Review: Chevrolet Corvette C8 with a lovely C3 cameo
When Chevrolet introduced the new Corvette in 2019 it was an instant blockbuster. The redesign, which made it a mid-engined sports car to compete with high-end supercars, was a jaw-dropper, as was the retention of the relative affordability the Corvette has always been known for.
The most iconic of American sports cars, the Corvette has long been a favorite among enthusiasts and collectors, but the hype surrounding the new design was even bigger than expected. This is the eighth iteration of the ‘Vette and with a power plant producing less than 500 horsepower in a world where pushing towards, or even above, 1,000 seems is not unusual and adding electrification is all the rage, some might have wondered whether the new C8 Corvette was really all that groundbreaking. After all, mid-engined cars are nothing new, especially rear-wheel-drive models.
After a week in a new convertible Corvette with the Z51 upgrade package, it was clear that this car is definitely something to get excited about. In road-going comfort as a driver’s car, the 2020 Corvette is comparable to the McLaren 570S. Sure, the McLaren is more powerful and more performance-focused, yet the two share the same poise and balance in everyday driving, and get the same kind of audience interest from passersby and parking lot paparazzi. There is, in fact, a lot of European sports car in the new Corvette’s design, feel, and sound.
The interior of the new-generation Corvette is crowded and driver-centric, but offers some welcome creature comforts for the daily driver. Most prominent is the large center stack that flows down to create a wide separation between the driver and passenger. This huge tunnel houses a long line of buttons that, upon closer inspection, are merely climate controls. From the top down, about two thirds of those buttons are for the driver’s side. Then a couple of centralized controls followed by a few more for passenger’s side settings. It looks complicated until it’s used. Then it seems, well, maybe overdone, as thought some of the buttons are for having buttons sake. Design-wise, while not totally ergonomic, the setup does give a “cockpit” feel the car hasn’t had since its very early beginnings, with all those buttons and switches adding to the flight-deck ambiance.
Overall it's a wonderfully comfortable interior for a sports car and the infotainment system is excellent. Also notable is the squared-off steering wheel. The square shape actually helps retain hand control, giving a tactile reference for the standard 10 and 2 hand position, which in turn helps facilitate paddle shifting and innate understanding of where the wheels are.
When driving, focus is forward, of course, and rear visibility comes second. Large side mirrors help compensate for the heavy rear haunches and near-total lack of rear view from the center mirror. Chevrolet did something smart there, though, integrating a camera just above the rear window that can be activated in the rearview mirror, turning that mirror into a screen. In the convertible model we drove, however, that camera folds down into the above-engine compartment with the rooftop, and the driver is back to seeing through a thin portal between the roll bars and over the rear deck and spoiler.
When driving, however, that matters little in the overall scheme of things. The C8 ‘Vette emits a wonderful exhaust sound from its powerful V8. The 6.2-liter engine outputs 490 horsepower (365.3 kW), and adding on the Z51 performance package boosts the Corvette’s overall output by 5 horses thanks to exhaust changes that greatly improve sound as well. The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is extremely fast, smooth, and very well-matched to the engine’s output. Most shifts happen without the driver feeling or hearing them (except in hard performance driving, of course) and downshifts are immediate with only the slightest rev-match blip. When controlling the shifts through the paddles, the driver gains the ability to make that quick shifting count.
The 2020 Corvette Stingray is a sleek, beautiful machine that seems to have more in common with European sports cars than anything else made in America. Yet for all that sexy European appeal, the Corvette remains very American.
During our review we had the chance to put the 2020 C8 next to a 1974 C3 model. The 2020 Stingray Z51 we tested is the most powerful version of the car available in the current-generation, producing 495 horsepower (369 kW); all to the rear wheels. The C3 is a 454 model and it produces 460 horsepower (343 kW) as the most powerful version made in that third generation. The two are similar in height and size, but the new C8 weighs about 400 pounds more (comparing coupe to coupe). That weight difference means that the power-to-weight between the two cars is almost the same, with the 1974 model having 0.14 hp per pound versus 0.137 for the 2020 model.
Styling differences between the two generations are pronounced, with the longer hood and heavier front shoulders of the C3 versus the C8 being most obvious. Yet the side profiles are similar, though the new Corvette design has toned down the heavy “Coke bottle” silhouette. It’s still visible as a Corvette hallmark, however, and is clearly at play in the rear haunch and forward lean of the new-generation ‘Vette. Other cues such as the Stingray nose, the dip of the doors to make the bottle’s “belly,” and the low roofline are also clear.
The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette has a starting price of US$59,900, which is surprisingly low for a serious sports coupe. Our convertible model with most of the bells and whistles added punched that price up to nearly $84,000 and we can see most buyers probably landing in the $70,000 area as their likely “with add-ons” purchase price. Still a bargain compared to what might be considered the ‘Vette’s competition from Europe.
Product Page: Chevrolet Corvette