First Drive: 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Democratizing the mid-engine supercar.
THE PROS & CONS
- What's Good: Supercar looks and speed without the massive price tag.
- What's Bad: I still can't afford one.
LAS VEGAS, NV – The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray—the front engine car that went mid-engine and broke the internet in the process—is a paradigm shift from what it always was.
After using the formula of a lightweight fiberglass body, a motor out front, and drive to the rear for nearly seven decades, America’s sports car has been transformed into something completely different. And it’s not only because there’s a frunk where the engine once was.
Some might lament this change, saying that it’s a Corvette only by name now and that its identity has been lost. But there’s one man, in particular, that would disagree—Zora Arkus-Duntov, Belgian-born engineer and father of the Corvette.
It was Zora’s mission to see the ‘Vette go mid-engine and even after much effort and multiple experimental research vehicles penned over the years his dream wouldn’t be realized during his lifetime.
But Zora’s work and his legacy live on in the C8 Corvette. It’s been a long time coming but he would be proud of the finished product.
Out in the wilderness and not on a stage or at some auto show, the C8 is striking. Low and wide and imposing, even from a distance. From certain angles, you might mistake its knife-edged folds and large air intakes for a Lamborghini or a Ferrari or maybe an NSX, but there’s still something distinctly Corvette about it.
I’ve been salivating at the thought of getting my hands on one ever since I saw it at the reveal in Orange County last summer. But production delays put a bit of a damper on things and the official press drive only happened now. As of this writing, the first customers can expect deliveries of their C8s in a few weeks.
This drive consisted of an on-road portion around the arid, cacti-ridden Nevada landscape as well as a stint at Spring Mountain Motor Resort so we could really get to understand these 500 horsepower mid-engine machines. Yes, it was going to be a tough day at the office.
Corvettes have always been rough around the edges; a blue-collar supercar that can hang with elitist brands like Ferrari and McLaren at the track. It’s a car that makes sacrifices in refinement and interior quality to give its driver the most bang for their hard-earned buck. Cutting corners for more horsepower and grip is the name of the Corvette’s game.
But this time around someone forgot to tell that to the engineers and designers. It would appear they were given free rein to do whatever they damn well pleased.
That long strip of buttons for the climate controls might seem like an odd design at first but after spending some time with it I rather liked it and got used to it quite quickly.
They form a flying buttress that bisects the cabin, separating driver and passenger into their own intimate pods. But the best seat in the house, naturally, is the driver’s. From the digital gauges and infotainment screen angled perfectly for your fingertips to reach, the cockpit wraps around you like you’re sitting in your own personal F-22, with about as much firepower.
The car we drove for the on-road portion was dipped in a new colour called Zeus Bronze Metallic, but you’ll probably just call it brown. It was coupled to a natural brown interior and bronze-tinted rims and was an eye-catching combination and probably the first time a colour typically reserved for old wood-panelled stations wagons looked so good on a mid-engine sports car.
Being a 3LT-trimmed car there was leather and Alcantara absolutely everywhere, even as you worked your way to the bottom of the doors.
The infotainment system, a direct port from other new GM products is fast and responsive, and while not the prime example of in-car tech it gets the job done. The 12-inch driver information screen, however, was straight out of a video game with slick graphics, bright legible fonts and the perfect amount of visual drama befitting a super sports car.
On the Road
This is where 95 per cent of all Corvettes will spend 95 per cent of their time. So on-road characteristics need to be on point and are arguably even more important than performance on a track.
Dynamically you expect it to be different, that goes without saying but what I didn’t expect was just how comfortable it was. Cars in this class have bone-cracking suspensions that tend to beat you into a pulp. They’re fun on a smooth, twisty road but there’s a reason why you’d probably choose a much more sensible sedan or SUV for the drive to the office.
After 150 miles (241 km) in the C8, there was none of that. No fatigue, no soreness. The seats support and coddle, and considering that your butt is only a few inches off the ground, the compliance baked into the standard suspension is shockingly good. More so, considering how flat everything remains when throwing the C8 into a corner. GM nailed the ride and handling balance here, and that’s not easy to do.
Magnetic shocks remain an option, like always, and will improve the ride and handling even further but the stock setup is so good most will never notice the difference.
A drive mode selector hidden under a suede palm rest allows you to go from Tour (Default), Weather, Sport, and Track as well as two individual modes: My mode and Z-mode. My mode allows individual suspension and steering preferences to be called up and Z-mode takes that a step further by adding engine and transmission settings into the mix. It can also be called up quickly by using the steering wheel-mounted “Z” button.
That oddly shaped square-circle (squircle?) steering wheel feels great and is not weird whatsoever. Better yet it likes to communicate with the driver, whispering sweet messages encoded with bits of information about the road’s surface. It’s properly weighted, too, and never gets overly heavy. And with much less weight over the front wheels, the C8 has a newfound ability to leap into corners with just a flick of steering lock
The heavily revised dry-sumped 6.2-L LT2 V8 pumps put 490 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque (495 hp; 470 lb-ft with sports exhaust), feels just as good as it always has and sounds even better. The power reserve is deep and it will rip to its 6500-rpm redline on a linear wave of torque singing a small-block symphony that is immensely satisfying. The new 8-speed dual-clutch by Tremec is also great with super-quick shifts and an equally good ability to be in the correct gear for the situation. Yes, there’s no manual anymore, but you couldn’t possibly shift better than this gearbox.
This is easily the most refined experience I’ve ever had behind the wheel of a Corvette, one that’s been constantly improving ever since the C5. But the leap from C7 to C8 has been nothing short of dramatic. And looking over your shoulder and seeing the small block on display but not really feeling its presence gives you an idea of just how much Chevy has upped its refinement game here.
Yes, they are pumping fake engine noise in; no I couldn’t tell, nor did I find a way to turn it off. But the trade-off in road isolation is worth it. And don’t go thinking the C8 has turned into a Cadillac. It hasn’t. There’s still more than enough road feel filtering through here to keep enthusiasts happy.
On the Track
For the few that plan to fully explore the capabilities of their new C8, a track is the only place to do it.
A track is also a place that tends to uncover any loose threads. After years of chasing supercars and exotics nearly double its price the last-generation C7 truly achieved world-beating status but in doing so, the front-engine platform was pushed about as far as it would go.
A mid-engine configuration places the bulk of the weight over the rear tires, effectively centralizing the mass. This enables stronger acceleration, better braking, a lower centre-of-gravity, and the ability to change direction much more rapidly. All excellent attributes for track work.
This ‘Vette is beautifully balanced but it can get tail happy if you’re not careful. A few sphincter-tightening moments had me tugging on the reins, a stark reminder of my ability (or lack thereof) and the breakneck speeds this Corvette can achieve in mere seconds.
But even with most of the mass in the back it’s easy to regain composure and right the ship. You never have to fight the car. Once you do get it right, you can rocket out of a corner, full throttle, without any fear of losing it. Something I didn’t have the marbles to do with a C7. Great brakes had me pushing further and further on each straight, braking later and later. After 12 laps, there was no brake fade to mention and the pedal remained firm.
On occasion, the dual-clutch transmission downshifted after exiting a corner when it would have been better to perform that shift before entering it. But almost everywhere else it was really good. Maybe not quite as telepathic as Porsche’s PDK, but not far behind.
All the cars we used on the track were equipped with the Z51 performance package, which included upgraded Brembo brakes with monobloc calipers, an E-LSD, Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, performance suspension, performance exhaust, Z51 specific splitter and rear spoiler, and a heavy-duty cooling system. Our cars were also equipped with Chevy’s excellent performance data recorder that films your lap with its forward-facing camera and superimposes information like speed, current gear, revs, g-forces, and more on the video to show you and your friends just how many mistakes you made.
The C8 is the best Corvette yet. It just is. If Chevrolet put out a greatest hits album the C8 would be on the cover. It’s the best product they’ve put out in a long, long time and you should be excited.
How we’d spec one
The 2020 Corvette Stingray starts at $67,998 CDN. A price that’s so remarkable it might just be the best deal on the market today.
For that money, nothing comes close. But like most luxury car purchases, options will inflate those numbers faster than the C8 can hit 100 km/h.
So we went through the build and price configurator to spec one in a way that gets you most of the good stuff while staying well under the six-figure mark.
Standard on every C8 is the LT2 V8 and 8-speed dual-clutch transmission with an integrated limited-slip diff, stage 1 seats (there are three stages – GT1, GT2, Competition – each adding progressively more support), removable roof panel, a Bose 10-speaker audio system, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a 12-inch driver information display.
A word on those seats, the GT1 thrones are comfortable, as are the GT2 seats, which offer the perfect combination of bolstering and comfort but the Competition seats, especially for those with larger builds, are too hardcore for daily use and best suited to the track.
Stepping up to the 2LT trim ($10,000), which we recommend, adds niceties like a head-up display, power lumbar and bolsters, wireless phone charger, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, upgraded Bose stereo, navigation, the performance data recorder, blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, and more.
To that, we’d add the Z51 performance pack ($5,900), the GT2 seats ($1875), Magnetic Selective Ride Control ($2180), and metallic paint ($995-$1495) for a grand total of $88,748.
No matter how you look at it, it’s an absolute bargain.
Better start saving those pennies.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
BODY STYLE: 2-door, 2-passenger mid-engine sports car
CONFIGURATION: Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
ENGINE: 6.2-L V8 (LT2); 490 hp @ 6450 rpm; 465 lb-ft torque @ 5150 rpm (+5hp and 5 lb-ft with performance exhaust)
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium Gasoline in L/100 km) 15.4 city; 8.7 highway; 12.4 combined
CARGO CAPACITY: 356 litres split between two trunks
PRICE: $ 67,898 (1LT) + $2000 destination and freight
WEBSITE: Chevrolet Corvette