After months of anticipation, Chevrolet revealed the all-new 2020 Corvette in Tustin, California and in this coverage of this event, you’re going to get everything you need to know about America’s latest sports car. At least until we drive it, of course.

Any time you break with tradition, expect some controversial and vocal opinions. That’s exactly what’s happening right now following the launch of this Corvette. Corvette tradition is so strong, the banter will still be going on months if not years from now.

But don’t listen to the nay-sayers. It takes courage to make a change like this and this change was necessary, no matter how many decades front-engined Corvettes had been produced

If the legend is to be believed, the Corvette team wanted to move to a mid-engine layout years ago. For decades, they’ve developed a number of concepts with the engine behind the driver, but rumour has it that the Corvette team actually wanted the previous generation sports car to have a mid-engine layout, but development was impossible at the time, since General Motors in the midst of being bailed out by various governments in North America.

Years later, with the company on sound footing, the time was right for Corvette to finally produce an entirely new, mid-engine car. This isn’t to follow the supercar trend or to ape the European supercars.

Rather, a mid-engine layout has been proven to be singularly optimal for sports car dynamics. Braking, acceleration, and handling are all better with a mid-engine design compared to a front-engine, rear-drive configuration.

To break with tradition, the Corvette team had to deliver a next-generation sports car that was going to shock the car world into accepting this radical new paradigm.

Based on the new car revealed in California, the Chevrolet has achieved that. It breaks from tradition for good reason and while it maintains its Chevrolet values, it blows the performance of the old Stingray straight out of the water.

Here’s everything you want to know.

The venue was a decommissioned U.S. Marine base that previously served as a hanger for the Goodyear blimp fleet, and on the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, astronauts were on hand to remind the audience that their engines, too, were located behind the driver.

Yes, this is indeed the first production mid-engine Corvette and it’s designed to be quick, fun to drive, and outperform cars costing much more than its modest starting price of less than $70,000 Canadian (or under $60,000 USD).

There’s a new aluminum structure that’s stiffer than ever before. Double wishbone suspension in all four corners. They’re plenty of tire and plenty of brakes under the car. Storage front and rear. And the targa top design is retained for open air motoring.

The heart of this car is a new, naturally aspirated, 6.2-litre small block V8 that sits remarkably low in the chassis. It’s so low that to look at it, it’s like you have to peer down a well. They’ve been able to accomplish this feat because it the engine is a dry sump design. In any car, you want the weight of an engine as low as possible and in a mid engine car, that’s only going to serve to optimize it’s sprung weight. (Plus, there’s plenty of room for a hefty supercharger atop that V8…)

This LT2 produces 495 horsepower at 6,450 RPM and 470 pounds-feet of torque at 5,510 RPM. Think about that for a minute. This is a naturally aspirated V8 with power and torque peaks at the upper end of the rev range. In 2020, this is unheard of and this small block is going to be a genuine treat to drive in a world populated by torque-filled turbo motors. Rewarding, this one will be.

The transmission is an all-new eight-speed dual clutch box and we all know they’re much quicker than a manual. This is one key reason Chevrolet says this Corvette is capable of zero to sixty in under three seconds.

There’s also an electronically controlled limited-slip differential and GM has always done a brilliant job with these. Instead of fixed lockup like a traditional mechanical differential, the e-diff continuously varies the amount of lock, depending on what the car needs. It’s a bit of modern wizardry because these differentials can go from fully open, for stability under braking, to optimal lock for maximum acceleration out of corners.

The desirable Z51 package – the one that’ll make your C8 Corvette a little quicker – includes some minor aero tuning, a more aggressive suspension set up with manually adjustable spring perches, adaptive dampers, more cooling, including front brake ducts, a different exhaust, and optimized final drive ratio.

There are twelve different paint colours to choose from and, based on the four I saw in person, each colour gives the Corvette a unique character. There are enough interior colour and pattern options to suit anyone’s taste.

And tasteful they are. One of the cars on the floor was finished in Zeuz Bronze and actually had some brown tones. Paired with the natural, tan-coloured leather interior, this Stingray made a clear statement that it could also serve as a sophisticated grand tourer, but in the American vernacular.

There are three different seats, from mild to aggressive. You can also choose between six different seat belt colours. That’s cool.

I patiently waited in line for a chance to sit in a couple of the cars and I’m very impressed with the cabin. The forward view looks exceptional and it’s the kind of perspective you want when you’re attacking apexes. With the low cowl height, it immediately feels spacious for both driver and passenger.

For the first time in a Corvette, there’s a front axle lift system – and get this – it’s GPS-enabled so it’ll lift its nose automatically at locations you drive frequently. The system will ask you if you’d like to save the location in memory and you can simply accept or decline the Stingray’s kind offer. So simple and so clever, and yet no supercar maker has yet to offer this function. I’d wager that a number of European engineers were rudely awakened by bosses demanding they add this feature to their cars immediately.

There’s a next generation Performance Data Recorder for track rats with HD video recording, but now adds a dashcam function. That’s another intelligent use of existing tech. Tadge Juechter, Corvette executive chief engineer, also said the car includes a new, secure electronics architecture with over-the-air update functionality. It’s hard to say what that means with any precision just yet, but with numerous systems relying on software, regular updates should enhance some systems to the benefit of owners.

So, what do I think? Most importantly, the paradigm needed to be shifted if Corvette was to continue to compete in its traditional wheelhouse, where its performance-to-price ratio exceeds that of cars costing twice as much, or more.

There’s a reason why racecars put their engines behind the driver. Dynamically, it’s simply an optimal solution for weight distribution and for a road car, this engine placement does a number of things.

As I mentioned, there’s a better view out the front. Better braking. Better acceleration. Optimal weight distribution. But, with Corvette’s history of building drivers’ cars, this new C8 will become known as the quickest and most accessible Stingray ever produced. Most Corvette owners are going to find it easier to drive quickly and experienced drivers will be able to extract more pace out of this latest generation American sports car.

Storage, on the other hand, is a little less usable than before. The C7 ZR1 I tested a few months ago had a remarkable ability to swallow cargo, but in this new car, there are two smaller trunks. In the front, there’s room for a little more than a single carry on, and there’s a connection for your trickle charger. Another example of clever thinking.

In the back, there’s a deep well that will fit the roof panel or a pair of golf bags, but not at the same time. Overall, there’s slightly less storage volume in this new Corvette. I suspect, though, most owners won’t use all of their luggage space anyway. Plus, they’ve got an Escalade or a Suburban at home for hauling more people and cargo.

I’ve attended countless reveals like this and am a bit jaded for good reason, but this new Corvette exceeded my expectations. It looks distinctive and balanced in person. Its design makes it perfectly clear that it’s a Corvette, but with a modern layout that ensures its performance will paint a smile on owners faces every time they’re behind the wheel. Plus, they’ve made America’s sports car much more usable with intelligently considered functionality.

They’ve done all the right things developing this new Stingray – things like the dry sump small block while eschewing turbocharging – all of which makes it distinctively American. The dual-clutch gearbox ensures that it’s very quick and paired with the e-diff, this Corvette will be a real treat to drive.

Chevrolet has boldly defined a new mission for the future of Corvette and with the introduction of the 2020 Stingray, it looks as is America’s sports car is posed to continue to overpromise – and deliver. The Corvette’s future is bright indeed.

 

Images courtesy of the author and Chevrolet.

Published on Jul 19, 2019