Cruising in the C8

Driving the mid-engine Corvette

by | Oct 16, 2019 | Reviews

Photo Credit: John Lamm

Cruising in the C8

Driving the mid-engine Corvette

by | Oct 16, 2019 | Reviews

Photo Credit: John Lamm

Slipping into the driver’s seat of the 2020 Corvette C8, one thought comes to mind: At last.

Stingray addicts have been waiting for more than 40 years for this production mid-engine ‘Vette.

Will the C8 be everything we hoped for?

From the start, looking over a steering wheel featuring the Corvette emblem but with a V-8 rumbling behind you captures your attention. So too does the low nose ahead and the engine compartment wall right aft of you. It seems the opposite of past Corvettes with a tall hood and fender peaks in front.

Corvette C8

The immediate feeling brings a new Corvette sense, that of being one with the car more than ever before. Now, you aren’t following the V-8’s power, but moving ahead with it. As in cars like the original Acura NSX, the low nose allows you to feel the road rushing under you.

We don’t doubt Chevy’s claim of 0-60 in less than 3.0 seconds with the Z51 package. That’s with the V-8 performance exhaust version featuring 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. They aren’t disclosing the Stingray’s skidpad performance, but acknowledge it’s above 1.00g, and we hear rumors of 1.03-1.05g. There is still grumbling about no manual transmission, but in the C8 package the 8-speed automatic feels like a natural fit. This is, after all, the 21st century.

Out on our countryside test road, the Stingray felt — no surprise here — steady and solid. Steering is direct and positive. The view forward and to the sides is wide open. The C8 glides down the two-lane winding road with powerful ease, and before you know it you might have doubled the speed limit. Not that we did…

Corvette C8

After our drive we did a parking lot walkaround of the Stingray. The nose is what you would expect. Pointed in Corvette tradition, the central grille opening and large vents to the sides work with the sloped headlights to give the car something of a devilish grin. Large vents dominate the sides and emphasize the car’s mid-engine location.

Out back, the C8’s design looks a bit cluttered. There’s the spoiler up top, tail lights below that, down to extraction vents and exhaust pipes bracketing a lower aero exhaust. Then again, every element on the back of the C8 is there for one purpose — supporting the V-8.

We also took a detailed look at the interior. The seat design seems to be segmented to show where it supports your body — each leg, your spine, your sides for lateral support. Ahead is a steering wheel that might be described as a soft square. The expected switches and knobs are all there and just ahead are the tall shift paddles. To the right, on the center console, are the PRND switches and MODE wheel knob that works you through options including Tour, Sport and Track. These controls are all within easy reach.

Corvette C8

This works well in combination with such devices as the Z switch on the steering wheel to let you tune your Stingray for a drive to the store or a hot lap of Road America. Your mode is reflected in the 12-inch digital dash that can be configured to inform you of everything from gas mileage to lap times to G-forces. Both that and the infotainment screen to the right are well placed just below sightlines to the front.

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To the right on the center console is a short wall between driver and passenger. Atop and running down that wall are the heating/air conditioning controls. At first glance the 17 switches look confusing, taking your eyes from the road. In fact, they are cleverly segmented. At the top, in the middle and on the bottom are tall switches to vary temperature or fan speed. Between them several buttons have been designed with indentations that make them easy to identify just by touch. With a little practice they should be easily learned with your fingertips and are readily available to the passenger.

Corvette C8

That wall between driver and passenger serves its purpose in creating a distinct driver’s cockpit. Then again, for some that separation might be too much. Does your riding partner feel ignored over there? That would be between the two of you.

It takes just three levers to remove the hardtop, and the lid is light enough for one person to lift and maneuver into the rear trunk. There is also a convertible version of the C8 with a 2-piece sheet-molded composite top that folds back into a compartment in the engine bay. The good news is that folding takes about 16 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph and the convertible only weighs about 100 pounds more than the coupe. The bad news? You trade the window view of the V-8 for a solid cover.

Corvette C8

There are two trunks in the C8. Under the front lid is a compartment said to be big enough to hold an airplane carry-on bag. The wide one in the back will take a pair of golf bags

Here’s a look at the price sheet for our test car. It starts at a base price of $58,900 plus a $1,095 destination charge. The biggest price addition is the 3LT package ($11,950), which is mostly interior upgrades from the GT2 seats (there are three seat options) to better materials. Then add $5,000 for the Z51 Performance Package, which includes the performance suspension and brakes plus the electronic limited slip differential. Add another $1,895 for the suspension upgrade with magnetic ride control (a worthy addition). There were other extras on our test car, like $395 for “Torch Red Seat Belts,” taking the total to $85,710.

To each their own. This is very much a track-ready version. We’d love to try a base C8 and experience the same engine and gearbox with a suspension tuned to match most daily conditions, even a run down a curvy canyon road.
By comparison, a base Porsche 911 Carrera would set you back $97,400 while a 718 Cayman is $56,900 plus destination charges and options.

Decisions, decisions, all the time decisions…

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