Everybody’s been buzzing about it the whole week, and you have probably been discussing it extensively with your car friends, on social networks and car forums all over Internet. And now, it’s our turn to discuss why the brand new Corvette C8 is the best automotive news so far of 2019. You might be wondering right now: aren’t these guys late? Wasn’t the car already presented 3 days ago? That would seem, in 21st century time span, almost as a whole century, but our purpose here is not to discuss too much the technicalities of the car itself – you can find those in one thousand other different websites – but rather provide our own opinion on the car itself. Photos: Chevrolet, General Motors. Text: Mickael B. ©
Since the apparition of the Corvette C7, what seems like decades ago, although it was “only” 2014, I knew something was changing in the minds and strategy of Chevrolet. The C7 was the biggest change we had ever seen in a Corvette, keeping all the strategic and characteristic elements of this automotive monument, while for the first time offering a credible potential alternative to European sports cars. The biggest element of that change was the interior design and finish, offering a much higher quality that what we had been used to in all previous Corvette generations. Although the quality of the materials could still not rival Porsche’s finest nappa leather, it compensated this by having very ingenious features, such as the James Bond style retracting center screen which provided an additional and welcomed storage space for such a sports car.
In addition to its traditional elements that make us all love the Corvette – the small block V8, the fiberglass body, the thrilling driving experience, and the targa roof – the C7 introduced as well something that would be a revolution for all of us stick shift gurus: the rev matching feature. In essence, what it does is do the heel toe for you, and that really changes your whole driving experience, specially when you start to push the car. This unique technology became so popular that Chevrolet now introduced it for its Camaro too. Thanks as well to its extremely good looks, the Stingray was the first Corvette where I witnessed loyal Porsche customers, some which had bought all 911s since the 993 generation, switch for the first time to something else, a C7 Corvette.
If not all of them have kept their Corvettes, and come back to Porsche 911s or Nissan GTR for example it is mostly because of two issues. The thrilling driving experience might be what you are looking for a nice summer day, but not so much if you are going through the Chicago or Swiss winter season. Then, the Corvette is not a perfect car like the 911. It has a lot of flaws, which makes its huge charm but might not be what you are looking for on a daily driver experience, specially with the heavy heating of the center console and the lack of rear seats, for example. Nevertheless, the C7 Stingray kept improving with its later versions, the Z06, with its notable faster time on the Virginia International Raceway than the Porsche 918, the Grand Sport, my personal favorite, and the ZR-1, the ultimate race inspired and track focused 755 horsepower version.
So when Chevrolet announced that, for the first time ever, the new upcoming Corvette generation would be rear engined, I was a bit puzzled. All Corvettes have always been front engined, rear wheel drive and I could not see that change. Not without losing the true Corvette spirit. As more and more rumors started leaking, I was very concerned that we would lose the Corvette in the myriad of other sports cars which have lost their original identity while trying to evolve through time: Lamborghini since the Audi purchase, the 911s water cooled and turbocharged nonsense, the Acura NSX reinterpretation total failure, etc. Rumors were wild: no more V8, Chevrolet’s flagship would be downsized to a simpler, more fuel efficient twin turbo V6, just like the Ford GT. The C8 would be four wheel drive too, to be easier to drive and more accessible. And then, there was the design…
The first leaks started to appear on Internet and people were wondering if the new Corvette would just be another Acura or McLaren. Frankly, I was not convinced either – and I am still unsure if I am now – but one year ago, things looked bad for Chevrolet. The 2019 Camaro had just been launched after a major facelift, which was heavily criticized by all the enthusiasts, and knowing the same designer’s team would be in charge of the new C8 generation Corvette of course only made matters worse. Everyone was complaining that the new Corvette was going to be a disaster, not keeping any of its signature elements. Of course, as General Motors started to refute rumors, specially on the engine and transmission side, people were less concerned, but still this was a huge bold move for Chevrolet. Switching the engine position could really affect the inner character of a car, from an extreme tail happy Grand Tourer kind of style to a seamless, sharp, nimble and precise supercar. Not sure if this is what the traditional Corvette customer is looking for.
Fast forward to July 18th, 2019. I came out tired from work and actually fell asleep way before the press conference. I watched the conference the next morning, and in the end, I think the C8 is the best automotive news of 2019 we have had. Why so? I am a purist. And the fact, that in 2019, a brand still stands for its own values, going against all the downsizing-green-eco-hybrid-all wheel drive-turbocharged bullshit in the automotive industry, gives me hope that we still have fights worth fighting for. The C8 still has a naturally aspirated 6.2 liter V8 – really? – who still does such big, petrol hungry engines nowadays? Oh wait… No one, or almost. Mercedes-Benz killed their 6.2 liter V8 for smaller 5.5 and now 4.0 liter; BMW killed their 5.0 liter V10 for more fuel efficient 4.4 turbocharged V8, and they killed their ultimate 4.2 liter V8 from the E92 M3 for crappy twin turbo charged 3.0 liter inline six; Ferrari killed what was one of their best engines ever, the 4.7 liter naturally aspirated V8 found in the 458 for 3.9 liter turbocharged V8 which linearize everything; should I continue the list?
Luckily for us old-school car enthusiasts there are still a few cars raising their fists in the air against the rest of the world, and most of them are produced on the other side of the Atlantic. And the new eighth generation Corvette is still one of them. Thank you General Motors and Chevrolet for this. Thank you from all my heart and soul. So if the C8 still has a proper engine, it does as well have a proper body, made – as should for all Corvette – from fiberglass. So if it has a proper engine, some might argue in the wrong position, and a right body, where did Chevrolet fail in the design of this new Corvette? I think there are several points where the new Corvette could and should have been better, and I made my top 3 worst and top 3 best points of the brand new C8 below. Let me take you each of them step by step.
The engine position. This has been the ongoing debate since General Motors announced the C8 would be rear engined. Although technically not rear engined, the C8’s huge eight cylinder engine is mounted in the central rear position or mid engined, i.e. just behind the car’s two seats, but not on the rear axle itself, just as your average italian berlinetta, Ferrari F8 Tributo, Lamborghini Huracan or your McLaren 570S. This structure provides better weight distribution on the car and much., much, much better handling than a front engined structure, as it allows the car to steer quicker and usually more precisely thanks to less weight on your steering axle. What’s the disadvantage? I think the C8 will lack the tail happy and extreme driving feeling we had on Corvette specially since the C4 for a more precise and nimble behavior. Let’s see when I will get the first opportunity to confirm or deny this. I hope that Chevrolet will still consider eventually another Corvette with its traditional front engined structure for a more GT feel. I loved how the C7, or the C6 was able to scare you while on the edge. It reminded you that you had a proper beast in your hands and I am very unsure the C8 will have this kind of behavior, specially when you see how the mid engined pack of supercars behave nowadays.
The design. I mentioned this earlier, and it has been confirmed when Chevrolet officially unveiled the car during their press conference in Tustin. The C8 is good looking, but as I have been used to seeing front engined Corvettes, I think I am lost in trying to find the classic signature design elements of this flagship, the proportions of the C8 being completely different than what we have been used to. Then there is the design elements that make this new Corvette generation look like an Acura or McLaren and not Corvette-looking enough. My guess is the designers from Chevrolet could not take inspiration anywhere in their own history to look at mid engined supercars and they had to look at existing cars to start the drawings and this can be seen throughout the whole car. I really wish they had started from scratch and let their own imagination guide them, as well as taken more signature design elements from previous generation Corvettes.
The gearbox. This was a very high hope on my side, specially given how the C7’s 7-speed manual gearbox is a marvel, precise in the guiding and such a joy to use in combination with the rev matching experience. Sadly Chevrolet decided to ditch the manual gearbox for a dual clutch 8 speed Tremec, the first dual clutch gearbox to be fitted to a Corvette ever. Just as the Shelby GT500 earlier this year, it sounds fantastic for short shift times if you are going to take the car for racing on the track, but how about the experience of the Sunday drive just enjoying shifting your Corvette through some nice twisty roads? This is even more frustrating given the fact that the C8’s engine is very close to the C7’s and it probably would not have had taken many efforts to fit its gearbox to the C8 and offer two choices to customers. One with the dual clutch for the track oriented user who really want that 0 to 62 mph in under 3 seconds and one with the manual gearbox and rev match for the more casual drivers.
The targa. This has been a signature from the Chevrolet’s flagship since its third generation, and although the complete structure of the car changed, the C8 still has this distinctive feature. The roof can be removed very easily just as on the C7 with some latches and has its own storage space in the back of the car, next to the engine. Surprisingly for a mid engined supercar, the Corvette offers two trunks, one in the back and one in the front, to ensure you still have some luggage space even if you want to have the roof out in the back trunk. Now, this begs another question. Will there ever be a convertible C8 or will General Motors tell its customers that the Targa experience offered by the base model is enough? In the case of the Corvette, I never understood the need of a Convertible as the targa experience is almost offering a similar feel. To be able to keep this feature, the new generation Corvette is thus wider and heavier than most of its mid engined rivals.
The interior. Even more digital than on the C7, Chevrolet’s new flagship interior gets three new seat options, a driver mode selector and a Z mode, personal driving mode fully configurable. The entire instrument panel and center console is as well centered on the driver, surrounding him or her with all the control elements he or she needs for the car, such as the front lift, a very useful feature now that the Corvette is rear engined. The C8 comes now as well for the first time with two fully individual key fobs, configurable separately for two different drivers, and no doors and hatch releases on the outside for smoother design. I must admit I really like the interior design of the new Corvette, and I have to admit that they have again stepped up their game some more compared to the C7, offering even higher quality materials, such as Nappa leather available on option. My favorite elements are the two full LED screens oriented towards the driver and the steering wheel, very simple, practical and track focused.
The price. This has probably to be the best thing about the new Corvette. Less than 60’000 $ entry price, for a mid engined supercar that could allegedly achieve a sub 3 seconds time for 0 to 100 km/h. Who else is there to compete? Although, while looking closer, and with the right options and dealer premium in the United States (of course, the interest is very high for the C8), the final price would be around 100’000 $. In my opinion the only necessary option is the Z51 package, which will be mandatory in Europe, which adds Michelin PS4s, better suspension, brakes, Chevrolet’s new electronic limited slip differential, rear spoiler and front splitter for better aerodynamics, a performance exhaust to enjoy every single note of the small block V8 and the magnetic ride control for more choices between a softer ride for every day use and firmer setting for track use.
In the end, and after all the rumors, General Motors did its job and came out with a brand new flagship which will for sure make history once again, and shows to the rest of the world that yes, even in 2019, you can still design an old school naturally aspirated 6.2 liter V8 supercar and innovate while still respecting the core values of your history. So, for all the other manufacturers out there, I hope they take example on what Chevrolet just did and look forward to driving a C8 soon hopefully.