Every Corvette Generation, Ranked

Every Corvette Generation, Ranked

From C1 to C8, we rank them all from best to worst.

By
We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Photo: Chevrolet

This week, America celebrated National Corvette Day on June 30, followed immediately by Drive Your Corvette to Work Day on July 1. With all this focus on America’s sports car, we decided it was high time to rank every Corvette generation from best to worst, starting with the 1953 C1 and running all the way to today’s mid-engine C8. Everybody has a different opinion on the Corvette, and just about everyone ranks the generations differently. So, we asked everyone on the Jalopnik staff to submit their own ranking, from best to worst, of all 8 generations. Let’s meet the staff and find out just how right — or wrong — they can be when it comes to the Corvettes of past and present.

Advertisement

2 / 16

My Favorite Corvette: C7 - Bob Sorokanich

My Favorite Corvette: C7 - Bob Sorokanich

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Photo: Chevrolet

The C7 is the one that always comes to mind whenever I think of the word “Corvette.” It’s the ultimate distillation of the classic Corvette recipe: A big V8 up front, a stick shift in the middle, and all that power and torque going to the rear. The C7 represented every last little bit of performance GM could wring from the front-engine/rear-drive format before switching to the long-awaited mid-engine C8. It’s also, in my opinion, the best looking modern Corvette, mixing classic Coke-bottle proportions with cutting-edge design features. The C8 is quicker, more powerful, and more impressive in nearly every way, but the C7 is the ultimate Corvette for me.

My rankings:

  1. C7: My forever favorite.
  2. C6: The one that came out when I was a teenager. It’s a law of nature: You’ll always love the ‘Vette from your teenage years.
  3. C8: The ultimate Corvette, the one that makes Ferraris sweat for a quarter of the price. I love that the C8 exists, I love that GM was able to achieve it at a Corvette price. But I still haven’t warmed up to the styling.
  4. C5: I love this generation — especially the notchback C5 Z06. But we’ve come to a point where the C5 is too old to look modern, but not old enough to be vintage. Also, that interior is not great.
  5. C3: A daring design doomed by lousy emissions controls and a lifespan that was about a decade too long. Don’t get me wrong, I’d cruise a disco-era C3 with T-tops every chance I had. But in this crowd, it’s a bottom-half pick.
  6. C1: The earliest single-headlight Corvettes are so delicate looking, so elegant. It’s fascinating how GM envisioned a completely different Corvette in 1953 — a dainty, European luxury roadster. To me, the C1 feels like looking at a photo of my great-great-grandfather. I know the relation, but I struggle to feel a personal connection.
  7. C2: Yes, yes, the split-window Sting Ray is one of the most legendary styling exercises in the modern era. I just find it a little too fussy.

Which brings me to.....

Advertisement

3 / 16

My Least Favorite Corvette: C4 - Bob S.

My Least Favorite Corvette: C4 - Bob S.

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Photo: Chevrolet

Listen. I’m not saying the C4 is bad. It’s a Corvette, and the mere existence of a world-beating American sports car is a thing to treasure. I’d happily drive a C4 right now if one showed up outside. Maybe I’m just jaded by the fact that every girl in my 1st grade class had a Barbie Corvette in their toy bin, and they were all C4s. Maybe I’ve been influenced by Stone Cold Steve Austin filling Vince McMahon’s C4 with cement. (I’m told the calcified Corvette still lives in a parking garage at WWE headquarters.) Don’t think of this as me saying I hate the C4. It’s just the one I love the least.

Advertisement

4 / 16

My Favorite Corvette: C6 - Lawrence Hodge

My Favorite Corvette: C6 - Lawrence Hodge

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Image: Chevrolet

This might be controversial, but to me the C6 is it. Like I was telling my coworkers, the C6 really introduced the Corvette to the world and demonstrated it could compete with the Europeans. Even Jeremy Clarkson liked it. Sort of. A C6 Zo6 had 500 horsepower, which was madness in the mid ‘00s. Fast-forward to the end of the decade and GM gave us sort of America’s supercar at the time in the ZR1. Carbon fiber body panels, carbon-ceramic brakes and best of all , 620 hp supercharged LS9 V8 in a car that weighed just 3,300 pounds. Just for the interior improvement over the C5, which looks as if it was permanently stained with interior wax, the C6 gets the top spot for me.

I honestly believe without the performance enhancements the C6 brought we wouldn’t have the C8. It was that good.

My rankings:

  1. C6: Read above. Its the best.
  2. C8: This is what the Corvette should have been years ago. A budget exotic with world beating performance. Its the ultimate expression of the nameplate.
  3. C7: A 650 hp Zo6. Need I say more? Ok I’ll say more. Got people excited about the Vette again with its modern interpretation of the Stingray nameplate.
  4. C5: Despite the horrible interior, I loved the C5 Zo6 as a kid. Having 405 hp in a Corvette at that time was wild to me.
  5. C4: The C4 Zr1 had some serious performance for the early ‘90s. Plus this gen had cornering lamps, something every generation of Corvette that came after it never had again.
  6. C3: Monster performance in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and probably the golden age of the Corvette. If it wasn’t for how it was treated in the early ‘80s though, it would be higher up the list for me. A 190 hp 5.7-liter V8 is ridiculous.
  7. C2: I agree with Bob on this. While some think the split-window Sting Ray was a design masterpiece, it’s a dangerous obstruction. Something a lot of owners won’t admit.
  8. 8.C1: Ushered in the nameplate. And while its called America’s first sports car, its specs are kind of underwhelming for the time. Live axle suspension and a 3.9-liter 150 hp straight six? I’ll pass.
Advertisement

5 / 16

My Least Favorite Corvette: C3 - Lawrence H.

My Least Favorite Corvette: C3 - Lawrence H.

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Image: Chevrolet

Like many cars, the malaise era wasnt kind to the Corvette. Sure it looks the part and has all the right lines. But that meant nothing with engines that were detuned because of emissions regs. I love the planet to, but theres no way in hell I’d drive around in a Corvette with a 350 cubic inch V8 making only 180 hp. I think the most power you could get out of any Vette model at this time was 210. Horrible.

Advertisement

6 / 16

My Favorite Corvette: C6 - Andy Kalmowitz

My Favorite Corvette: C6 - Andy Kalmowitz

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Photo: Chevrolet

When you’re my age (a middle-aged 25) and think of Corvettes, only one generation comes to mind: the one we grew up with… the C6. Yes, yes I know it isn’t everyone’s first choice, but I’m here to tell you they are wrong.
Don’t agree with me? I don’t have time for that negativity. The C6 is the first Corvette to really mean something on a world stage. Sure the C5 laid that groundwork, but its interior was made out of Legos and chewing gum.

The C7 continued on the formula of the C6, but it got a little bit too Transformer-y for my taste. The C8 is cool, but I dunno man. I like a front engine and a manual transmission.

The C6 just hits everything perfectly – especially the Z06 with its mammoth 505 hp 7-liter LS7 V8. That was the stuff of dreams for a young car enthusiast in the mid-2000s. Oh no… I’m on Autotrader again.

My rankings:

  1. C6: For obvious reasons.
  2. C7: A technically better Corvette than the C6, but the looks don’t thrill me and it doesn’t have an LS7
  3. C3: This will raise some eyebrows, but early C3s are some of the prettiest Corvettes out there. You’ll understand why the later, miserable, cars don’t bring this ranking down
  4. C2: The C2 was actually the first Corvette I ever drove in. Shoutout to my dearly departed Uncle Walt. He had a ‘67 convertible in maroon with the 327 small block. I loved that car.
  5. C8: I guess this is the ultimate expression of a Corvette: supercar performance for sports car prices, but I don’t know. It doesn’t really vibe with me
  6. C5: The C5 would be higher if its interior wasn’t made out of loose plastic shavings. Even popup headlights can’t do enough to save it.
  7. C4: This thing is junk, unless you’re talking about the ZR1. That was cool. Everything else is garbo.
  8. C1: If “back in my day” were a car

Flip over for a bonus Number 9...

Advertisement

7 / 16

My Least Favorite Corvette: C3.5 - Andy K.

My Least Favorite Corvette: C3.5 - Andy K.

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Photo: Chevrolet

Let me explain this. I’ve made a new Corvette generation. It’s all C3s made after 1973, when emissions regulations took hold and killed all fun. Damn government. What hateful vehicles that do not deserve to be in the same conversation as early C3s.

Look how they massacred my boy.

Advertisement

8 / 16

My Favorite Corvette: C6 - Steve DaSilva

My Favorite Corvette: C6 - Steve DaSilva

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Screenshot: Movie Buff Guy on YouTube, Photo: Chevrolet, Image: Steve DaSilva

Look, Andy is clearly my mirror universe evil doppelgänger. His worldview is a twisted shadow of mine, made septic and putrid by horrors birthed from dark corners of his mind that I fear to even imagine. But when he’s right, he’s right, and this is one of those occasions: The C6 is simply the best Corvette.

I’ll admit to the nostalgia argument — I too grew up with the C6, and its yellow race livery with COMPUWARE written down the side is still my default mental image of a Corvette. But the C6 is more than a nostalgia play, it’s the first truly modern Corvette, replacing the C5's pillowy interior and truly ‘90s looks with something that fit the Information Age. It’s a good car.

Modern motorsports, too, have made good use of the C6. Look no further than Matt Field’s Formula DRIFT-spec Corvette to see a modern interpretation of the chassis. If you’ve got a couple hours to kill, why not watch the entire build series too?

My rankings:

  1. C6: C’mon, I just told you.
  2. C7: Objectively a better performer than the C6, but the C7 loses points for being the only Corvette I’ve driven. I know its window sills sit at my shoulders, I’ve experienced its sheer enormous size on the road. I can still imagine that the C6 is a reasonably-sized vehicle, but I can’t give the C7 the same leeway.
  3. C5: Gets credit for being the last new car sold in the U.S. with pop-up headlights, narrowly beating the Elise, but its interior looks straight out of a La-Z-Boy catalog. Also, it’s somehow bigger than the C6. Why are Corvettes so big?
  4. C8: Finally, a mid-engined Corvette to take on the European supercars. It’s dual-clutch-only, which is good for that specific competition. But it’s prone to wild understeer, and it’s multiple feet longer than it should be just so Boomer owners could fit their golf bags in the back. Just buy a Camaro instead, and let the Corvette actually become the pure performance vehicle it so desperately wants to be.
  5. C2: The C2 is a great looking automobile, and both Bruce Wayne and Letty Ortiz have driven them on film. Of the Pre Modern Era Corvettes, it’s the sharpest, most stylish, and most interesting. But it’s still a PME ‘Vette, and has to really work to maintain my interest.
  6. C1: I think the early single-headlight models look better than the later dual-lamp ones, but neither is bad. They’re classics, products of their time, and make for a neat novelty. I would pay up to $600 for one in mint, concours condition.
  7. C4: Eighties digital dashes are objectively Rad As Hell, and the C4 does wear an Arizona Iced Tea can design better than the other generations. But it’s old, creaky, rattly, and just looks tired. Also, what in the hell is a four plus three transmission. I don’t wanna do math.

And, in last place...

Advertisement

9 / 16

My Least Favorite Corvette: C3 - Steve D.

My Least Favorite Corvette: C3 - Steve D.

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Photo: Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA - 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, CC BY 2.0

Andy says that the C3 is really two different cars, but that would requite an ND Miata-style hard shift. Instead, the C3 slowly faded into impotent irrelevance, tainting every ‘Vette to wear its sleek sheet metal. The C3 took all the beautiful promise of the Mako Shark and dulled it, sanded down the edges, and forced it into eternal mediocrity. For shame.

Advertisement

10 / 16

My Favorite Corvette: C4 - José Rodríguez Jr.

My Favorite Corvette: C4 - José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Photo: Chevrolet

I hate the Corvette. Just letting you know off the bat. You see, I grew up in the nineties around the time of the C4 and C5. My early memories or impressions of the Corvette were pleasant, but I’ve always been a Viper fan at heart.

The Corvettes of my youth didn’t move me like the Viper did, and by the time the Viper SRII came around with its racing stripes, I was fully Team Dodge. Compared to the Viper, the Corvette struck me as a bland, overpriced wedge.

It wasn’t until I was way older that I came to appreciate the Corvette, after realizing just how simple and uncomplicated and taut the C4 really is. All of its angles are devoid of unnecessary lines. You could draw the C4 in four lines or less! And yet it’s such an expressive and honest car, with a strong sense of self. The early C4 also happens to have one of the greatest rear profiles of all time.

My rank:

  1. C4: Clean lines and four perfect circles. Gorgeous.
  2. C2: The second generation would dictate the car’s design for decades. It was a dramatic reworking of the original that made the Corvette taut and focused. It earned the Corvette its name, as reference to a lighter, faster vessel. And the iconic C2 Sting Ray kept the nautical theme going.
  3. C3: The C3 had fenders for days, which raised its hood and tail lines tastefully, but it’s not quite as simple and clean as the C2.
  4. C1: I can respect the C1 for what it is, but it’s my least favorite among classic Corvettes because it hadn’t fully taken the wedge shape that later Corvettes would perfect.
  5. C5: The C5 is just a C4 that let itself go. It broadened out, but not in a good way. I’m not surprised, because it’s proof that the C4 was so perfect, all Chevy designers could do was trace over its lines with a Sharpie Magnum.
  6. C6: And the C6 was a continuation of that approach: of emphasizing the Corvette’s lines, making it bigger and heavier. It also opened the Corvette’s eyes, finally replacing the classic pop-up lights with fixed headlights. I have no doubt that these lights were brighter, but they don’t look nearly as cool.
  7. C7: While I was no great fan of the evolution of the Corvette post-C4, models prior to the C7 at least had the air of the fourth-generation; you could see how they followed one another. The C7 broke away from that tradition with AERO nips and tucks that were beginning to look aggressive. And that aggression culminated in...
Advertisement

11 / 16

My Least Favorite Corvette: C8 - José R.

My Least Favorite Corvette: C8 - José R.

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Photo: Chevrolet

The angriest Corvette so far: the mid-engine C8. The Corvette that ate a lemon. The C8 makes no pretense to style. It’s an American sports car that performs better than exotics or supercars when judged by price to performance. It just looks so overwrought.

The glorious circular tail lights have been crushed and fragmented, while its side panels are a mess of creases and folds. Its design zigs and zags as tightly as this latest generation can corner, but its performance can’t overcome those sharp angles and hard breaks. Again, it’s nearly the zenith of American performance cars. But someone has to tell the C8 that a car doesn’t have to be angry in order to be fast.

Advertisement

12 / 16

My Favorite Corvette: C2 - Adam Ismail

My Favorite Corvette: C2 - Adam Ismail

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Image: Chevrolet

My friend and colleague José and I agree on many things — that meaningful technological progress died when the 3.5-millimeter audio jack did, and that the 3 Series Compact was the coolest E36. We also agree that Corvettes are almost always lame.

My reasoning? For nearly my entire life, the Corvette has never aspired to be anything more than the most inoffensive, mediocre sports car money could buy. That is, until the C8 where — I’ll give it to General Motors — it finally succeeded in rewriting the script, the way the father of the Corvette wanted to six decades prior. Out of that we gained an affordable mid-engine supercar, and those don’t come around very often.

Here’s the problem with the C8 though: It’s unabashedly, irredeemably ugly. Non copyright-infringing Ferrari-made-for-Grand Theft Auto ugly. No matter how wonderfully the C8 drives, nor how it embarrasses vehicles several orders of magnitude more expensive, it’d never get the nod from me. If I could name any Corvette as my favorite, official generations be damned, I’d give it to the Italdesign Moray concept from 2003. A modern Vette with a soul — how unforgivable.

That leaves me with my second choice, the only time Chevrolet’s flagship has ever deserved its reputation: the C2. I don’t need to extol the brilliance of Larry Shinoda’s design, a development of Pete Brock’s earlier Stingray racer. The haunches; the low, flat hood; the stout-yet-emotive canopy and four of the best taillights ever to grace the automotive medium say it all for me. Rarely has a concept ever been evolved for production so masterfully.

My rankings:

  1. C2: (see above)
  2. C4: The fourth-gen Vette ranks highly for the ZR-1, an impressive car for its day with a cool story thanks to Lotus’ involvement. I also dug the Grand Sport in the first Gran Turismo.
  3. C6: Bland though it was, the C6 at least gave us the C6.R, which might just be the best-looking GT-class Corvette ever.
  4. C5:Every criticism anyone ever had about the “Ovoid” Taurus also fits the C5 Corvette, but at least the Z06 was pretty exciting in an early-aughts context.
  5. C3: It looks like bacon.
  6. C1: Who are you?
  7. C8: The best car here let down by the worst design, not just outside but inside, too. Someone who used to work here once told me I’d like it more in person. If they’re reading this, I want them to know that they were wrong.
Advertisement

13 / 16

My Least Favorite Corvette: C7 - Adam I.

My Least Favorite Corvette: C7 - Adam I.

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Image: Chevrolet

I remember when I saw the C7 for the very first time. I was standing in line for stir fry in one of Rutgers’ dining halls (I swear, I’ve been searching for stir fry that good since the day I graduated), thumbing through Twitter when I saw the Jalopnik post. On one hand, I was disappointed but not at all surprised that the mid-engine rumors once again amounted to vapor. On the other, I couldn’t believe GM hired the designer of the Nissan GT-R to trace over a Ferrari 599 and got away with it. With time the C7 got only worse, as illustrated by the ZR1's extracted wisdom-tooth jowls.

Advertisement

14 / 16

My Favorite Corvette: C2 - Lalita Chemello

My Favorite Corvette: C2 - Lalita Chemello

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Screenshot: Jay Leno’s Garage via YouTube (Other)

I have to admit, most of my youth was spent in and around the garages of Werner Meier, one of the most notable of Corvette collectors and enthusiasts in the country. Those garages which were filled with not only his Corvettes, but those of his customers for restoration over the years. I was incredibly spoiled in seeing every Corvette it seems. With that amount of exposure to all of those Corvettes, you quickly find your favorites and least.

Bringing me to the C2, the crown jewel. While I liked the C1, the bubbly lines, which were a product of its debut in the ‘50s, that just didn’t vibe. No, I liked when those lines evolved to become more sleek and edgy, bringing about the C2.

If you’re not familiar with the story of Corvette, the C2 would be the moniker’s saving grace. While Corvette was doing “alright” in the ‘50s, and was finally competing in racing starting in 1957, GM wasn’t having it, and the program was nearly killed off. Bill Mitchell, the chief designer of the Corvette at the time, would end up funding the development of the C2 out of his own pocket. When I had a chance to listen to designer Peter Brock talk about Bill’s work on the C2, he mentioned GM’s conditions to keep the car: It was not allowed to carry the “Chevrolet” or “Corvette” name. So, the “Sting Ray” was born. Bill’s direct contributions would keep the Corvette going from there.

My rankings:

  1. C2: What a beautiful second beginning.
  2. C3: There are typically two Corvettes that refer to the “iconic” Corvette most everyone (okay, really boomers) love, and that is the C2 and the C3. The lines were a little more aggressive, and sleek on the C3.
  3. C7: The C7 brought Corvette back to a body style that emulated the lines of it’s fiesty C2 and C3 brethren that designers kinda hid over the decades in-between.
  4. C8: While I agree, the mid-engine doesn’t feel very “Corvette-like,” it’s still an outstandingly designed vehicle, maintaining the lines of Corvette heritage, while making a mid-engine sports car accessible to nearly everyone. Sometimes in design, you need somewhere to go, and Corvette decided to go all-in.
  5. C4: This little door wedge used to be near the end of my ranking, but after driving this guy, I fell in love with the retro dashboard, and just had to move it up. Sure, it is a wedge, but there are still sharp design lines, fun colors, and likely the last time Corvette really felt like a Corvette until C7.
  6. C1: The 1953's lines and subsequent years until C2 were just a little too rounded. The ‘60-‘62 did start adding some angles, but still... too bubbly.
  7. C6: I am embarrassed most of my writers considered this gen their favorite, but I understand where they come from when they say the Corvette of your youth, is your favorite. Just mine (C4) didn’t make as high on my list. The C6 was the continuation of the inflated look of the awkward GM design era, and begged to be edgier.

Which brings me to the last on the list....

Advertisement

15 / 16

My Least Favorite Corvette: C5 - Lalita C.

My Least Favorite Corvette: C5 - Lalita C.

Image for article titled Every Corvette Generation, Ranked
Photo: Chevrolet Media

Have you ever seen a C5 next to like a C4, or C3, or a C7 for that matter? It’s the widest thing I’ve ever seen, like a Corvette with a horrid bee sting allergic reaction that just puffed up into whatever shape you want to call the C5. Vehicles were getting larger in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, and the C5 was unfortunately, a victim of that trend. Designers learned their lesson by adding some lines again to the C6, recovering a bit more with the C7 and C8.

Advertisement

16 / 16