The long awaiting mid-engine Corvette proves good things do come to those who wait, even if that wait was decades long. Here’s why the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 lives up to the hype.
Griffins, cyclops, unicorns … mid-engine Corvettes, one of these mythical creatures has finally transcended the world of imagination and arrived at Chevy dealerships across the country. While it’s not quite as awesome as riding a griffin, driving the new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is unquestionably the next best thing.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8s – chevrolet.com | Shop new Chevrolet Corvette on Carsforsale.com
From behind the wheel, the changes from the prior Corvette to the new C8 Corvette feel even more radical than you’ve heard. It’s not just the repositioning of the engine that’s a departure from the C7. From the on-road experience to the cockpit-like cabin, the C8 permanently alters what we think of when we think of a Corvette. The C8 doesn’t feel so much of a generational changing of the guard as it does a wholesale paradigm shift.
GM set out to build an American mid-engine supercar and sell it for somewhere near $60,000 (though most will go for well north of that number, even before dealer markups). In many ways the C8 Corvette exceeds those expectations. Though, as we’ll see, there were a few sacrifices made to get there.
Visualization can be a key technique for athletes and other performance minded folks to achieve their loftiest goals. Judging from the C8 Corvette, it appears that all the time GM had standing in the shower, staring idly out the window, and dozing off in corporate board meeting all while daydreaming of a mid-engine Corvette have finally paid off. Because doing the reps in your head a million times can make the real thing feel like second nature. So, while the C8 may be a total re-invention of the Corvette, it also feels like a logical, dare I say, inevitable evolution.
Positioned right behind your ears in the new C8 Corvette is the naturally aspirated L2T, a 6.2L V8 putting down 490hp and 470lb.-ft. of torque (495hp with the Z51 package). The engine is paired with a Tremec 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that does a very good imitation of Porsche’s PDK. Even the base C8 achieves supercar-like numbers with a neck-snapping 0-60 time of 3 seconds (or 2.8 with the Z51 equipment), a quarter mile of 11.2 second, and a top speed of 194mph.
In the lead up to the release of the C8, the biggest question after “how’s it drive?” and “how’s it look?” was, “will I still be able to fit two golf bags in the trunk?” Well, with a total of 12.6 cu. ft. of cargo space, the answer, Dad, is just barely. And considering the car looks great (especially in profile), that it drives like a rocket-powered scalpel (and no, I don’t mind mixing metaphors in this case) and it can stow two golf bags, makes the C8 a certifiable triple threat.
Fuel economy is about what you’d expect with 15 city, 27 highway, and 19 combined mpg.
The C8 Corvette is every bit an American supercar, but not, perhaps, in the way you’d expect. The emphasis is much more on the supercar rather than whatever automotive connotations you include under “American”. The C8 is a potent combination of refinement and power, yet it’s nowhere near as rowdy as the prior-generation C7. Instead, the C8 Corvette feels like a more attainable McLaren 570s.
In a way, the C8 reminded me of prizefighters like Mohammad Ali and Conor McGregor. Like them, the C8 has ample but not earth-shattering power (490/495hp is fairly modest by supercar standards). And yet, like those two pugilists, the C8 can deliver the KO when it wants thanks to its uncanny precision. Steering is sharp and firm, body roll is almost non-existent, and the stiffer chassis and 40/60 weight distribution makes the car feel poised and all that power cranked out by the L2T easily controllable.
The only complaint from behind the wheel would be the degree of understeer present. Rumor has it, GM sought to address the amount of oversteer in prior Corvettes by tuning the C8’s steering in the opposite direction. They may have, depending on your taste, overcorrected.
Though the power of the C8 feels akin to much more expensive supercars, it smooths over many of the rough edges you’d associate with those other cars. The ride itself is exceptionally smooth, even without the optional Magnetic Ride Control, and the steering is precise. The Tremec dual clutch is the first of its kind in a GM product and proves more than capable of translating what the L2T puts down, providing snappy shifts up the powerband. It feels equally satisfying and responsive in conjunction with the paddle shifters.
Overall, the C8 delivers the goods and then some. But this time the thrills are new, it’s exciting without being unnerving, exhilarating minus the cold sweats. The C8 is a potent combination of power and control perfectly balanced for mass-market appeal. It’s a drivers’ car built for the street, not the track.
We don’t talk much on these digital pages about the exterior aesthetics of vehicles given how age and taste can so wildly jaundice people’s opinions on the subject. Suffice to say that the C8 Corvette looks striking, love it or hate it. Even if the exterior might be a modern/radical departure from prior Corvettes, the interior is much less controversial.
It isn’t a stretch to say the C8’s interior might be the best GM has executed in decades. Stitched leather covers nearly every surface, sharp, angular lines crisscross and bisect the cabin and all seemingly converging to focus on the driver and their engagement with the car and the road. The ergonomics are great, everything (or almost everything) is perfectly placed for ease of use and minimal distraction.
The C8 departs from other supercars in another major respect here, it’s far more comfortable. The optional GT2 sport seats of the 3LT trim are stiffer and less forgiving than we’d like, but the seats below those are equally well-bolstered and yet much more comfortable. The ride is equally plush. Where most “sporty” suspensions translate the road verbatim, potholes and all, the C8 Corvette ride is surprisingly smooth.
The C8’s cabin layout is very driver oriented, for good and ill. We liked that the infotainment screen was angled toward the driver, as well as the rest of the controls. One polarizing element is the cascade of HVAC controls that runs from the dash to the center console. Not only does this form a short wall cordoning off the passenger from the rest of the cabin, it takes some time getting used to finding the right buttons. But, given time, it’s likely this design proves easier to navigate than climate controls embedded in infotainment screens, a baffling choice you still find across the industry.
The C8 Corvette comes in three trims and offers plenty of goodies right out of the box. Standard safety equipment includes a rear camera, GM’s Teen Driver package, a Buckle and Drive feature, and rear parking sensors. Add-ons include blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alerts, a HUD, and a forward-facing camera. Pulling a page out of Porsche’s handbook, Chevrolet offers many of the below trim-level features as a la carte optional add-ons.
Regardless of trim level, you can option the Z51 performance package for $5,000. It includes electronic limited-slip rear differential, performance exhaust, upgraded brakes, super sticky PS4 summer tires, and front brake cooling inlets.
1LT – Keyless entry, 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, WiFi hotspot, 10-speaker Bose stereo, 12-inch digital gauge cluster, pushbutton start, and dual-zone climate control.
2LT – HUD, heated and ventilated front seats, 14-speaker Bose stereo, Performance Data Recorder (which records lap video and data), optional carbon-fiber trim, upgraded seats, additional interior color options, and front-end lift.
3LT – GT2 sport seats, additional interior trim features and color options.
GM waited so long to finally grace us with a mid-engine Corvette that anything less than a car this spine-tingling and memorable would have been considered a failure. But, as Thoreau said, people rarely hit what they aim for, so they’d better aim high. Chevy hits their mark with the C8 Corvette, it’s an American supercar for the masses delivering all the thrills and then some, and at a price well below that of anything comparable on the market.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 – chevrolet.com | Shop new Chevrolet Corvette on Carsforsale.com
Hearing that naturally aspirated L2T growling behind your ears as you stomp on the throttle, the tires scrabbling for grip, and the g-forces smacking you in the neck like a vintage James Bond judo chop as you launch off the line all give you the sneaking suspicion you’d buy a C8 Corvette even if you could only fit one golf bag in the trunk.