TUSTIN, Calif. — When the new Ford GT debuted a few years back, it was a true surprise, one of the last real ones we can remember. By contrast, few things in the automotive landscape have been as long-awaited as the mid-engine Chevy Corvette. Chevy has made no secret of the car, parading a camouflaged prototype through the streets of New York City months ago with today’s date stamped along the side. After decades of concepts, leaks, teasers, illustrations, magazine covers, fever dreams and rampant speculation by anyone and everyone, the C8 is truly and finally here, introduced by astronauts Mae Jemison and Scott Kelly on Thursday night in a massive aircraft hangar, ushering in a new era for America’s sports car.
The 2020 Chevy Corvette gets a 6.2-liter LT2 naturally aspirated V8 engine that makes 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque with the optional exhaust. Without the sport exhaust it makes 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. All C8s will have a dry-sump oil system, and the internals remain largely the same as the LT1. Redline stays at 6,600 rpm for this engine, too. The motor is visible through a 3.2-millimeter glass pane, and it's a real gem to look at. An eight-speed dual-clutch Tremec transmission will be swapping the cogs, and there is no manual option. Chevy isn't giving an exact acceleration time right now, but it says the 0-60 mph run will be under 3 seconds.
Chevy is giving all C8 Corvettes a coilover suspension, so no more leafs. A Z51 package adds an adjustable suspension — you can change the stiffness and the ride height. Additionally, GM is introducing Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 with the C8 as an option. The Z51 package also adds a splitter and large rear spoiler, giving the C8 400 pounds of downforce.
The Z51's added aero also aids in making the mid-engine Corvette even more aggressive-looking than in standard form. It looks a lot like we expected it to, and that’s a good thing. There are plenty of design elements that remind us of the Corvette before this, even though the car is wildly different in nature. It’ll be up to the Corvette buying public to make the ultimate judgment on whether GM got the design right.
Most important of all is the C8’s new structure. To keep the price in check, Chevy didn’t use a supercar-like carbon fiber tub. Everything is made of aluminum, except for two carbon pieces for the rear bumper beam and an underbody panel running along the bottom of the center tunnel. It’s heavier than the C7, though — Chevy is quoting a dry weight of 3,366 pounds.
Buyers will have a few trim levels to choose from initially. The FE1 trim level is the base car, which will be the one that starts under $60,000. Then, the FE3 is the next level of performance, which includes the Z51 package. This trim has an electronic limited slip differential, enhanced cooling, bigger brakes and summer tires (FE1 has all-season rubber). The summer tires are the popular Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, which Chevy estimates will pull 1.03-1.05 g on the skid pad. Opting for the Michelin Pilot Sport all-season tires won’t hurt, though, as Chevy says they should be capable of 1.00-g handling. To get the magnetic dampers, you'll need to opt for the full-on FE4 kit.
There are some great convenience features that Chevy thought of, too. A GPS-enabled nose-lift feature can be programmed to automatically lift in certain locations, like your driveway. Chevy also claims that the trunk has enough room for two whole sets of golf clubs. The “frunk” is able to handle a TSA-approved carry-on bag, plus a laptop bag. We’re glad GM decided to make use of the front area for cargo. The removable roof panels will fit in the trunk, too.
Without the long hood out front, Chevy moved the cockpit forward by 16.5 inches compared to the C7. And GM is going to make a right-hand drive version of the Corvette, so folks in those markets will be able to enjoy the new mid-engine car, too.
The C8’s interior is a radical departure from the current car’s cockpit. The C7 was already fairly driver-oriented, but the new car takes things further with a long row of buttons separating the passenger seat from the center console. The whole thing is tilted down toward the driver, and the low dash should provide excellent forward visibility. While the C7 used a few analog gauges alongside the digital display, the C8’s instrument cluster is all digital. The floating 12-inch infotainment screen looks handsome, but the hidden storage compartment behind the screen itself appears to be gone. The same goes for the shifter, with a traditional lever replaced by a set of buttons. A pair of large shift paddles are mounted to the back of the square steering wheel.
There are some great luxury features on the interior that Chevy included for the C8. You’ll find leather and real metal used judiciously. Carbon fiber and aluminum trim is available, along with six different interior color options. You can choose from Jet Black, Sky Cool Gray, Adrenaline Red, Natural/ Natural Dipped, Two-Tone Blue and Morello Red. On top of that, Chevy has six different seatbelt colors, including Black, Blue, Natural, Torch Red, Yellow and Orange. Yes, the inside can be a true rainbow if you’d like it to be.
Three seat options of varying aggression are offered. The GT1 is more of a comfortable grand touring-style seat, and the Competition Sport seat is designed for the track-day enthusiast. Splitting the difference is the GT2, designed as a bit of a hybrid. More exterior color options than before will be available for the C8, with 12 different shades in total.
Chevy also integrated a new electrical architecture in this car, allowing for a few benefits. For one, Chevy will be able to push out over-the-air updates to all C8s. It’s designed to make signals travel faster throughout the car, plus enable them to use the all-new high-resolution screens. Other neat electric additions include wireless phone charging, one-touch Bluetooth pairing via NFC, and the next-generation Performance Data Recorder.
The idea of a mid-engine Corvette is far from new. There have been concepts and prototypes over the decades, the most famous being the third Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle, better known as the Corvette CERV III. This sleek mid-engine coupe debuted in the middle of the C4 generation and featured things like four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and a twin-turbocharged version of the LT5 from the original Corvette ZR1.
GM says the C8 will go into production in Bowling Green in late 2019, with additional pricing and details to be revealed.
More details are coming, but we’ll still have to wait a bit before we can get behind the wheel. The C7 is already one of the greatest sports cars of its generation. We’re hoping the same can be said of the new C8.