2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 Reveal – Mixed Feelings

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

ORANGE COUNTY, CA. — After months, if not years, of hype, plus another 30 minutes or so of introduction, the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is finally here.

Dubbed C8, for eighth generation, the Corvette is now mid-engined for the first time ever.

It’s also sans stick, at least for the foreseeable future.

Chevy introduced just one version of the car in Southern California Thursday — the Stingray. A Z51 performance package is available, and Stingrays so equipped will be able to hit 60 mph from a standing start in under 3 seconds.

Oh, and the price tag? Under $60,000 to start.

(Full disclosure: Chevrolet flew me out to California, put me in a hotel, and fed me all so that I could see the new Corvette up close. They also handed out a commemorative coin that I took thinking it was the press kit.)

Yeah, that’s not an exact number, and the cynic in me thinks that the Chevy will just mark it at $59,995 before destination. Cynical semantic games aside, that price tag is still lower than many expected for the first mid-engine Corvette ever.

Speaking of relevant numbers, the 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 will put out 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque when equipped with the performance exhaust. An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission gets that power to the ground.

Chevy claims that the switch to a mid-engine layout was made because the company felt it had reached the limits of performance with a front-engine setup, and the new layout will provide for better weight distribution and responsiveness.

Another first: The car will be available in right-hand drive.

Buyers will have three seat types to choose from, and two of those come with heating and cooling.

Launch control is available, and the Z51 package adds larger brake rotors, performance suspension with manually adjustable spring seats, better cooling (including front brake cooling inlets), the aforementioned performance exhaust, and a different axle ratio.

Other standard or available performance items include an electronic limited-slip differential, magnetic ride control, performance traction management, front splitter, and rear spoiler.

Drivers can mess around with the same four drive modes previously available — weather, tour, sport, and track — while also messing around with two customizable modes, including a so-called “Z mode.” Z mode essentially allows drivers to customize power settings (engine/transmission) while MyMode adjusts steering input and suspension.

A heated steering wheel is now available, along with near-field communication for Bluetooth, and wireless cell-phone charging. The performance data recorder has new features.

The move to a mid-engine means the car now gets a “frunk” (front trunk), which Chevy says is big enough for a rollerboard and a laptop bag. There’s still cargo space in the rear — Chevy claims two golf bags will fit back there. One can forego the golf bags and put the removable roof panel back there, instead. The front and rear cargo areas are made from fiberglass, as is the dashboard, and a carbon-fiber rear bumper beam is aimed at reducing weight.

One cool trick up the new Vette’s sleeve is the ability to raise the front bumper to avoid scraping the fascia when approaching driveways or speed bumps. This system uses GPS to memorize up to 1,000 places where the car could encounter such obstacles, remembering each for the next time, and functions at speeds up to 24 mph.

I had to admit I was apprehensive about seeing the car — I am still wrapping my mind around the ‘Vette switching to a mid-engine layout. It doesn’t matter that Chevy has wanted to do it for a long time, or that it likely will lead to better performance as the automaker claims. It still feels weird.

Perhaps I’d have an easier time wrapping my head around it if the car hadn’t gone automatic-only. Yes, I get it — stickshifts aren’t selling well (even among Corvette buyers) and the automatic can probably shift better than any human. And yeah, I know, the first Corvette didn’t have a stick, either. Logically, it makes sense, and there’s precedent. But it just feels wrong.

Another outlet blew the embargo as I was on my way to the event, and I have to admit, I was uncertain about the car’s looks based on the press photos. Same goes for the shot detailing the interior.

I felt better seeing the car in the flesh, as it were. The exterior styling gels together well — it’s a sharp-looking car. I did see some elements that reminded me of other two-seat halo cars. From one angle, I saw Audi R8. From another, Ford GT. The wedge shape made me think a little about the Acura NSX. And the taillights, of course, borrow from the Camaro.

Inside, I liked that the infotainment system was angled towards the driver, and the two-spoke steering wheel looks much less awkward than in photos. The digital instrument cluster wasn’t turned on, so no chance to take a peek. There was an overall cohesiveness to the shape of the dash and center stack, although the push-button shifter looked wonky to my eye.

Speaking of buttons — the vertical line of buttons laid out on top of a handle that separates passenger from driver looks awful. It’s a big stain on an otherwise nice interior. It comes across as if designers had gotten too far along in the process before remembering that all cars need these controls. I suspect it will also be an awkward reach for the driver — I had no chance to sit in the car to see for sure.

Obviously much judgment must be reserved until we drive the dang thing. But most of my worries that Chevy would drop a terribly designed overpriced car on us have been assuaged. The price is right, the styling is attractive for the most part, and the specs sound good on paper.

Yeah, I am missing the manual. And yeah, the designer responsible for the HVAC control layout decision needs to perhaps be transferred to GM’s waste-management division.

I still have mixed feelings about the C8, but they’ve shifted more towards the positive side of the ledger, and that has nothing to do with any of the usual OEM attempts to sway coverage via food and booze. It’s simply a better car, on paper and at a glance, than I expected.

We’ll see how it all shakes out down the road, when actual all-season rubber meets actual road. For now, it’s enough to say that despite a few glaring mistakes and missteps, the C8 isn’t a dud. At best, it’s a big leap forward, at worst, it’s still likely to outperform the C7.

The hype may have been more justified than I thought.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Jul 25, 2019

    I appreciate GM shaking this up....the mid engine for a real sportscar is better...I have fond memories of an MR2, and think the Cayman IS better than the 911. If the C8 was just an evolution of the C7, it would be boring, or god forbid, if a 6, they'd have lost the plot entirely. The lack of a manual isn't a problem. Today's autoboxes are faster than you or I can shift, and I'm a save the manuals kind of guy. Interior is OK. Exterior is great unless you are following the car, at which point you realize one of the designers cribbed it from his bored high school kid's notebook. $60k is a tease, like, oh, a $35k Tesla. You'll not see one on a lot, the first six months-year will be ADP special time, probably starting at 10k minimum bonus for the dealer principals' mistress fund. There will be a few early bobbles in production...everything is too new and there's a lot of new tech here-how GM handles this for a small luxury market will be key. The "genuine GM parts" problems will be for the second owners so we won't see that for a while. I like it and can't wait to see one in the wild, and/or take one out when the Classic Car Club gets one.

  • GenesisCoupe380GT GenesisCoupe380GT on Sep 15, 2020

    Chevy has long since had a habit of using low price and lots of horsepower to make up for the general crappiness of their cars and it's not suddenly better just because this is a Corvette were talking about. Maybe I'm not being generous but I'm going to give this car maybe two years tops before it fails miserably and Chevrolet don't have a choice but to discontinue it. As heinous as this interior is, i almost feel better about the Camaro's solitary prison cell of a interior

  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.