. The mid-engine, all-wheel drive CERV II followed in 1964, but GM’s racing ban kept the car from competing in the World Sportscar Championship.
Other mid-engine design studies followed, including the 1968 Chevrolet Astro II, the 1973 Chevrolet Corvette XP-897 GT, the 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept, and the 1990 CERV III. Each new generation of Corvette brought with it rumors of a switch to a mid-engine layout, but only in the past few years did it become apparent that the C8 Corvette would no longer carry its engine ahead of the driver. In many ways, its was the worst-kept secret in Corvette history.
The 2020 Corvette Stingray will be powered by a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter LT2 V-8, rated at 495 hp and 470-lb.ft. of torque. No manual transmission will be available, but the paddle-shifted, eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission can reportedly get a Z51 Performance Package-equipped Stingray from 0-60 mph in less than three seconds. The differential is limited-slip, but this is now controlled electronically, and six performance modes (including Weather, Tour, Sport, Track and two user-customizable programs) can be dialed up by the driver, depending upon conditions and mood.
The C8 weighs in at 3,366 pounds (dry weight). That’s a bit heavier than the outgoing model, which tipped the scales at 3,298 pounds (curb weight for base model). Perhaps that’s not surprising, since the new Corvette is a slightly bigger car than the model it replaces. The C7 measured 176.9 inches from bumper to bumper, rode on a 106.7-inch wheelbase, and had an overall width of 73.9 inches. The C8 Corvette will measure 182.3-inches from bumper to bumper, ride on a 107.2-inch wheelbase and take up 76.1 inches of the traffic lane.
And then there’s the price. In 2019, a stripped-down C7 Corvette (likely a special-order item) could be had for $56,995, excluding tax, title, license, and dealer fees. According to Chevrolet’s press release, the 2020 C8 Corvette will start at “under $60,000,” which we’d read to be $59,995, also excluding tax, title, license, and dealer fees.
So has Chevrolet hit the mark with the latest Corvette, or is it a step too far in an effort to target more exotic hardware? If you currently own a Corvette–especially a C7—will you be eager to talk to a dealer about an upgrade, or will you be content to keep your current model in the garage?