When the 2020 Chevrolet C8 Corvette moved its engine to sit behind the driver, I thought for sure its visibility would improve over the front-engine C7's. The hood’s shorter and doesn’t need to accommodate an engine, for crying out loud. But that’s apparently not the case, according to some very thoroughly gathered data.
Visibility out of a car is a big deal. You need to be able to adequately see where you are going, and it’s a huge safety issue. Visibility is also not something that gets brought up as much as I’d like, which is why I’m thrilled the good folks over at Car and Driver thought to test out the C8 Corvette’s visibility.
Car and Driver assumed the same thing I did, which is that your forward visibility in the mid-engine ‘Vette would be way better than the front-engine version’s. But then when they physically got behind the wheel, “the view over the now engineless hood seemed . . . not great.”
So, it conducted some visibility measurements using their H-Point Machine, which is basically a human surrogate they can place on the driver’s seat of a car. The machine “mimics a 50th-percentile, 69.1-inch-tall man weighing 172 pounds. Lower-leg components are adjustable, ranging from male 10th- to 95th-percentile lengths.” (It’s actually very cool and you can read all about it here.)
Here’s what the outlet found.
Despite the driver sitting two inches higher than in a McLaren 720S, the mid-engine Corvette’s hood obscures four more feet of road. And this is not because of the front trunk, either; Car and Driver reports the McLaren to have more front cargo capacity.
Furthermore, the Porsche 718 Cayman, Acura NSX and the front-engine C7 Corvette all have better forward visibility than the C8. Yes, the C8's A-pillars were found to be two degrees skinnier, but they didn’t help offset the obstructions caused by the hood and dashline.
But! The C8 Corvette’s rear and downward view is “dramatically improved, shrinking by more than 60 percent compared with the impossible line of sight over the previous Corvette’s extremely large and flat cargo area that blocked the better part of a football field of road behind it.”
Interesting. So you can apparently see better when you’re backing up than when you’re moving forwards.
While this is a little disappointing to learn, it’s actually not surprising at all. In general, it seems like nearly all cars are getting harder and harder to see out of. Modern designs call for smaller windows, higher beltlines and thicker pillars. Some of this is done in the name of aesthetic, but it’s mostly to fulfill safety standards. That’s why older cars generally have much airier greenhouses. Their pillars are skinnier and their windows are bigger, but they would not hold up as well in a collision.
I’m very curious to investigate the C8 Corvette for myself. Car and Driver’s cool robot may mimic the average-sized man, but it’s also leaving out the entire female population. We need to see out of stuff, too!
You can check out Car and Driver’s story here. For copyright reasons, I won’t include all the fun graphics they made, but you should definitely head over to check them out.