The Chevy Corvette is many things to many people, but it's not the sort of car most people would consider a good car for winter driving. Dealing with the cold usually also means dealing with ice and snow, of course — two states of water that, when placed on the ground in the path of a moving vehicle, generally leave its driver hoping for as much traction and as much space between the vehicle's body and the elements below as possible. That means four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive are generally preferred, as is a lot of ground clearance.
The Corvette, of course, has neither.
Every Corvette ever to roll out of a GM factory has sent its power to the rear wheels alone, and every one has sat low enough to the ground to scrape squirrel boogers off the pavement with its front bumper. That may change at some point — future hybrid and EV 'Vettes seem likely to offer AWD to make the most of their power, and a Corvette-branded SUV may well be in the works — but here in early 2022, every Chevy with that famous flag logo sits low and send power to the stern.
Still, the latest-generation version does offer one change that could alter its behavior in the snow: the engine now sits between the driver and the rear axle. Does pushing the weight distribution closer to the driven wheels make it better in the slick stuff?
Is anyone actually crazy enough to risk driving their precious Bowtie baby through the shit of winter to see for themselves? Maybe, maybe not. But I figured I owed it to anyone who might be curious to find out, so I scooped up a C8 Corvette with snow tires and headed north to Vermont.
Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of remote starters; warming up cars by leaving them idling without anyone aboard is both inefficient and bad for the planet. That said, the snarl the Corvette's optional performance exhaust lets loose when you use the starter button on the key fob is practically worth the cost of the car. (I only used it when I was already walking to the car to drive off, I swear.)
On the drive up from New York, the Corvette proved a delightful grand tourer, allowing me to knock out hundreds of miles at a time in comfort. (I did stop to stretch my legs once, but that was also to fill up the gas tank; like EVs, the C8's highway range is just shy of what my trip to Vermont requires.)
The 6.2-liter V8 remains one of the best engines on sale: immensely tractable, with ample torque available all across the dial and a slug of horsepower at the top of the rev range that'll humble most cars on the road. With it under the hood, the Stingray is fast enough to leave everything but supercars in the dust — but it's just as happy ticking along at 1,600 rpm on the highway, getting 25 mpg at 75 mph. And while I'll admit to having shed a tear for the loss of the stick shift in the Corvette, the dual-clutch eight-speed automatic is a revelation, snapping off shifts more intelligently than you ever could whether you
It's pretty damn usable, too. Even with the trunk loaded up with snowmobile gear and winter apparel and the frunk packed with a Yeti soft cooler to fill with Alchemist Heady Topper, there was still a fair amount of leftover storage space to be found. The cabin's eccentricities — the driver-adjacent infotainment screen, the button-laden spine separating the occupants, the placement of the cupholders and the wireless phone charger — make life inside a bit awkward from time to time...but mostly just for the passenger, and hey, you bought a 'Vette to drive it.
And while the Corvette's proportions arguably lost a bit of old-school cool by going mid-engined (yeah, I said it, come at me), there's no denying that its Ferrari/McLaren/Lamborghini-esque proportions suck in eyes like a Dyson grabbing dust bunnies. I saw elementary-school-age boys practically lose their minds over the site of this racy red machine on multiple occasions; adults tended to be a bit less obvious...but only a bit.
This Corvette coupe was the first I'd sampled that didn't come with the $6,345 Z51 performance pack, which bundles together a sharper suspension, beefier Brembo brakes, an electronic limited-slip differential, stickier tires, a different rear axle ratio and aerodynamic adjustments (among other tweaks) to make the C8 a more effective weapon on track. It's largely considered a must-have by many folks, especially those who plan on exploiting the mid-engined Corvette to the fullest — or at least want to think they will — which has led more than half of C8s out the door so far to come with it.
Still, while I'd probably opt for the Z51 pack for my personal 'vette, I didn't miss it under these conditions. The car reacted ever so slightly less sharply than the Z51 car, but it's a matter of comparing kitchen knives and katanas: both still cut damn well. Without the eLSD in back to actively shunt power along, the base car doesn't push itself through tight turns with quite the same force, but the old-fashioned mechanical limited-slip still does a great job keeping the power going in turns.
And, with the magnetic ride suspension, the non-Z51 rode with a creamy dreaminess, even over frostbitten pavement. I measure a car's ride harshness in terms of the number of time involuntarily exclaim "OOF," "AHHH" or "JESUS" when I crash over a bump, pothole or other road gash hard enough to feel it in my bones; while I'll usually wind up doing so a few times every 100 miles in most sports cars, I only exclaimed four times over 700 miles in the 'Vette.
My time with the C8 in Vermont came a couple weeks after navigating up there in a Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, which packs a similar power-to-weight ratio and also channels all its power through the rear wheels. Powering it through a winter storm, however, I'd have guessed it had all-seasons on the rims; the car slipped and shimmied around with frightening regularity, sometimes even without my foot on the gas.
The Corvette, however, had Michelin Pilot Alpin rubber, which made a world of difference. Where the Pirelli Sottozero-shod Caddy had been skittish, the 'Vette was confident and composed, to the point where I found myself trying hard to force the car to slide around even on slippery unpaved roads. I've logged enough miles in all sorts of cars on all sorts of winter roads to know when and where tires are making a difference, and believe me: Michelin's performance winter tires far outperform Pirelli's option. Winter tires matter; get the best ones you can.
Base Price / Price as Tested: $69,495 / $82,040
Powertrain: 6.2-liter V8; eight-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Torque: 470 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Moving the engine behind the driver (and many other changes) turns the Corvette into a supercar that’s within reach.