What started a couple of years ago as speculation has now become fact: For the first time in history, the Corvette will be a mid-engined layout beginning in 2020.
The move to mid-engine is no doubt the largest shake-up in Corvette history dating back to the 1950s. Through the decades Corvette has stayed true to predictable evolution, with each successive generation leveraging new technologies that improve upon the previous. But the fundamental formula has always remained consistent, and that’s largely the way the Corvette faithful like it. (When the current generation C7 was released, it was considered “controversial” because of its newly squared taillights.)
So why abandon the age-old, proven Corvette formula now? Here’s the backdrop, and what we know so far.
C7 Corvette Success & Performance
Soon after those initial taillight design gripes died down, and certainly, once the C7 hit the roads, everyone was forced to acknowledge the excellence of the latest ’Vette. Since the introduction in 2014, the C7 has been a resounding victory for Chevy.
U.S. Corvette sales by year.
Like previous generations, the C7 Corvette punched way above its weight in terms of performance. The Grand Sport and Z06 models in particular offer tremendous performance for the money.
The just-released $119,995 Corvette ZR1 is a fitting 750 horsepower finale to this generation and tribute to the Corvette legacy.
But just beyond the ZR1’s headline figures lies the rub. “Progress” is difficult to define in the wake of a front-engine, rear-drive 750 horsepower monster. That is unless radical change is involved.
As much as it pains gearheads to admit it, the fact is there’s only so much that can be done with a street-legal, front-engine/rear-wheel-drive car. If the ZR1’s 750 horsepower, and 715 pounds-feet of torque isn’t the limit, it’s extremely close. Just ask the GM exec who drove the Indycar pace car in Detroit this year.
The continued climb of power output has forced a change in design and engineering ethos elsewhere. In the performance sedan category, both the latest BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63 S – historically only rear-wheel drive – are now all-wheel drive.
Unburdened by the need for back seats and sedan practicality, Corvette is free to accomplish the need for performance evolution with a mid-engined layout. By doing so, Corvette opens the door to dynamic performance improvements and a higher performance ceiling, and makes the mid-engine experience accessible to more performance car enthusiasts than ever before.
In theory, it’s brilliant.
Corvette Takes on the Pros
There’s something beautifully apropos about the fact that Corvette will be the first to bring the mid-engine experience to the masses.
Through generations, the blue-collar sports car has capably competed against the best from Stuttgart and Maranello at a fraction of the cost, but even if the performance numbers are about equal, one could make the argument that the driving experiences are not. Now Chevy’s about to take it to their old rivals on equal engineering terms.
The mid-engine experience under six-figures will be a choice between the C8 Corvette and Lotus. We like Corvette’s odds of being the preferred choice among American enthusiasts.
The Good News (And the Bad)
Here are some of the highlights:
- The base price will start at about $70,000.
- According to Car and Driver, the C8 will launch with an updated version of the LT1 V8 that powers the C7, which will produce about 500 horsepower. (Up from 450 hp in the base C7 model.)
- A flat-plane, naturally-aspirated V8 model that spins to 9,000 rpm and produces about 600 Ferrari-fighting horsepower is rumored. (Pray to all that is holy.)
- A top of the model range turbocharged engine will make 800 horsepower. (A possibility thanks to the weight shift rearward and lower center of gravity.)
- An eventual hybrid model is on the radar.
- Active aerodynamic elements are likely – both a powered rear spoiler, and a front-axle lift system that might be used to change the angle of attack (rake angle) for aero enhancement and performance gain at speed.
The exception to the awesome news? The C8 will only be offered with a dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The mid-engined Corvette is happening. It’s really happening. And it’s the right move at the right time for the Corvette brand.
Check out the latest test footage of the C8 rounding the Nurburgring and see for yourself.