by Gabe Beita Kiser
Don't blame rare steaks that bleed when stabbed with a fork or head-first tackles on the ten yard line for inspiring the term "Red-Blooded American." No, to understand the meaning of the phrase, you need to look at the elites. The "blue bloods," the civilized folk who ride on a cushion of privilege and think they're all the better for it. Especially when they roll down Rodeo Drive in Ferraris and Porsches, experiencing the finer things in life like perfectly tuned chassis and bedroom eyes from attractive people.
Some are simply born into it and others aren't so lucky. But for the unlucky, Chevrolet has been toiling for over 66 years to bring them a machine that can do everything those expensive European exotics can do for a fraction of the price. Thing is, those six-plus decades of sweat have led the current Corvette to reach the absolute limit of what a front-engine rear-wheel drive platform can handle.
Soon enough, the Corvette won't be able to compete with what those fancy mid-engined supercars can do. So of course, Chevy had to find a way to change that. In the past, the high cost of a mid-engine platform and the Corvette's need to stay affordable prohibited the two attributes from ever coming together. But through ingenious problem-solving and a little bit of magic, Chevy has finally figured out how to usher in the era of the inexpensive mid-engine platform. And the 2020 Corvette Stingray is our first step into that arena.
It's easy to imagine the struggle the Corvette's designers encountered when trying to draw up the C8. After all, it's the first mid-engined 'Vette, right? Well, not quite. Three prototypes came before it during the sports coupe's history, the latter two drawing from Corvette design of their respective eras. Chevy used the same idea for the C8: take the new platform and try to make it something completely different, yet still recognizable. That's why, despite having a cab-forward design and a foreign side silhouette, the C8 maintains the Corvette bloodline with a pointed front end, angular headlights, character lines on the hood and roof, black accents around the side air intakes, C-shaped taillights that callback to the C7 and the current Camaro, and wedge-shaped air intakes that look like the ZR1's.
While the rear end still boasts quad tailpipes, the set is split in two and each half is placed on either end of the car. Similar to how the C7 housed the buttons to open its doors on each door panel's inner nook, the C8 also places them inside of the air scoop that begins at the car's shoulder, just to keep the car streamlined. And like the C7 Coupe, the C8 features a removable hardtop that fits inside the rear trunk (the front end also gets a 'frunk' for a total of 12.6 cubic feet of storage). But unlike the C7, opening the C8's trunk also reveals the engine sitting in plain sight, just so owners get frequent viewing opportunities, while the top of the hood doubles as a home for the Stingray logo (since the cab-forward design leaves no room for it on the front fenders) and an available rear spoiler that comes with the optional Z51 performance package.
Following the spirit of the exterior, the C8's cabin is an evolution of the current design that simultaneously tears up the rulebook. New is the squared-off twin-spoke steering wheel that leaves enough open space to see the 12-inch digital gauge cluster, an enlarged touchscreen infotainment display that cuts into space usually reserved for a gear selector, and a long thin strip of buttons that houses the climate control functions.
Given that the C8 will also be available in right-hand-drive for foreign markets, that strip is likely there to make switching the control panels an easier process. While the cabin itself is packaged better to open up more room, occupants actually feel less cramped given how the hood slopes downwards, lending a better view of the road and better visibility in the cockpit. Chevy also integrated the air vents into the seam where the top and bottom of the dashboard join, creating a cleaner look.
Even before delving into the Stingray's performance, one can tell that Chevy is targeting Porsche buyers with the C8 because it not only improved the interior quality immensely, it's also giving customers the ability to further customize the interior with three seat options, multiple colors of stitching for contrast, colored seat belts, and different shades of leather. Not to mention the fact the C8 is available in 12 separate exterior paint hues.
Okay, so about that whole targeting Porsche thing. Let's just lay down the raw facts. The Corvette does get a new engine, which it calls the LT2, but it maintains its 6.2-liters, natural aspiration (take that downsizing), and V8 configuration. And that's pretty much it. Aside from that, the engine has been reworked to make 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque when equipped with performance exhaust - which is the most power and torque ever offered in a base Corvette. Power is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed dual clutch transmission controlled by paddle shifters, with the manual being stricken from the Corvette lineup until further notice.
A dry-sump lubrication system allows the mid-engine coupe to corner better since, without a bulky oil pan, the engine can be placed lower in the car (lowering center of gravity) and doesn't suffer from the loss of oil pressure during a high-speed corner. But cornering is hardly the only priority, since the C8's launch control is capable of taking the car to 60 mph from a dead stop in under 3.0 seconds with the Z51 performance package. That option is a must for anyone with a serious desire to thrash the Vette, as it swaps out the suspension for a performance-optimized system, adds larger brake rotors, beefs up the cooling system, and adds a performance exhaust system to let the engine roar.
Underneath the mid-mounted hood is hardly where the good stuff ends, because Chevy decided to use the tech that underpins today's hottest exotics to make the C8 both a better performance car and daily driver. Catering to the latter need is a new front suspension lift mechanism that raises the front bumper by 40 mm in 2.8 seconds so the C8 can better clear road bumps. Better yet, the system can work with the GPS to lift the car automatically when approaching an area where a driver has set it to rise, such as their own steep driveway. Drivers are also sure to love "Z Mode," a reprogrammable button on the steering wheel that calls up an owner's favorite custom drive modes when pressed. Speaking of drive modes, C8 owners can expect to once again see Weather, Touring, Sport, and Track modes carry over from the C7 to the C8.
And as fun as drive modes are, they aren't as cool as the rear roof-mounted camera that displays what it's seeing on the rear-view mirror, or the HD cameras that make up the Vette's Performance Data Recorder.
The key difference that has always separated the Corvette from the rest of the sports and supercars out there is that it's relatively affordable. That tradition hasn't been broken here, even when it's a real-life mid-engine car that can hit 60 mph in less than 3.0 seconds. No, instead of ripping customer's eyes out, Chevy wanted the C8 to be a dream car that's actually attainable, which is why a base model will start out at less than $60,000. While Chevy has yet to release official pricing information, it's so far given us that promise to sit on. If you want to take Chevy up on its word, be aware that it's already possible to preorder the 2020 Corvette online.
Not only will the C8 Corvette sell like it's the last V8 on Earth, it'll move mountains in the auto industry. If it's anywhere near as good as it sounds on paper, expect waiting lists and dealership markups when it finally goes into production in late 2019. But that's not all because the C8 is more than just another fast car. To car lovers, this reveal is more important than the Ferrari SF90 Stradale's or Aston Martin's upcoming DBX. It's proof that what was once impossible is now right in front of our eyes. It's evidence that even batteries and self-driving cars won't take the fun out of driving, that thrilling machines won't die out but instead get even better. Best of all, it's a motivating hot poker jabbed right into the rear ends of the finest exotic marques, telling them that you don't need blue blood to be a winner.