The ‘Vette earns a place as a 2020 Car of the Year finalist
- Forgiving chassis dynamics
- Quiet, supple ride
- Low, low pricing
- Cluttered design
- Brake-by-wire feel
- Those buttons
We’ve been awaiting this mid-engine marvel for a half-century. Now that it’s here, can it possibly live up to our astronomical expectations? And even if I love it, will my younger colleagues (who haven’t waited as long and don’t have roots in southeast Michigan) dismiss the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 as just another plastic-fantastic?
Happily, Chevrolet sent us a best-foot-forward example, featuring the must-have 3LT interior ($4,650 USD) and magnetic-ride suspension ($1,895 USD) to bring its sticker to an estimated $88,000 USD (a bit of a hike from the base price of 60 grand).
Having ridden in a prototype with the chief engineers on some of Michigan’s most molested roads, I already appreciated the smooth ride, low road and wind noise, and easy-entry cockpit. But those prototype interiors were all camoed, and no right-seat ride-along can confirm just how user-friendly this mid-engine chassis is.
The design of the new Corvette will be the stuff of much debate. Our design experts agreed the C8 is too busy, cluttered, and “naïve.” Getting in, bright red leather, red stitching, and an Alcantara headliner make a great first impression. “The interior quality of materials sets a new standard for Corvette,” engineering consultant Chris Theodore said, though he found it flashy and overdesigned. Detroit editor Alisa Priddle praised the comfortable ($1,495 USD GT2) seats while noting that “even shorter drivers can see over the hood—it helps that the top of the steering wheel is square.”
Executive editor Mark Rechtin praised the quality of the Bose sound system and the interior’s long-haul grand touring comfort, but he faulted the plastics selected for the cupholder, turn signal stalk, the row of minuscule climate control buttons, and other touchpoints. The passenger also needs something to hang onto in Track mode driving.
As for how it drives, it’ll comfort buyers experiencing a mid-engine car for the first time—but vex Formula Drift fans—to learn that the C8 Corvette’s tail wants to follow the nose. Understeer is strong in this one. Even if/when the driver does something ham-fisted (presuming the safety gear hasn’t been switched off), the handling limits are extremely high. That said, surpass your limits without those electronic safety nets, and you’ll end up on WreckedExotics.com.
Figure-eight guru Kim Reynolds noted that although lap stats may trail those of analogous C7 Corvettes, the C8 feels “lightyears better,” adding that “the old car was a nasty mess, but this one is a pleasure; every correction is a simple instruction that’s carried out as you hoped.”
My experiences on a closed track confirmed Reynolds’ findings. I hurtled into curves way faster than I do in most high-limit sports cars, marveling at the midcorner grip and the impressive corner exit speeds. Theodore concurred: “Easy to drive, with very high capabilities most owners won’t reach—probably the easiest mid-engine supercar to drive fast.” The electric power steering’s accuracy and feel impressed associate online editor Stefan Ogbac, though others ranked it below the Porsche 911 and AMG GT but above the Toyota Supra for feel and precision.
Most of us agreed that the Corvette’s chassis dynamics tuning team needed to focus further effort on the brakes. Stopping distance is reasonable (94 to 97 feet on different track surfaces), but the pedal travel and effort need to better match the braking force. This system is “by wire,” meaning the pedal feel is generated artificially. It also varies with drive mode. “Modulation needs work,” international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie said. “Not near Porsche level. I feel nothing—then ABS.”
As new car punch lists go, the C8 Corvette’s is short. “It’ll have a bigger effect than the original NSX,” Theodore said. MacKenzie added: “Chevrolet’s first crack at a supercar moves the Corvette needle so far—and all in a good way.” Perhaps MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina put it the most plainly: “Handling is very close to the Porsche’s for about half the price—but you get way more than half the car.”
|2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (3LT Z51)|
|Base Price/As Tested||$76,945/$88,305|
|Power (SAE net)||495 hp @ 6,450 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||470 lb-ft @ 5,150 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||2.8 sec|
|Quarter Mile||11.1 sec @ 123.2 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||97 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||1.04 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||23.3 sec @ 0.90 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||16/27/20 mpg (MT est)|