Chevy’s mid-engine Vette thumbs its nose at the Supercars …
Chevy’s new Corvette is kryptonite to the ever-growing bevy of Supercars.
For more than 65 years Chevrolet’s everyman’s dream car has put its throbbing V8 power in front of the driver, but with the eighth generation that all changes. Supercars beware!
Now the Vette’s 6.2-liter V8 moves behind the driver in a mid-engine arrangement that seems new and exciting even though supercar makers, plus Ford with its GT, have been milking this layout for years.
While new and exciting looking there’s a familiarity too with the new Corvette. Stand in front and you’ll see the family resemblance, the pointed nose, the long headlights, the rounded front wheel wells. There’s even a tall flat rear shoulder that exudes Corvette styling.
Yet there’s the engine, under a glass rear window, Corvette headers confirming this isn’t a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or McLaren. And the grumble and rumble from the brilliant metallic Sebring Orange test car’s V8 also lets even the uninitiated know this isn’t an electric motor-assisted V6 as in Acura’s NSX, which resembles the Vette in profile.
Certainly a Ferrari V8 or Lamborghini V12’s growl would set them apart, so why should they get queasy in the presence of this new Vette?
Consider this. It looks a lot like them (a neighbor asked if it was a McLaren or Ferrari), packs nearly 500 horsepower, drives like it’s ready for the track and … wait for it … only starts at $59,995. Oh sure, I know that’s a lot of coin from your 401k, but it’s only a down payment compared with the supercars’ retail pricing.
A quick comparison with the heavyweights.
– A McLaren 570GT, the British firm’s low-cost entry level racer, starts at $205,450 and packs 562 horsepower from its 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8. Torque is rated at 443 lb.-ft.
– A Ferrari 488 GTB lists at $266,397 and boasts 660 hp from its 3.9-liter turbo V8.
– A Lamborghini Aventador crushes them all with 740 hp from its 6.5-liter V12 and comes with AWD. However, it lists at $421,145.
All of these have 7-speed automatics, while Corvette has a new 8-speed dual-clutch automatic that shifts better than you or I ever will. Plus, in Track mode, the crackle it emits as downshifting is absolutely inspiring.
And the non-turbo aluminum small-block Chevy V8 with the Z51 Performance package ($5,000) found on the test car delivers 495 hp and 470 lb.-ft. of torque, instantly. No turbo lag here, because there’s no turbo. Power is instant as you tromp the accelerator. Like the $180 grand BMW M8 Competition convertible driven a week earlier, the much lighter Vette (3,647 lbs. vs. 4,251) explodes down a highway entry ramp, reaching 100 mph. Please don’t ask how I know.
(See Mark’s video review: https://youtu.be/ArPgsHc1kY0 )
But to be honest, as enthralled as I was with the raw power, it was the handling and smoothness of the well-balanced Vette’s chassis that impressed most. I have a route in rural southeast Wisconsin that will test any car’s handling and ride quality. This was the easiest sports car, or wannabe, that I’ve driven on this route, perhaps with the exception of that much pricier M8 (roughly $100 grand more).
On one stretch I repeated the route three times, once each in Tour, Sport and Track mode. Track, as you’d assume, is most precise for steering with a wheel you barely needed to twitch to slice through a daunting S-curve. The wheel becomes incredibly tight and racy. In Sport it’s a slight wheel and shock tightening and in Tour it’s easy to steer, but still effortless to control. Track is more fun, Tour is more practical.
Take a rural “rustic” road and you’ll want Tour to somewhat soften the naturally stiff sports car ride. Plus note the Vette still has a relatively short 107.2-inch wheelbase. The longer the wheelbase, the smoother the ride.
You’re not buying a Vette, or any supercar, for smooth, boulevard cruising though. Yet this one will not beat you up. And yes, we all know the average Vette buyer has aged a bit. A friend happily told me that at 65 I am the perfect age for a Corvette. Ha! Maybe WAS! This new design is targeting much younger driving enthusiasts. It will succeed.
Certainly performance per dollar is there and for those interested in such feats of strength, Car & Driver magazine puts this Vette at 0 to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds, while Chevy says it can eek out a bit better. Still, it’s about a second quicker than the older C7 Vette. Likewise C&D reports its Corvette topped out at 184 mph, while Chevy claims 194. Either way, you’re in for a huge speeding ticket!
For the record the test car’s Z51 performance package upped the ante with performance brakes, performance suspension, performance exhaust and rear axle ratio, plus an electronic limited-slip differential, a rear spoiler, run-flat performance tires and a heavy-duty cooling system).
A group of onlookers at Hartford Municipal Airport praised the new Vette’s looks, but were especially curious about its removable roof panel and stylish new interior. Several owned Vettes.
First, the roof panel is easy to remove. Flip two levers over the windshield as with most convertible tops, and then release a lever in back and the roof is easily lifted off. Best with two people unless the singular person is tall and strong of upper body strength. You won’t want the fiberglass top to slip and mar the car’s paint job.
In any case, with two of you lifting and the rear hatch (which covers the engine and rear trunk space) released, you can slide the top into the trunk for storage while driving. It only fits one way.
Inside, the orange test car was all black leather with gray stitching and a lot of satin or brushed chrome trim on the doors, door armrests and steering wheel spokes and under the info screen. It looks great as does the raised ridge that divides the driver from the passenger. There you’ll find climate and seat heat/cool controls for both folks. It’s easy for the driver to use, but less so for the passenger. Also awkward to get at is the wireless phone charger that’s in a little pocket between and behind the seats. It’s standard on the 2LT trim Vette, which this was.
I loved the seats as did all the passengers. These were powered GT2 seats ($1,495) and heated and cooled, plus multi-adjustable including side bolsters. But I slipped right in and was instantly at ease. A power tilt/telescope square (racer-like) steering wheel also helps. That wheel gives you more legroom and allows easier viewing of the 12-inch instrument cluster.
The 8-inch screen also is easily read and simple to use. Two Favorites buttons on the underside of the steering wheel also help the driver quickly find tunes. A Bose high-performance stereo system with 14 speakers also helps. That’s part of the $7,300 2LT package that includes a load of extras, like adjustable head-up display, navigation system, front-view camera, anti-theft system, rear cross traffic and blind-spot alert.
That front camera can help if you park near a curb or parking lot block because the Vette has a low nose. But fear not, there’s a button to lift the car’s nose an inch or so to avoid scrapes. That’s $1,495 extra.
I also found the foot well a little tight because I’m short and had the seat fairly far forward. Rear visibility isn’t great either, but you expect that in mid-engine car. Rear view cameras and mirror/cameras help in that regard. I used them exclusively when backing.
On the considerable plus side are superb brakes, 13.6-inch discs up front and 13.8-inchers in back. Calipers are black Corvette branded and whoa this baby down in a hurry.
The two trunks, one front, one rear, also give you decent storage for a couple suitcases or grocery bags when eating takes precedence over driving. And I know it’s a small thing, but I loved the orange seatbelts on the test car, just $395 extra.
Gas mileage was good too and there’s no gas guzzler tax here. The EPA puts the Vette at 15 mpg city and 27 highway. I got 19.3 mpg in a 60/40 mix heavier on highway. A Vette owner told me he sometimes gets nearly 40 mpg on the highway. Know too that 91 octane fuel is required for the V8. But that’s to be expected.
All told the test car ended up at $79,315, considerably more than the base 1LT model, but still way less budget busting than any supercar, and a full $100,000 less than last week’s spectacular M8 convertible. Not exactly a poor man’s supercar, but much more approachable than those with fancier nameplates.
The new Vette is a winner!
FAST STATS: 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe
Hits: Supercar looks, powerful V8, excellent handling and multiple drive modes. Comfy interior with good screen, easy controls for driver, fine stereo, power tilt/telescope wheel, square steering wheel, HUD, plus removable and storable roof panel, two trunks and great stopping power. Price is a bargain!
Misses: Stiff ride, especially in Track mode, tight foot well, poor rear visibility, awkward climate controls for passenger and tough-to reach wireless charger behind seats.
Made in: Bowling Green, Ky.
Engine: 6.2-liter V8, 495 hp
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Weight: 3,647 lbs.
Wheelbase: 107.2 in.
Length: 182.3 in.
Cargo: 12.6 cu.ft. (2 trunks)
MPG: 19.3 (tested)
Base Price: $59,995 (includes delivery)
2LT package (Chevy infotainment 3 w/Nav, Bose performance series 14 speaker audio system, cargo nets, head-up display, HD front curb view camera, memory driver and passenger convenience package, rear camera mirror, performance data and video recorder, heated/cooled seats, power lumbar support and bolsters, heated steering wheel, theft-deterrent system, universal home remote, wireless charging, 9 months of Sirius radio, power heated outside foldaway mirrors, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot alert), $7,300
Z51 performance package (performance brakes, suspension, exhaust, rear axle, electronic limited-slip differential, rear spoiler, run-flat perf. tires, heavy-duty cooling system), $5,000
GT2 bucket seats, $1,495
Front lift adjustable height w/memory, $1,495
Body color exterior accents, $995
Sebring orange paint, $995
19-inch front, 20-inch rear carbon flash painted aluminum wheels/composite rockers, black, $550
Orange seat belts, $395
Carbon flash metallic painted outside mirrors, $100
Test vehicle: $79,315
Sources: Chevrolet, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage