The Corvette has long been America’s symbol of performance, and it’s now got the most radical change in its almost seventy-year history. So, does its newfound mid-engine layout make it a star-spangled Ferrari and the best Vette of all time?
At some point, you realise that it’s enough, and you can’t put it off any longer. You realise that tradition is keeping you from moving with the times. So, what do you do? The countermeasure you take is unusual, drastic even. Like a consumed gambler who collects all his chips and makes one final bet at the roulette wheel.
Something like that happened on 3rd February in Bowling Green, a small Maranello-like setting at the heart of Kentucky, which, in the last 67 years, has given the world seven generations of the Chevy Corvette. So, what happened? Well, production of the eighth generation (C8, in Chevrolet nomenclature) of the Corvette began, which brings with it a novelty that for decades has tempted engineers, a mid-engine layout – a sacrilege today, but a possible tradition tomorrow.
To make room for the mid-mounted V8, the driver now sits further ahead, which means that there is no possibility now of that never-ending bonnet. The result? It ends up looking a bit like a fighter jet, but overall, it remains a Corvette.
Also, inside the cockpit, you can’t help but notice that there is an aeronautical feel to it. Everything seems to revolve around the driver – a widely reconfigurable 12-inch panel, a head-up display, and a central 8-inch screen. Everything around the driver’s seat emphasizes the very idea of a cockpit, including a long row of buttons that divide the cabin into two different sections – frankly, these buttons add more to the aesthetic appeal than the practicality of the car, just like the vaguely square steering wheel.
A slightly lower seat would also have been better, especially for those who are tall. And sometimes the passenger may struggle to find a comfortable place for their left elbow to rest. On the upside, the overall finish is far from American standards! It has everything that you can think of – leather, metal, and suede. And if you want more, there’s carbon fibre, too!
Price of Performance
The coupe that we’re driving closely resembles a targa (a quasi-convertible) with a roof panel that can be removed. And even though it now resembles the Ferrari F8 Tributo or the Lamborghini Huracan, it is, as it were, still not a supercar in the strict sense of the word. It is a sports car that has been taken to the extreme – a semi supercar, if you will.
And it’s available at an extraordinarily interesting price – in the US, it starts at $59,995 (approximately ₹46 lakh, before taxes). It’s a great sports car that’s available at the price of a BMW 3 Series in India!
Through the decades, everything that the Corvette could do with the front-engine layout, it did, exhausting every possibility until there was no more to do. That’s why, when the rumours began about the possible change of a layout, no one expected anything less than a revelation or, maybe, a revolution. In short, we all had great expectations. And, as we know it, the greater the expectation, the greater the chances of disappointment.
The mid-engine layout, at the very least, improves its performance and makes it more credible because it changes the handling characteristics – and it’s not just about making it better but giving it a different dimension. Okay, let me put it this way: the question to ask here is – whether the C8 is simply a star-spangled Ferrari or, more simply, the best Corvette ever?
At the track
Let’s start with the V8 small block, which, in this Chevy, irrespective of where it’s positioned, remains the main attraction. It’s doesn’t have the advantage of being novel or even extremely refined, but it has great urgency and pushes hard. And its mid-engine layout allows the C8 a unique grip that was unknown to its ancestors.
However, it’s a real shame that the rev limiter kicks in at 6,600rpm. To compensate, at least in part, there is a double-clutch automatic transmission, which, as it turns out, can be a bit stubborn in not allowing upshifts when driving hard. On the track – playing with its limits on the road is unthinkable – it exudes unique immediacy.
It may seem like a revolution, and in part it is, but more than anything it’s a generational update of the Corvette world. And the harder you go, the more comfortable it becomes. It’s not as sharp as a Ferrari; it doesn’t change directions like a McLaren; and it’s not as emotive as a Lamborghini. It’s less refined (which suits it), but it’s still exhilarating. More than anything, it’s a Corvette that’s extremely forgiving and understanding – something that has never been seen before. The risk of oversteer doesn’t threaten you at all time like it used to. It’s progressive, gives you confidence, lets you approach its limits, and allows you to play with it without ending in a spin and a cloud of burnt rubber.
The steering is quick and precise and allows you to direct the wheels exactly where you want to. If you want to find a defect, well, sometimes it’s a bit low in terms of feedback from the wheels. The lateral acceleration is significant compared to the past. On the whole, it’s safe tos ay that not only does it look like a supercar but it drives like one too.
…And on the Road
All this sportiness and high-performance comes with the feeling of driving a real Corvette, which is still in there somewhere. It easy to drive on the road and even manages to be comfortable. It has a light steering, a silent engine, unnoticeable gearbox, and a softer setup than most sedans – it’s just a little sporty, that’s all. In short, it’s a car with which you can go wherever and whenever you want to. Just turn the dial to the driving mode to the setting that best suits your mood, and the let the Crovette do the rest!
The 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 produces 495 horses and has a dry-sump system. With the Z51 performance pack, it gains a handful of horses (around five), along with a self-locking differential and stronger brakes. And this is just the beginning – there are already talks of a high-revving version with a flat plane crank with more than 600 horses. Add an electric motor in the mix and you’re looking at possibly a thousand horsepower version!
The fibreglass bodywork panels rest on an aluminium structure.
From the left: the controls for the gearbox, a dual-clutch from Tremec. Next to this are the controls for the driving modes – Wet, Tour, Sport, and Track, to which are added two customisable modes: MyMode and Z Mode (designed for the road and track, respectively).
Mid-Engine: The Origins
In Bowling Green, they’ve been contemplating this for almost half a century – the previous generation was supposed to get a mid-engine design, but the GM crisis of 2009 impelled managers to take a milder approach. The first act of this new course was this 2014 mule (photo), based on an Australian pick-up – a Holden Maloo – which had the V8 of the previous generation mated to a dual-clutch gearbox from Porsche. Code name Blackjack, it was used for a couple of years, and now it’s ready for the GM museum.
- Chevrolet Corvette C8
Engine: 6,126cc / V8 (90°) / Rear / Center Longitudinal
Transmission: 8-Speed Dual-Clutch / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 495bhp @ 6,450rpm
Torque: 470Nm @ 5,150rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 3 seconds (approx.)
Top Speed: 312km/h
Dimensions & weight:
Length x Width x Height : 4,630mm x 1,930mm x 1,230mm
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