It takes a certain level of self-confidence for a middle-aged guy to tool around in a new Corvette Stingray, especially one painted “Accelerate Yellow.” The car is as subtle as a kick to the head.
This is the C8, the eighth generation, and it’s about as far removed from the original 1960s Sting Ray as you can imagine. The mid-mounted engine is now behind the driver, and the bodywork looks European, like a Lamborghini or a McLaren, with all the performance but for less than half the price.
I drove the C8 Corvette early last year on a racetrack near Las Vegas and the memory is still fresh: “For the money,” I wrote back then, “you get a performance car that can take on Ferrari and Lamborghini and other quarter-million-dollar vehicles. … The new Corvette is a truly exceptional vehicle.”
Exceptional, certainly, but should you actually own one? That’s a different matter. Corvettes have a reputation as a midlife-crisis car, and there are few things sadder than watching an older man – somebody who’s thinning on top and cultivating a little grey goatee to distract from the wattles on his neck and extra pounds around his waist – try to clamber out of a performance car’s low-slung seat. Especially so when the car screams for attention in Accelerate Yellow.
So I asked my friend Dan to take the Vette for a drive. Dan’s a lawyer in his 50s, and while his salt-and-pepper mustache is not quite so woeful as my own Covid goatee, and although he appears to have most of his own hair and a waistline that’s not quite given up to age, he does have fond memories of the seventies Corvette that he drove on his first date with the woman who is now his wife. If anyone’s going to buy this new car in a shameless attempt to relive his youth, it’ll be someone like Dan.
He sank, gingerly, way down into the driver’s seat and I settled in beside him in the passenger compartment to explain the vehicle. There’s nothing else to do on the right side of the car: Everything is focused toward the driver and the passenger feels like a sidecar rider, without easy access to controls or distractions.
“The cool thing about the handling of this car is that the weight is distributed 50-50 in front of and behind the driver’s hips,” I told Dan. “If we go onto a track and let it rip around some corners, you won’t feel the car push or pull or even slide out much around the curves. It feels like it’s swivelling around you.”
“Are we going onto a track?” asked Dan, enthusiastically. This Corvette was equipped with the $7,000 Z51 Performance Package, bumping up the power to 495 horsepower. For the past few years, Dan’s been driving a Lexus IS.
“No,” I told him. “You’ll have to take my word for it.”
He also had to take my word that there was a huge and powerful engine behind the driver, because while the hardtop Corvette has a glass cover that shows off the 6.2-litre V8, the convertible hides that view underneath a cover for the retracted hard roof. If you want to see the engine, you need to start unscrewing shields. This is not a car for shade-tree mechanics.
We set off as fast as we dared on rural but public roads. Dan is a very good lawyer but he’s not a miracle worker at the side of the highway if we should be pulled over by the police, so we kept our speeds down to a fraction of the Corvette’s capability. He was amazed by the smoothness of the eight-speed transmission, and its intuitive ability to always be in the right gear. He was impressed at the comfort of the cabin, even when the roof was down. And he was astonished by the sheer power underneath his feet.
Previous Corvettes have always been fast but content to drive at legal highways speeds. This C8 Corvette, with its square steering wheel and multiple digital displays of performance, never stops reminding you that it would rather be on a racetrack.
We drove for an hour before returning home, where he parked in his driveway and heaved himself up from the seat with a distinct lack of grace. That could be improved with practice and some stretching exercises, he reasoned. Maybe some yoga.
So, the $113,000 question. … If he had the funds to spare, would he buy the new Corvette for himself?
“Yes, I would. I absolutely would,” he said, optimistically. “I think they’ve knocked it out of the park. I’ve not driven a supercar, but it’s light years ahead of the last Corvette I drove. I’m a blue-collar performance guy, and this is the epitome of that.”
So maybe it is a good midlife car. After all, it might inspire Dan to take up yoga, and that can only be a good thing, right?
2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible
Base price/as tested: $69,398/$111,363, plus $2,000 freight and inspection
Engine: 6.2-litre V8
Transmission/drive: Eight-speed dual-clutch transmission/rear-wheel drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): 15.4 city/8.7 highway (using premium gas)
Alternatives: Porsche 718; Porsche 911, Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG GT