The new, eighth-generation “C8” Corvette is clearly a radical reboot for Chevrolet. The big V8 is moved back behind the driver for the mid-mounted design its original designer yearned for 60 years ago. The car looks like an Italian exotic, although it’s built in Kentucky. And the interior is the pinnacle of driver-focused self-absorption.
It’s very fast, with a three-second-flat time for zero-to-100 kilometres an hour, although the numbers aren’t monstrous: 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque from the new 6.2-litre engine. The truly impressive numbers are the price: A basic starting MSRP of $69,998, rising through the mid-trim at $79,898 and topping out at $85,398. All those prices include the $2,100 of freight and pre-delivery inspection fees, along with an air-conditioning tax that the federal government charges on all vehicles with A/C.
If you pay an extra $5,900, you can order the Z51 performance package, which adds 5 hp and 5 lb-ft through the upgraded exhaust and shaves a tenth of a second off the acceleration time, to the all-important 2.9 seconds. More realistically, it provides better brakes, better suspension and a limited slip differential.
Those prices are for the coupe, which has a removable hard-top roof that can be stored in the rear trunk. There’s a true hardtop convertible as well that starts at $76,898, although it will take a couple more months to come to market. General Motors hasn’t started building it yet.
And for the money, you get a performance car that can take on Ferrari and Lamborghini and other quarter-million-dollar vehicles. General Motors doesn’t expect to tempt many of those exotica owners away from their snob-appeal cars, but it does expect that many will buy a ’Vette as their daily driver, leaving the 458 or the 911 for Sunday runs.
- Base price/As tested: $69,998/$85,398 (inc. Freight and PDI and a/c tax)
- Engine: 6.2-litre V-8
- Transmission/Drive: Dual-clutch automatic/RWD
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 15.4 city, 8.7 highway, 12.4 comb.
- Alternatives: Porsche 718 Cayman; Porsche 911, Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG GT
You may not like it if you’re an old fogey, but there’s no doubt the new ‘Vette is striking. It shares the same haunches over the fenders as the previous generations, and the same slope at the back, but that’s about it. Overnight, the previous generation now looks dated by the new car’s low and aggressive roofline, and by the glass cover for the V8 engine. There are no plastic substitutes where there should be metal or carbon-fibre. The Corvette looks like an Italian supercar and its finish is just as good, if not better.
This is very much a driver’s car, with everything angled toward the driver – so much so that the (very comfortable) passenger seat feels like an afterthought. There’s nothing much to do on that right side of the car except enjoy the ride, and it seems almost like being in the sidecar of a motorcycle.
In the driver’s seat, though, it all comes together. The all-digital gauges in the instrument cluster change configuration depending on which of six driving modes is set, and the eight-inch central touch-screen controls most everything else. An array of buttons along the ridge of the central dividing armrest controls the climate. These look impressive, like an aircraft cockpit, but a passenger’s resting arm can change the settings too easily. A lock-out switch would be a good idea.
This is a very comfortable car for everyday driving, with more legroom than before and a wide choice of seats that recline farther. One of the Corvette’s test drivers is 6 feet 5 inches, and the designers used him as a benchmark.
The shallow rear window means that vision out back is poor, but Chevrolet’s taken the digital, camera-view mirror from some of General Motor’s other vehicles to get around that. You have to upgrade past the basic trim to get it, though, and these mirrors take getting used to, because you focus on the screen, not the image itself.
In fact, the entire windshield seems like a screen, owing to the short hood that no longer covers an engine. You look ahead through the glass and can’t see the hood, just the road and the heads-up display. It’s like a video game, except with consequences.
This is where the rubber meets the track, and the dynamics of a mid-engined car show themselves. Yes, the Corvette is extremely fast, and electronic launch control shaves close to a second off the zero-to-100 km/h acceleration of the previous generation, but it’s how it goes around corners that really counts.
I drove the top-end Corvette with the Z51 performance package for a few fast laps around a track, and it was really easy to do. The car has a 40/60 weight balance, which means there’s more weight over the rear wheels for better acceleration. The driver’s hip point, however, is almost exactly over the 50/50 balance point, so the car feels as if it’s swivelling around you.
“The car is turning right around you,” says Chris Barber, the Corvette’s lead chassis engineer. “A big offset [in centre of gravity, or CG] can make the car feel sluggish. If you’re looking for that quick, nimble style of driving, the delay time that can be caused by an offset to the CG is more substantial than people realize. But when you’re right on that CG, the car feels more direct, more engaged.”
The other truly impressive feature is the eight-speed Tremec transmission. There are only paddles to shift gears on the funky, square steering wheel, but they’re almost instant. I used them for the first lap and then literally forgot about them, because the car was already in exactly the gear I wanted, wherever I was on the track.
There’s loads of technology, of course, for both driver’s safety assistance and performance. There’s nothing lacking, and a few unique features. One of the neatest is the “stealth” mode that can be set for night driving. Almost all the interior lights are switched off, and the only display for the driver is a basic speedometer readout. That should be great for freaking out the passenger.
There are two storage trunks, one each at the front and back. They’re the same size between them as the previous generation’s trunk, at 367 litres. There’s room for two (small) golf bags at the back and a couple of carry-on cases in the front. There’s some space behind the seats if you don’t recline them all the way, and two cup-holders in the centre console. This is an American car, after all.
The new Corvette is a truly exceptional vehicle. It’s not unique – there are plenty of other performance cars that will give it a run for its money, but they won’t embarrass it. And those cars will cost at least twice as much.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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