The current edition of the Chevrolet Corvette, the C7, could be the last of its kind.
If rumors are to be believed, and we think they are, Chevrolet will break the mold and introduce a mid-engine Corvette in 2020. That means the engine will be mounted behind the cockpit like modern sports cars such as Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche.
Since the C1 debuted in 1953, Corvette has been America’s favorite sports car, respected even in Europe.
Each generation Corvette has been a variation on a theme: a front-engine, rear-wheel drive two-seater. Comparing the first generation Corvette to today’s version is like comparing the Wright Brothers’ first airplane to an F-35 fighter jet. Technically they’re the same thing, but not really. The next generation Corvette could make the current edition look like a Cessna.
Spy photographers have captured images of what is surmised to be the C8 for 2020. It’s been spotted on the road and on racetracks, wrapped in camouflage to thwart those photographers.
So far GM has been mum about the plans. But it’s clear something is going on behind the scenes. Some insiders think the C8 will debut in January at the North American International Auto Show.
At this point, there are few hard facts. We don’t know what engine will be mounted in front of the rear axle. We don’t know how much it will cost. Or if it will be produced at the same time as the current version or will replace it altogether.
The current C7 is one of the best sports car values out there right now. Base prices start at about $55,000, and top-of-the-line versions with all the goodies pass six figures.
A mid-engine Corvette has been a dream since the 1960s. The Lamborghini Muira was the first mid-engine supercar, and Ferrari followed suit soon after. Of course, Porsche 911s were technically rear mid-engine for years as well, based on the VW concept of the engine hanging over the rear axle.
After all these years, why would Chevrolet decide to tinker with a proven formula? It’s all about performance. The Corvette is reaching the upper limits of how much power can be put to the wheels and still maintain cornering grip. With the engine in the front, it’s harder for the rear wheels to stick to the asphalt. Even with advances in suspension and tire technology, there’s no overcoming the physics of hundreds of horsepower.
A mid-engine design offers closer to 50/50 weight distribution between the front and rear wheels. That helps with turn-in and corner holding capabilities. Moving engine mass closer to the drive tires is the most effective way of making physics work for you instead of against you for better acceleration and braking.
There’s speculation the new ’Vette could use a Turbo V-6, like the new Ford GT. Or it could get the dual overhead cam V-8 Chevy has been testing. There’s also an updated version of the LT-1 V-8 that could be tweaked up to 600 horsepower, which would deliver the most power from a non-turbo V-8 in a production car. There’s also speculation the C8 could include a set of electric motors driving the front wheels.
The C8 could be the first version that won’t offer a manual transmission. To handle that horsepower a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox is the safest solution.
Of course, a mid-engine ’Vette would look different than the sleek, long-nosed coupe look we’re used to seeing. Spy photos and artist renderings show the roofline and windshield will keep the Corvette profile, but of course, the rear end proportions are very different. There’s speculation that Chevy will create a transparent panel to show off the engine like its Ferrari and Lamborghini competitors.
There’s also speculation the mid-engine could be named “Zora,” in honor of Zora Arkus-Duntov, a GM engineer credited with developing the Corvette for the last 20 years. A successful racing driver in his own right, he brought a European sensibility that empowered the Corvette to compete on the world stage.
A new mid-engine design with horsepower approaching the 1,000 mark would be a halo car, competing with the world’s best. But it would also price out the Corvette’s bread and butter customer base. So perhaps the C7 will continue as the budget version, and the C8 will take the lead in the horsepower wars.
If you’re a Corvette fan, keep an eye out for announcements in late 2018 or early 2019. The C8 might just rock your world.
Road & Track — https://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/a29781/mid-engine-corvette-2018-rumors/
Detroit News — https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/general-motors/2018/06/04/detroit-pace-car-crash-new-corvette/668149002/
Corvette Online — https://www.corvetteonline.com/news/2020-corvette-c8-to-rewrite-history-and-rules-of-sports-car-segment/
Money Inc. — https://moneyinc.com/what-we-know-about-the-2020-chevrolet-corvette-so-far/