Friday, July 19, 2024
First Reviews2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray First Drive Review

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray First Drive Review

We went to Las Vegas, Nevada to test drive the all-new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 in the streets and on the track. Here's what we think.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Pros:

  • Exotic looks
  • Extremely accessible performance
  • Stunning price

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Cons:

  • Sub exotic performance
  • Cabin layout

When Chevrolet announced the new Corvette, many saw it as a warning shot to the makers of exotic and supercars. With its new mid-engine layout, it was believed that Chevy could keep up with cars that had nearly triple the starting price of the Corvette.

After driving the new C8 Corvette in around Las Vegas, Nevada and on track at the Spring Mountain Motor Resort, it’s clear that the potential for the Corvette to reach those lofty heights has arrived, but expectations should be still held in check.

For starters, the last Corvette, known as the C7 by enthusiasts and car-geeks, was one of the most impressive front-engined sports cars on the market, especially in the high-performance Z06 and ZR1 trims. With a supercharged V8 making up to 755 horsepower, there was barely a situation on road or on a track where the old Corvette couldn’t keep up.

Why Change It Up?

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray | Photo: Sami Haj-Assaad

Very little about the new Corvette is shared with the last one. However, the personality is still in there somehow, despite the completely different layout. It’s engine, design, driving manners, even it’s practicality, leave it feeling like a Corvette of yore, just with completely different proportions.

But while the personality is still there, the driving experience has been heightened. It’s significantly more responsive thanks to the new layout, and Chevrolet has outfitted the vehicle with more electronics and driver’s aids working behind the scenes, so it’s easier to drive fast and feel like a superstar on the road.

Some may see this as an end to an era of front-engined rear-wheel-drive sports cars, but this is the evolution Chevrolet had to make in order to keep up with and surpass the rest of the high-performance segment.

So in order to raise the ceiling of the Corvette brand, it had to make a radical change, hence the mid-engine layout.

A mid-engined high-performance sports car was the dreams of one of the original Corvette engineers Zora Arkus-Duntov, and one that couldn’t come to fruition until this 2020 model. Moving the engine from the front to the middle of the car allows a number of improved characteristics. For example, having the weight of the engine closer to the rear wheels will improve rear-end traction and acceleration.

The mid-engine placement also allows for better weight balance, which leads to better handling and improves braking as the rear brakes can do more of the braking as well. There’s a reason all those supercars utilize the layout. But it’s also a more complicated setup and one that increases costs and weight. McLaren, Ferrari and others can get away with increased weight because they use light-weight materials like carbon fibre, and can charge more for the added costs associated, but the same can’t really be said about Chevrolet.

Beneath the Sheet Metal

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray | Photo: Sami Haj-Assaad

While the C8 Corvette does use some carbon fibre, it doesn’t use it as extensively as supercars, so it’s put on about 200 pounds in some configurations in comparison to the last generation Corvette. The rest of the car is made up of materials like aluminum, fibreglass and magnesium. However, the benefits veto the extra weight – the vehicle now features a 40-60 front-to-rear weight balance, and a centre of gravity roughly where the driver’s hip would be.

The chassis is just one important part of the new Corvette, but another piece of the puzzle is the powertrain, which is made up of a 6.2-litre V8 engine and an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. This setup sends 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. That may not sound like much as we live in a world with 707-horsepower family sedans, but it’s enough to send the Corvette to highway speeds from a standstill in under 3 seconds, and reach a top speed of 312 km/h.

A launch control function is available, easily enabled by holding the brakes down and then holding the gas, then releasing the brakes. This levels out the launch RPM at around 4,000 RPM, before sending you off into the horizon. The gear shifts are very quick, and Chevrolet notes that the paddle shifters are wired directly to the transmission, rather than a CAN Bus (a sort of local network for vehicle information) allowing the driver initiated gearchanges to feel extra responsive.

How it Feels

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray | Photo: Sami Haj-Assaad

Laggy or lazy mannerisms are hard to find here. The Corvette feels quick right off the line, and the gear changes are very sharp. It feels very close to the Porsche PDK transmissions used in the 911s, and for good reason – the first prototype used a Porsche transmission, and when Chevrolet started building more development mules, they often had a 911 on hand for benchmarking.

The throttle response is natural, unlike the slight hesitation and artificial build-up of speed that’s associated with forced induction motors. The noise is excellent, as it always is with a Chevy small block, and the fact that you’re closer to the engine makes it even more pleasant to hear. The Z51 track package includes a different exhaust system that bumps up the horsepower and torque by five points and helps the C8 feel an extra bit more exciting to drive.

I’ll admit, it’s high-speed acceleration can feel a bit dull, but it’s important to keep in mind that this vehicle has less than 500 horsepower. Exotics and other sports cars feature more power than this, and it’s likely that Chevrolet will introduce more trim levels with extra power for the speed demons who want to embarrass exotics.

Roll into the throttle at higher speeds and the car doesn’t really blast you into the stratosphere as you’d expect. It’s fast, but on the straightaways at Spring Mountain, it didn’t leave me with that “pit of my stomach leaving my body” feeling. With instructors ahead of us in the last generation C7 Corvette ZR1s the new C8 Stingray couldn’t keep up when the road was straight. This may be an issue of tall gears, or maybe a transmission that doesn’t always like to downshift, or it may be that Chevrolet is holding the really hardcore stuff for later.

Don’t mistake that for saying the new Corvette is slow, it can definitely get you in trouble with law enforcement if you’re not keeping one eye trained on the speedometer. On track and unleashed from the shackles of a speed limit, the Corvette is still impressive. The light nose leads to quick reactions when you turn the steering wheel, but driving a mid-engine car at speed is an entirely different experience than driving a front-engined car. Mismanage your speed and act a bit impatiently with the throttle, brake or steering and you’ll find the vehicle wiggle as it gets unsettled. Don’t worry though, while understeer can occur a bit more frequently than oversteer, both are managed easily.

A lot of this has to do with all the fancy electronics working their magic behind the scenes. An electronic limited-slip differential doesn’t just help put the power down to the right wheels for traction but helps in off-throttle situations to support a less experienced driver navigate a track quickly and confidently. When outfitted with the magnetic ride control, now in its fourth generation, the system also includes performance traction management, which allows the driver to tailor the intervention of the traction control system, letting drivers slowly build up their speed and trust of the car and its new engine layout.

The magnetic ride control equipped cars are definitely stiffer, and can potentially be faster, but it will take some time to find the ideal PTM settings for your skill level. Without the MRC, I’d say the Corvette is still quite sporty. The models we had on the track featured recommended camber adjustment as per the owner’s manual, which is always helpful. This calibration should cost about $200 from the dealership and is a must if Corvette owners will be hitting the track at any time.

Furthermore, the vehicle features several drive modes to customize the experience to the road conditions or driver intentions. Weather mode is ideal for slippery conditions like rain or cold temperatures, while sport is the more aggressive mode. A tour mode is for every day driving and a track and race mode are for the complete opposite. A MyMode is a more customizable setup with a number of vehicles attributes to toggle between and manages to stay in this mode between ignition cycles. However, MyMode doesn’t include powertrain adjustments, so the Z mode (named after Zora Arkus-Duntov) is another a personalized pre-set which is quickly accessible through a button on the steering wheel and includes those elements.


2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray | Photo: Sami Haj-Assaad

Otherwise, the suspension proved to be very comfortable and compliant for road trips and long distances. The seats are a bit hard, and the cabin is a bit cramped, but the ride is fine. The Corvette has always been able to straddle a line between being a comfortable cool cruiser and a hard-core sports car that gobbles up corners with precision. The new C8 still holds the line. The materials in the cabin are up to the standard of the last generation Corvette, which is to say they’re pretty good for a car labelled as a Chevrolet, but feel a bit cheap in comparison to the likes of a Porsche or Audi.

The cabin’s biggest issue isn’t the materials though, it’s the odd layout of controls, specifically the HVAC settings. Chevrolet didn’t want to stuff all the heating and cooling settings into the 8-inch infotainment screen where they would be buried behind finicky menus and small on-screen, but having a thin row of buttons placed high and between the driver and passenger areas doesn’t seem like a great solution.

Driver-side controls are at the top of the column, while passenger-side controls are down by the bottom, which means when the passenger has to reach over this ridge to access the media controls or volume knob on the infotainment screen they risk hitting one of the HVAC settings.

Besides this odd design choice, the cabin is full of features, like dual-zone climate control, heated and vented seats, heated steering wheel, a head-up display and a 12-inch digital gauge cluster. Additionally, the Corvette coupe features a removable Targa roof, which conveniently has a dedicated place for stowage behind the engine. Cargo space is just fine for a mid-engine vehicle.

It’s my belief that the Targa roof stowage requirement leads to the somewhat awkward proportions of the Corvette. It looks good from some angles, but from others, it looks like something is amiss. Curiously, the few times I’ve seen the upcoming Convertible model, I’ve felt more at ease with its exterior design. Still, the C8 is attractive enough to gain a number of fans and admirers while driving around Vegas. Considering the frequency of high-horsepower exotics that prowl the strip, it says a lot about the Corvette’s design to get this much attention. The snarl of the 6.2-litre V8 helps too.

Pricing is everything

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray | Photo: Sami Haj-Assaad

So yes, the mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet Corvette has exotic looks to keep up with the Italians and Germans, but fall just short of exotic performance. Fortunately, it has an extremely sub-exotic price tag, which helps things considerably. It starts at $69,998 in Canada including freight and air conditioning, which is incredible, putting it somewhere in the same price bracket as a Porsche Cayman, while performing much closer to a 911 Carrera S. Models with the Z51 Track Package start at $75,898 and the magnetic ride control is an extra $2,180. From design to performance, that’s simply a bargain for speed seekers.

Buyers in the US need to set aside $58,900 for the Corvette which is just as impressive as Canadian pricing.

For those looking for the ultimate performance, the capability to keep up with the exotics without effort, I’d suggest having patience. As with the last model, the engineers and designers have a little extra up their sleeves for higher performance models like the last Z06 and ZR1 which will truly exploit the mid-engine potential. But those looking for a 911 alternative that doesn’t break the bank, the new Corvette will definitely satisfy.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Photo Gallery

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray | Photo: Sami Haj-Assaad
2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray | Photo: Sami Haj-Assaad
2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray | Photo: Sami Haj-Assaad


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