Chevrolet has taken its Corvette in a radical new direction for the new, eighth-generation version of the muscle car.
The Corvette has traditionally been a front-engined grand tourer aimed chiefly at the US market. The new C8 version, however, moves to a mid-engine set-up that rivals European supercars such as the McLaren 570S and Audi R8.
Although the C8’s new form may dismay some purists, the company says the change was necessary to boost the car’s performance.
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Mark Reuss, president of Chevrolet’s parent firm General Motors, told Autocar in July that the new layout was chosen because “the traditional front-engined vehicle reached its limits of performance”.
“In terms of comfort and fun, it still looks and feels like a Corvette, but drives better than any vehicle in Corvette history,” he said.
So has the switch to a mid-engine layout detracted from the driving experience? Here’s what the critics had to say:
“It’s hard not to think of the new Corvette as a wannabe supercar,” PistonHeads argues. The C8, it says, has the proportions and performance figures to “qualify for the club”, but its sub-$60,000 price tag puts the car in the same territory as sports cars such as the Porsche 718 Boxster.
The entry-level 1LT model is hardly spartan, either. The motoring site says the standard car comes with power seats, dual-zone climate control and even a ten-speaker Bose sound system. The cabin’s quieter than before, too, though drivers may experience some “buffeting” when cruising above 60mph with the roof off.
The C8 is “wide and long like the best American cars of the past”, says Auto Express. However, “you wouldn’t know it from sitting inside” as the C8’s “sweeping centre console” gives the cabin a “closed-off feeling”.
Aside from the cramped cabin, the new Corvette is “surprisingly refined”, the motoring magazine says. The magnetorheological dampers, which contain a fluid that changes in viscosity when an electric current is applied, give the car a “plush” ride without feeling “sloppy” – similar to the McLaren 720S.
The C8 isn’t quicker than the outgoing model, but the move to a mid-engine layout has resulted in a “dramatic increase in both stability and driver confidence”, Autocar says. “The new car has huge grip everywhere, and none of the sensation that it is trying to work out where to spit you off.”
Its eight-speed gearbox is also “another serious accomplishment in a car wearing this price tag”, the magazine hails. It may not offer the same level of drama as some entry-level supercars, but its “changes are lightning-fast” and the transmission is “refined” in fully automatic mode.
PistonHeads describes the C8 as “one hell of a car” that’s “unbeatable” for the money. It may not be a true supercar rival, owing to its size and “softly focused” ride quality, but it’s “properly” fast and is easier to drive than its predecessors.
According to Autocar, the base-spec C8 carries a price tag of $59,995 (£46,800), while the “plushest-available” model - the 3LT - comes in at $71,495 (£55,800).
Will it be sold in the UK?
It seems so. The Corvette has traditionally been confined to left-hand drive markets, but Autocar claims that right-hand drive versions of the C8 are expected to arrive on UK shores shortly after the sports car goes on sale in the US.
Despite its mid-engine layout, the overall design of the new C8 is unmistakably Corvette.
The sharp nose and angular headlights are a nod to the styling on the previous-generation car, while the quad-tail light design harks back to the second-generation Corvette “Stingray” from the 1960s.
What sets the model apart from its predecessors is the mid-engined design, which gives the C8 a more supercar-like appearance than the muscle car proportions of previous Corvettes.
The new model’s cabin is much closer to the front wheels, while the rear window stretches further back and covers the mid-mounted V8 engine.
To keep the engine cool, Chevrolet has installed a pair of large air scoops behind the doors. Thin air vents are sculpted into the rear window, a design feature also found on the new Ferrari F8 Tributo.
A small rear wing sits at the back of the car to help maintain grip at high speeds. Below is a quad-exhaust system set on either side of a small diffuser.
Like the exterior, the C8’s cabin has been given overhauled - albeit with some “questionable” design choices, says Auto Express.
The magazine highlights the “long row of buttons” running to the right of the centre console as a particularly divisive design choice, but adds that only a test drive will reveal if the new model is “as odd to use as it looks”.
Engine and performance
Although the interior may split opinion, the engine nestled behind the cabin is sure to be a hit with fans.
The C8 is powered by a new 6.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8 engine, which develops 495bhp and 470lb-ft of torque, says Evo. That represents the most power and torque ever seen in an entry-level Corvette, though later versions such as the Z06 should see those figures rise significantly.
Power is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Chevrolet has yet to announce official performance figures, but the company has confirmed that the sports car will sprint from zero to 60mph in “under three seconds” with the optional Z51 performance package.
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