After spending decades gaining a reputation as the automotive industry’s biggest urban legend, the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is finally here, real to the touch and driving under its own mid-engined power. All we need now is Half-Life 3.
The embargo for First Drive reviews dropped at a number of publications today, and while we haven’t been invited to drive it yet—Chevrolet must not be getting those Christmas cards—we can tell you what everyone else is saying about it.
The early verdicts? It’s good. It’s very fast, especially. But in a lot of ways, it could be better. Most of these takes feature what’s pretty clearly pre-production versions of the C8, so there are some teething issues that could be ironed out before the car actually hits dealer lots.
We hope, anyway.
The magazine says it’s brutally quick, but suffers from more understeer and gearbox issues than expected.
The first thing you notice is just how quickly the thing turns in. While the ratio for the steering is nearly the same as the C7, you’re sitting further forward, so everything feels more immediate. The steering is either overly light or overly heavy, and doesn’t say too much in the way of feedback. But it’s accurate. My first reaction was that it somehow still felt like a Corvette, a crazy thing to say about a car that has had a fundamental change in layout and construction.
More time spent then made you realize quirks. It enters understeer readily, and needs a big swing at the gas or a huge lift to upset it and induce oversteer. It has massive grip on corner exit, the whole intent of this change was to make sure it could hook up. Of course, the old Stingray also hooked up just fine, but when there’s an extra 100 or 200 horsepower out back, it’ll be bananas how it’ll get out of a corner.
There’s a video there too.
Oh, and we interpret the C8’s by-wire braking system as a tacit admission that a hybrid variant is coming. It’s here that we’ll see the full benefit of the mid-engine layout: it’ll likely have electric motors on the front wheels, allowing GM to make good on the otherworldly handling promise that the Acura NSX didn’t.
So while the C8 Corvette hasn’t redefined mid-engine handling or braking, it’s a very good performer, and it makes good on GM’s outrageous acceleration claims. But the Stingray is only the beginning. It may not yet be great, but the C8 is a momentous start to a new chapter in American sports cars. A very, very quick start.
C/D is pretty effusive, though it does ding the car’s interior.
After all that poking and prodding, we have concluded that the new C8 is spectacular, amazing, and supremely capable. Maybe even revolutionary. And we’ve also come to the realization that, despite its long list of compelling attributes, it’s still not quite everything we had hoped it would be. Like we said, it’s complicated.
While the C8's performance places it within the bounds of the supercar class, character matters as much as capability. It’s here where your expectations will affect how you feel about the C8. Make no mistake, if you want to haul ass down a writhing piece of asphalt, this car will do it at astounding velocities, with a viselike grip on the pavement and the haughty assuredness of a car born to the task.
There are six driving modes, and the FE4 damper package also includes the Performance Traction Management system for fine-tuning the car’s stability control for track use. Switch into any of the more aggressive settings with the awkward-to-use dial on the center console, punch the push-button shifter into manual mode, and hang on. The faster you go, the better the C8 feels.
The steering cuts like a race car’s, and the cornering limits are virtually out of reach on the street—though steering feel and feedback aren’t as communicative as those from a Porsche 911 or a McLaren 720S. Boiling out of corners on full throttle, the big V-8 thunders like a NASCAR engine, and the dual-clutch automatic delivers crisp shifts when you pull the paddles on the back of the steering wheel.
More criticisms around understeer, but lots of praise around how this is “the most premium-feeling Corvette that Chevrolet has ever made.”
Put simply, the C8 is no drift car. Try to correct the understeer with a nudge of throttle, and you get more understeer. Give it a lot of throttle sans ESC, and you’ll likely end up backward. Be extremely patient and roll into the throttle correctly, and the C8 will dig in and push hard off the exit of a corner. Give it too much gas, though, and the rear end is happy to step out. The line between a nice power-on drift and a spin is razor thin.
Which explains the understeer. Moving the engine (and thus the weight balance) to the center decreases the polar moment of inertia, making a vehicle more prone to spinning. Understeer makes it harder for the vehicle to get sideways and reduces the chance of a spin. The Corvette team is more than capable of tuning the car for a more balanced demeanor, which makes us think this was intentional.
Although isolating brakes may be a shortcoming, the C8's isolating ride on long cruises is a highlight. The magnetic dampers, set to Tour mode, ride like a luxury sport sedan. Impacts from expansion joints, crumbling pavement, and railroad crossings are heard far more than they’re felt. Even big impacts struggle to rattle the cabin. Twisting the drive mode knob up through Sport and Track settings stiffens the ride and increases the amount of vertical motion for occupants, but even at its most inflexible the ride is never punishing.
Lots of praise and comparisons to McLaren and Porsche, but also questions as to whether the Corvette faithful will warm up to it.
What’s remarkable is the way the power is delivered from a standing start. Or rather, it’s what’s unremarkable. Even if you don’t use launch control, acceleration from a dead stop is oddly undramatic. With more than half its weight already over its drive wheels, the Corvette simply squats slightly and goes. Acceleration doesn’t even feel like the violent explosion of energy that it really is. The tires (staggered 19- and 20-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summers on my Z51) simply hook up. There’s no rear-end squirreliness, no massive shift shocks as the DCT dispatches its super-short first and second gears, no traction control light blinking like a bad Christmas tree bulb.
You don’t even get that electric wave of torque you do in a Tesla, the surge sensation that comes all at once and makes your eyes go big. The car simply accelerates ferociously, yet undramatically. Yes, there’s the lovely V8 backing soundtrack at your back when it happens, but it, too, is surprisingly polished and somewhat distant if you don’t make your runs with the windows down.
Very fast, and more “civilized” then Corvettes of yore.
How does it react at the limit? I’m not dumb enough to find out on the street, but Hurley says the aim was neutral responses with a bit of understeer. I want to feel how it rotates, what happens when it starts to lose grip, how it puts the power down upon exiting a turn, how it brakes at the limit, and how composed it is during high-speed cornering.
I’ll wait until we get a Corvette on a racetrack to judge all those characteristics, if Chevrolet accomplished its goal of neutral handing, and if the new Corvette pushes the envelope for handling.
Until then, I can say the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is quicker, quieter, easier to see out of, and rides better. The interior takes a quality leap forward, too. I’m not betting against Chevrolet pushing the envelope for handling as well.
They only got an hour with the car, but say: “Supercar tech, Corvette price.”
The world’s elite auto car makers should be very afraid.
Start with the handling. I have raced mid-engine, Porsche and Lola sports cars all my adult life. From Le Mans prototypes to Indy Car, the world’s fastest cars are mid-engine. It’s why Corvette’s Pratt & Miller race team has craved a mid-engine vessel to go up against the likes of Ferrari and Porsche that also locate the engine aft of driver.
I felt it on the first tight, 90-degree corner on Washtenaw County’s Huron River Road. With the engine behind me, the lighter front end instantly rotated to the corner apex — the rear following like the tail of a dart.
“Luxury car quiet.”
Improved handling and the ability to use more power aren’t surprises in a midengined car.
But I didn’t expect the quietest and most vibration-free cabin of any Corvette I’ve driven. It’s not easy to keep engine noise out of the cabin as the engine pounds away 18 inches behind the driver’s ears. Chevy engineers pulled the trick off with traditional insulation and active noise cancellation.
Add a very stiff chassis with springs and bushings expertly tuned to lock out road noise and vibration and you’ve got an interior that’s as peaceful as many luxury sedans.
The steering is fast and direct, even more responsive than the 2019 ‘Vette, thanks to the car’s lighter nose, a higher ratio and new steering gear.
So we missed out on an opportunity to drive the car. Not a worry! We might even crowdsource this one, as we did with the Tesla Model 3. If anything, there will probably be one on Turo soon enough. General Motors can’t gate-keep all of them.
Keep an eye on this space. We’ll have C8 Corvette driving impressions soon.