When Zora Duntov first thought of the idea for a radical mid-engine Corvette on 1959, the car purely existed in concept form (CERV 1,) with the idea being way ahead of what the 1950s could offer in terms of technology. Despite this, the core conscience of this idea never went away, with the 1960s 70, 80s and even the 1990s all featuring a mid-engine equipped Vette concept in some shape or form (including CERV II and CERV III) But like before, the idea was too revolutionary for its time, and as the 1990’s came and went, economic feasibility became more and more of a factor. But patience does indeed have its rewards, and at long last, Chevrolet has finally made good on its long standing 60 year old promise, and has released the first ever production mid-engine Corvette, the 2020 C8 Corvette Stingray.
Aiming to completely revamp what makes the Corvette so special to its owners, the exterior styling of the C8 adopts a very futuristic suit of clothes that is honed for maximum aerodynamics, while still retaining an impressive degree of functionality. For instance, the ability to remove the roof is still present, and buyers looking to own one will benefit from two storage spaces. Like others of its species, the C8 still has a rear trunk that can fit a couple of golf bags (or the roof itself,) but befitting its more exotic placement in life, an all new frunk in the Stingray’s nose allows a few extra bags to be stowed for weekend road trips. The rest of the look can be described as more of an evolution of the outgoing C7’s futuristic aesthetic, with sharper lines, bolder character accents, and even the addition of more “folded edge” accents for good measure. Our favorite feature has to be the aggressive side vents which look awesome, and nicely mesh with the large voids in the wheels, which further enhance the poised performance look that the car is trying to achieve.
Chevrolet benchmarked the best that Ferrari, McLaren, Acura, and even Porsche had to offer, and this extensive testing regimen has helped create a canvas that is state of the art, but still retains a distinctly American motif that should please loyalists that might have been concerned about the C8 possibly pitching all traces of its heritage for the sake of embracing the future. The revamped taillights have a slight whiff of current generation Camaro to them, but that is not a bad thing, considering how much they contribute to the rest of the C8’s exterior styling. Enormous side air scoops pump massive amounts of cool air to the engine and the radiators, and the C8 is the first Corvette iteration to feature dual fuel tanks, with the tanks themselves being mounted like saddlebags near the side scoops. As for the front fascia, the changes are more subtle, and while the C7 resemblance is present, the newly relocated engine-cooler heat exchangers (now mounted on either side of the nose) do cause it to also have a distinctively different character that is more exotic than ever before.
Meanwhile, the interior of the C8 is even more driver focused than before. Like the C7 it replaces, the C8’s cockpit is a slick place to spend time in. An all new squared off two spoke steering wheel is designed to not only enhance driver friendliness, but to also keep the view of the touchscreen infotainment system unobstructed and within immediate reach of the driver. The cabin has also undergone a massive rethink in terms of material quality, and Chevrolet designers carefully considered every single piece of material used in the cabin of the 2020 Corvette. Gone are the days where cheap plastics, lackluster seats, and questionable ergonomics dominated the Corvette driving experience. In their place, is a swath of high quality materials, with warm leather tones, real metal trim, and the best plastics seen in a GM product yet taking center stage.
The controls of the Stingray are still cantered towards the driver, but unlike the C7, the controls literally wrap around the driver in virtually all directions. While we are still on the fence in regards to the climate controls (which look like they could be a long reach for shorter drivers) it appears that the rest of the design has truly hit the mark, and with the passenger cell shifting 16.5 inches forward due to the engine swap, getting in and out is not difficult, and while the seats are lower, they are not low to the point where getting in and out of the car is like undertaking a gymnastics exercise, with the bigger side sills and generously sized doors helping further enhance entry and exit. Drivers looking for a shifter will not find it here, instead, the C8 uses what Chevy calls the Electronic Transmission Range Selector (ETRS for short.) ETRS uses a series of buttons mounted along the center tunnel to help engage gears, and is roughly similar to systems used in some of its exotic rivals. Drivers looking to shift the gears themselves will be able to do so via the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Three different seat options will be on hand (GT1, GT2, and Competition Sport) with each option ratcheting up the amounts of support and track capability that it can deliver to drivers. With the bulk of drivers using their cars as seasonal daily commuters, look for GT1 and GT2 to be the most commonly checked boxes in the equipment list, with the range topping Competition Sport seats being reserved for track focused buyers. When compared with entries like the Acura NSX that we recently reviewed, the C8 Vette does edge ahead in a few areas, but we look forward to some seat time in a Corvette soon to find out if the interior ambiance can indeed match or even surpass the segment benchmarks that it is trying to outgun.
Performance for the 2020 Corvette Stingray comes from an all new 6.2 liter naturally aspirated small block V8. Dubbed the LT2, the engine generates 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. These figures are enough to shoot the mid-engine Vette to 60 mph in under 3 seconds. This is roughly identical with the C7 ZR1 variant, which made 755 horsepower, and was the ultimate interpretation of C7 Corvette performance. The lone fly in this ointment is that the manual transmission did not make the jump to the C8, with all C8 Stingray models arriving with an automatic transmission. Chevrolet claims that the all new dual-clutch eight speed automatic brings quicker reflexes, and smoother shifts to the Corvette, which should make up for the loss of this long standing Corvette trademark somewhat. While a Z06 and even a range topping ZR1 model could eventually make its way to the lineup in the near future, Chevrolet did reveal that the Z51 package will resume its tour of duty for the 2020 model year. This package brings upgraded brakes, and a tweaked exhaust system, while also enhancing cooling at the same time. Look for this particular package to be the perfect offering for owners that add weekend track days to their list of expectations when buying a sports car offering.
Another classic Corvette trademark, the leaf spring suspension, has finally been pitched into the dustbin of history, and wheras that suspension had its origins underpinning horse drawn buggies, the C8 is the first Vette to adopt coil springs at all four conrers. Look for this revelation to greatly enhance the car’s playful nature, and to also sharpen its track focused handling even further. Like the fore-mentioned manual, there are die-hards who are big fans of the older leaf spring setup, but we urge those folks to give this new suspension arraingement a try before they make their final judgement (they might be pleasantly surprised with what they find.) The structure itself has undergone some changes, and while it still has a copious amount of aluminum in its construction, the frame replaces its parallel running rails with a highly advanced backbone structure that hangs off a specially designed sub-frame.
Pricing for the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is not being released until later this year, but while the mid-engine layout certainly made Chevrolet’s task of cost control more difficult, the company did let it slip that the C8 will start under $60,000. We suspect that this vague statement could translate into a base price somewhere around $55,000 to $56,000. An example of this attention to costs can be found in the relative lack of carbon fiber components. Unlike other exotic entries, Chevy engineers only used the lightweight material in two key areas a rear bumper beam, and an underbody close-out panel that runs along the length of the center tunnel which enhances the strength of the backbone structure.
With a renewed focus in its mission to provide driving fun, and a new mid-engine layout to enhance overall driving pleasure, look for the 2020 Corvette Stingray to be a compelling disruptor towards more established segment entires, and we look forward to finding out for ourselves if the C8 platform can help launch the Corvette into a slice of the market that it has traditionally looked at from the outside versus being right in the middle of it. Based on our initial look during its global unveiling, things are off to a great start.
Lastly, Chevrolet has also released a literal library of 2020 Corvette videos on its Youtube page, with some of the more important ones listed below for your viewing pleasure.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.