The reveal of the eighth-generation Corvette was not subtle. It started with video of the Apollo 11 moon landing, broadcast on a retractable LED screen roughly the width of a football field, roaring over a stack of speakers fit for a music festival main stage — all inside a 17-story, 1,000-foot-long former military hangar originally used to house blimps.
By the time the video wall lifted to reveal a trio of 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingrays driving in formation towards a grandstand of hundreds of auto journalists and dealers, it was obvious that the anticipation had truly reached a fever pitch. Scores of grown men in the stands leapt to their feet, phones aloft, craning their necks and jostling for elbow room to lay eyes on a vehicle that General Motors has been teasing for decades.
Even considering the pre-release hype, the eighth iteration of the Corvette — and the first production one ever to place its V8 engine behind the driver and passenger, instead of infront of them — proved to be a bold, compelling play on a sports car with supercar proportions and an approachable starting price of right around $60,000.
The switch to a mid-engine layout is the headlining feature of the C8 Corvette. The new design, with the engine behind the passengers, could put upcoming, more powerful versions in the league of exotics like the Audi R8, Ferrari F8 Tributo or McLaren 720S. This layout improves the center of gravity and the moment of polar inertia, and makes the steering and front end feel more direct and lively from the driver’s seat.
Two other quirks that come with the new powertrain layout: First, the engine is visible through the back hatch of the car, “like a jewel in a showcase,” as one Chevy exec put it. (It’s a beautiful feature.) That engine, incidentally, is a naturally-aspirated 6.2-liter V8, just like in the previous seventh-generation car; here, it cranks out 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. In a Corvette first, it comes connected to an eight-speed dual-clutch paddleshift automatic transmission; no manual will be offered, at least for now.
Secondly, the sports car’s reputation for packing plenty of cargo space for a performance machine has not gone away, as General Motors claims the C8 can still fit two golf clubs (or a five-piece set of luggage) in its front and rear cargo compartments. (Total cargo capacity does drop versus the outgoing C7 generation, but only by 2.4 cubic feet.)
The new front-end lift system drew oohs and aahs from the crowd. After no doubt hearing from countless Corvette owners who scraped their noses on a regular basis, Chevrolet added a feature that can raise the noise two inches when approaching a curb. Further, you can save that obstacle’s location in your GPS, and the car will automatically raise next time you return.
The event had all the anticipation and production of an Apple keynote, with slick slideshows and well-rehearsed speeches. All seven previous generations of the Corvette, along with some prototypes, were sitting on display next to the crowd. It was a reminder that where other automakers have model years, Corvette has epochs. The C8 is already one to remember.
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