When Chevrolet announced that the iconic Corvette might finally receive a true mid-engined revamp, starting at a sticker under $ 60,000 somehow, the news sounded almost too good to be true. Finally, a true American mid-engined performance car within reach of average enthusiasts — rather than Ford’s impressive but unobtainium GT.
The C8’s design, however, caused some consternation due to an angular, showy exterior and a unique interior that cocoons the driver into an ergonomically deficient cockpit. And yet, more than two years after early Corvette deliveries hit the market, I still found myself quite excited to test one out and discover whether this budget-focused borderline supercar delivers on so many decades worth of promise.
Well-Equipped At Almost $ 90,000
Of course, Chevrolet shipped me a maxed-out Corvette Stingray equipped with the 3LT and Z51 option groups, plus the Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension (Mag Ride) and even a front-axle lift setup. All the goodies tack on almost an additional 50% above a Corvette base, leading to a total $ 88,225 price tag including a $ 1,295 destination charge.
- Mid-engined design creates perfect handling
- Mag Ride suspension allows for soft and firm settings
- Z51 Performance Package adds sporting upgrades
- Model: Corvette
- Engine / Engine: 6.2-liter V8
- Horsepower: 495 hp
- Torque: 470 lb-ft
- Drivetrain: RWD
- Transmission: 8-speed DCT
- Mid-engined balance and handling
- Customizable drive modes
- Supercar performance at an incredible price
- Ventilated bucket seats
- Angular exterior design
- Uncomfortable ergonomic interior
- Options add up quickly
Mounting A Dry-Sump V8 Amidships
Simply put, moving the engine behind the C8’s cockpit transforms America’s most iconic sports car into a borderline supercar. That 6.2-liter LT2 V8 features dry-sump lubrication to avoid oil starvation during hard cornering and pumps out 495 horsepower, up from the “base” model’s 490 horses thanks to the Z51’s upgraded exhaust. Those figures might not sound terribly impressive given Dodge’s absurd Hellcat Hemis, but the V8’s placement and linear low-end torque, which peaks at 470 lb-ft, allows for a 0-60 time under three seconds. Chevy also threw in an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential to route that power to the ground effectively.
Power Takes A Backseat
The drivetrain’s stats sound good on paper but one tight corner in the C8 reveals just how much the mid-mounted engine takes a metaphorical (and somewhat literal) backseat to driving dynamics. With Mag Ride set to the most aggressive mode, a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires measuring 305 millimeters at the rear inspire enough driver confidence to typically allow for perhaps a tad more throttle coming out of apexes than recommended. Even with the traction control fully on, breaking the rear end a little loose feels both easy and predictable.
Best of all, the Mag Ride can also be softened for city driving — playing with the various settings for steering weight, brake feel, shift points, and exhaust note gave me plenty of opportunity to customize my driving over the course of my two weeks with the C8. In town or carving canyons, the impressive system almost completely masks a relatively hefty curb weight of 3,647 pounds.
Adjustable Everything For Fiddling
Unfortunately, the actual system for playing with those drive modes left me wanting better most of the time. A strange dial with a leather cover controls various pre-sets, but navigating between the modes causes a massive lag on the 12-inch touchscreen. The gauge cluster actually shows changes more rapidly, switching up displays for info including the tachometer, speedometer, and tire pressure. I ended up customizing the aptly named My Mode for city driving, which allowed me to select the firmest steering weight with everything else comfortable. At every opportunity for aggressive driving, I used the Z button on the steering wheel to push all options to their most hardcore.
Z-Mode and Track Mode point to on-track potential for C8 buyers, as do a g-force meter, built-in lap-timer, and data logger. But clicking out of Z-Mode also causes a bit of frustration, since the computer returns to a default of Tour Mode, rather than My Mode, where the lightest steering option feels almost boat-like and borderline disconcerting.
Questionable Interior Ergonomics
The rest of the interior reveals similar tradeoffs between eye-catching design and potential performance. A set of upgraded seats sport beefy bolsters for holding driver and passenger in place during hard cornering (and on my 3LT, solid air conditioning ventilation). But the center console’s button layout simply baffles the mind, designed fully to a fault.
Pros include a surprisingly square steering wheel that I came to love (other than a strangely small gap above the flat bottom), plenty of headroom, excellent use of exterior cameras given the minimal visibility, and the gauge cluster itself. I definitely don’t need the targa-style removable roof, though, and storage inside the cockpit similarly seems like an afterthought (especially the wireless phone charging station mounted vertically behind the armrest). All the features undoubtedly contribute to the C8’s weight, which most noticeably stands out during hard braking — despite the upgraded Z51 brakes, I experienced a bit of fade even on public roads, so I can’t recommend taking them onto a real track situation without aftermarket pads or rotors.
How To Spec A C8
Still, I returned the Corvette absolutely blown away by the level of budget performance, convinced that Chevrolet somehow crammed 70% of a McLaren 600LT into a package that costs a quarter to a third of the cost. With competition at a similar price point limited to Porsche’s 718 Boxster and Cayman siblings, plus the forthcoming Lotus Emira, buyers in the market only need to decide whether they can live with the styling.
Would I buy one? The design and ergonomics give me serious pause. If I did, a 1LT stripper with only the Mag-Ride suspension as a standalone option added on sounds like the best bet, though then I lose creature comforts like my beloved seat ventilation.
Possibly the most attractive element about potentially buying a new C8 involves today’s insane car market, where just about anything else requires long waits and crazy dealer markups. After a rough rollout just as the pandemic hit, Chevy managed to bounce back and now, finding a new or lightly used Corvette only requires a few clicks on the keyboard. Some dealers may still charge markups, though most buyers may also want to wait until they can learn more about the more desirable Z06, hybrid, and electric versions. Those forthcoming variants will probably receive little change to the interior design, however, and dealer pricing will likely eclipse six figures with ease, almost ruining the budget-friendly aspect that makes the current Stingray so attractive in the first place.
The truth remains that throwing serious power into such an impressive chassis sounds almost too good to be true, especially if the Z06’s smoothed-over exterior design inspires the other models. Surprisingly, despite the interior layout, the C8’s front and rear trunks do allow for solid storage capacity, so stay tuned for our next video focusing on the mid-engined Corvette’s capability and comfort when used as a daily driver.
Sources: chevrolet.com, youtube.com, michelinman.com, and porsche.com.
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