By on October 16, 2019

The dam on the Chevrolet Corvette C8 embargo broke in a big, big way yesterday, with Motor Trend shoving their story in their remaining readers’ inboxes around 5:30 am yesterday. Everybody else who had early access to the car (Road & Track, Car and Driver, The Digital Publication Formerly Known As Autoweek, etc.) quickly followed suit, and by the end of the day you had all the Corvette news you could handle splayed all over the internet like Hope Solo. Don’t search that at work.

There were some good takes on the C8, including this excellent lap of Thunderhill by FOB (Friend of Bark) Travis Okulski. But then there was a very, very bad one by Car and Driver, entitled Race Track Hot Throwdown Of All Throwdowns: The C8 Tells The C7 To Step Outside! Okay, it wasn’t actually called that, but it may as well as been. The idea was to compare the C8 Corvette Z51 againsta C7 Corvette Z51 on a racing surface and see which one was faster.

I’ll save you the click and let you know that C/D discovered that the C8 could lap Grattan Raceway in 1:26.1, while the best the C7 could muster was a 1:27.0. The C8 was faster! All hail the new mid-engined Playskool disaster!

Except, of course, they’re wrong. Here’s why.

First of all, let’s talk about these lap times. I’ve only been to Grattan once for a press launch, and I wasn’t allowed to time when I was there, but those numbers seemed kinda slow. I checked the results for some SCCA and NASA races at Grattan in 2018 and 2019, and saw that the 1:27 range is about what you would expect from a, ahem, Spec MiataC/D never explicitly states who was behind the wheel for these timed laps, but I think we can surmise that these weren’t the hottest of hot laps. It’s not uncommon to see a Boss 302 Mustang in Touring trim make a complete circuit of Grattan in about 1:21.

Any time you introduce that much driver variable into a test — somebody who cannot best a Spec Miata around Grattan in a C7 Corvette Z51 by more than a second — I think that casts the validity of the test in doubt. I will give C/D credit for actually putting a timed lap on record, which a lot of mags are hesitant to do, but I can’t say that they’ve gotten anything close to the true potential of either of these cars on track.

However, let’s assume that His Holiness Juan Pablo (Montoya) himself was behind the wheel for these laps. The C7 in this test was wearing Michelin Pilot Super Sports, which are a fine tire if you happen to find yourself in an Avengers: Endgame type of time heist in the year 2012. The C8 was shod (when does one use the word “shod” other than discussing tires?) with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S, which are about six years newer tech. I hate linking to Motor Trend, but here’s an example of how putting the Pilot Sport 4 S on a car previously equipped with Pilot Super Sports can affect lap times. MT found an improvement of 1.44 seconds per lap with the PS4S over a circuit of very similar length to Grattan, not to mention improved braking, acceleration, and lateral grip. I have the PS4S on my own Focus RS, and was able to take second place at the SCCA Time Trials Nationals in 2018 with them, competing against cars equipped with trackday-special tires like the Bridgestone RE-71R. In other words, the PS4S would easily be worth the delta in time between then C7 and the C8 in C/D’s test.

Therefore, one can rightfully make the assumption that a C7, equipped with modern tires, would absolutely be just as fast and potentially faster than the C8. Keep in mind, we are not talking about a suspension modification, or an engine tune ⁠— we are talking about replacing the OEM tires with another set of tires that happen to be the most popular tire for the C7 sold on tirerack.com.

As you can see, there is a whopping $11 difference between a set of Pilot Super Sports and Pilot Sport 4 S for the C7 Corvette Z51 — not exactly a barrier to entry. Anybody who bought a C7 Z51 more than 24 months ago is likely already in the market for new tires, and wouldn’t opt for the PSS over the PS4S in any scenario, unless they simply went to the dealer and said, “Gimme more of what I already had.” (I’m absolutely certain this happens, of course.)

The real test would be to put the car in the hands of a capable driver, like Okulski, and equip the cars with the same tires. When the C7 comes out ahead, just remember that Bark told you so.

[Images: Tire Rack]

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58 Comments on “Car and Driver Says the Corvette C8 Z51 Is Faster Than the C7, and They Are Wrong...”


  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Is there a misprint in those ads? The Sport 4s is $10 cheaper on the fronts but $15 more expensive on the rear than their SS equivalents? How did that happen? Maybe the buyer should go SS on rear and 4S on front, or vice versa? That just looks strange.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Uh, I don’t think the few dollars difference is worth a potential mismatch of handling characteristics. If you own a Corvette, would that much money matter? If you absolutely had to save money on the tires, there are some questionable Chinese options in this size for disturbingly low prices. (I am not recommending them!)

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Looks like the strike just came to end (saw a report around 12:15 EDT), so now they can start building the C8!

  • avatar
    dal20402

    So is your thesis that the C8 is actually slower, or just that we don’t know?

    If it’s slower, why would it be slower?

    • 0 avatar

      It has the same power and it weighs more. Mid-engine layout doesn’t automatically make a car faster, and GM engineers have little experience designing such a platform.

      It absolutely makes sense that the C7 would be faster on the a track, once you understand the transmission trickery that GM cooked up to make the 0-60 time so impressive.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        What transmission trickery are you referring to? From what I understand, the transmission here is a dual-clutch unit, and cars with those tend to go quicker.

        • 0 avatar
          PM300

          From what I read on Road & Track’s article and from Matt Farah’s video, 1st gear ends around 30mph, 2nd is 50 something so it basically makes utilizes the dual clutch to blow through the first 3 gears to get an awesome 0-60mph time. If you look at the quarter mile specs though the C8 is still decently faster in a straight line than the C7.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        The C8 has more power and more weight. So it is a break even or push then? Most on track would rather have the lower weight so the C7 has an advantage. To me the biggest mistake is making the car longer. As is my C7 seems HUGE but my point of comparison is a “tiny” Nissan 305Z.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Most of us aren’t running an IMSA team so I’m not sure how much absolute lap times will matter beyond internet bragging rights.

    From what I read yesterday it looks like GM built a high-performing, comfortable, and well-appointed car with a bargain price for its capabilities. However, I don’t think anyone wrote that the C8 was more fun to drive than a C7. I get the feeling that many people would have a better time in an M2 or GT350 even if the Corvette easily beats them around the track.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Hopefully one of us here will get to drive it, so we can have our own opinions. I do respect (most) of the writers who got to drive it (looks like NACTOY jurors also drove the car near Ann Arbor, but perhaps only on the street), but I’d love it if one — or really, several — of us gets a crack at the wheel. I’d like to see Bark’s track take, plus the takes of any of us who review cars semi-regularly in these here digital pages.

      No, I don’t know if we’ll be invited to the launch.

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      I can’t take any of the hype seriously until Mark’s brother Jack drives the C8 on a track and compares it to the C7. With all due respect, Mark aka “Bark M.” is so anti-GM (or rather, so pro-Ford), that anything he writes against the C8 is automatically less credible.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Yeah, but if Superman fought Batman, who would win?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Prediction: The average age and stereotype of a Corvette buyer changes not one iota.

    My wife however (36 years old yesterday) is ticked off about the awkward styling and lack of a true manual transmission. She has no more desire for a brand new Corvette.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      When I first saw the pictures of the C8, I was not impressed. Now that I’ve see the car in person, I am.

      I’ve never been a Corvette fan, but I like this one a lot.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Perhaps Mark REUSS should have consulted Mark BARUTH before making this big change.

    As a kid, I remember all the fanfare when Porsche announced the 928, which was to eventually replace the 911.

    How did that work out for Porsche? PORSCHE!

    As we all take shots at GM here (and many are well-deserved), I’ve noticed the Mr. Reuss has ‘managed his brand’ very well–he’s a car guy!

    Beside the Corvette, and V-series Cadillacs, and Camaros, where is MY car?

    Say what you will about pre-bankruptcy GM, but they managed to cobble together a Cobalt SS from the parts bin that out-performed the GTI yet checked my boxes: 30mpg, room for four (horrible ingress/egress thought due to coupe), and drove well.

    Where’s my car?

    This new Corvette is great, but in my (old) mind, Corvettes were meant to run with Porsches for less money, not Ferrari.

    Will we have a repeat of the 928/911? We shall see. The 928 soldiered on for about 15 years. Since the C2/C3 lasted about 20, I foresee 20 years of mid-engine Vette…which could make this the last Vette ever.

    But it’s not for me. GM will never make a car for me….and at the rate we are going, soon no one else will either. BMW won’t. No one will make a modestly priced 30mpg, manual trans, room for four kind of car.

    Which is too bad. What if Chevy’s plebeian Trax go the Cobalt SS treatment? Turbo, manual trans, recaro seats, close ratio box, and firmer shocks/struts. How hard is that?

    • 0 avatar
      docoski

      “ No one will make a modestly priced 30mpg, manual trans, room for four kind of car.”
      GTI FTW!

      Seriously. Any more performance and I’d be a) more at risk for a ticket, b) paying way more for maintenance, c) unable to use such performance on my daily commute. The only thing it wants for is more room. Too bad the SportWagen never came with GTI genes.

      • 0 avatar
        slap

        “Too bad the SportWagen never came with GTI genes”

        I’ve been thinking the same thing. VW tried a plain wagon. Then they tried to take on the Outback. Both failed. Maybe a GTI wagon could have had a chance.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      @ tomLU86 – Regarding ingress/egress on that Cobalt SS, they *did* actually make sedan version of it. I recall seeing a YouTube test of one back when they were new. In the wild, I’ve only seen the coupes, so I’m guessing the take rate was low on the four-doors. People reflexively bag on the looks because it’s a Cobalt, but my 2¢ is that those Cobalt coupes are cleanly styled, nice looking cars. It’s one of the few post-1985 cars for which the coupe’s improved looks may justify the loss in practicality vs the sedan. (There was a time when the pillarless coupe was in fact the best looking body style for a given model; see, e.g., a late ’60s Impala. But with something like a GTI, the two-door’s and four-door’s profiles are so similar that the only reason you’d opt for the former is if you preferred its ingress/egress or the way the B-pillar placement affected side visibility.)

      I was a fan of the first-gen Cruze rental cars I got on occasion. It’s a shame they didn’t do an SS version. Haven’t driven the second-gen.

    • 0 avatar
      427Cobra

      Focus ST…

    • 0 avatar
      pinkslip

      “30mpg, room for four… and drives well.”

      Off the top of my head, here are manual transmission options:

      Fiesta/Focus St
      Mazda 3
      Mazda 6 (discontinued this year)
      GTI/GLI
      Elantra Sport/ Elantra GT N-Line
      Civic Si/Type-R
      Forte GT
      Corolla Hatchback (maybe?)

      • 0 avatar
        Snooder

        Also the Veloster N.

        And really, whose benchmark for high automotive excellence is a goddamn Cobalt? I don’t care if they slapped an SS on the end, it’s still a Cobalt.

      • 0 avatar
        slap

        You left off Golf and Golf Sportwagen/Alltrack.

        Since the Sportwagen/Alltrack end this year, I went out and bought my 5th wagon – an Alltrack manual.

      • 0 avatar
        tomLU86

        None of the cars above is made by GM. That’s my point.

        Pretty glaring oversight from America’s biggest automaker. GM has the hardware and engineering talent to play in this space. But they choose not to.

        Yet Mr Reuss is lauded as a car guy.

        He makes enough. You can see how much in GM’s annual report. Several million. So, , I’m sure he owns a Porsche or two, in addition to the requisite Corvettes.

        We are down to 3: GTI, Civic Si, and Elantra N Type.

        The Corolla is a nice car, like the discontinued Sonic RS, but not credible.

        I’m not saying the old Cobalt SS was the greatest car ever. But it was a credible sporty car that ran Car & Drivers lighting lap faster than a Mustang V8, way faster than the then 2006 Gti, and it got 30 mpg with room for 4, and cost less.

    • 0 avatar
      TheDutchGun

      Accord 2.0t with a manual? That may actually be my next car (currently focus ST)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Why drag the Boss 302 into this? It has a huge advantage with its live axle. Well depending on the track. But all things equal, mid-engine should always beat front-engine. It’s a different concept, different line entering a turn, braking later, etc.

    Unless GM botched it. And a tire can be too wide up front.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    tom

    Does it have to be rear wheel drive? If not you’ve got several good options. Our two year old Civic EXT has manual transmission, is quick and fun to drive and gets 40 mpg. On the highway we got 46 mpg on a run to PA and back to western NY running 70 to 75. Seats 4 taller than average adults in comfort with a nice sized trunk. Not happy about the potential oil/fuel contamination but the extended warrantee helps.

  • avatar
    MeJ

    The only hard data that matters to me on performance vehicles is when Randy Probst drives them back to back.
    Then we have some professional information on the cars.

  • avatar
    JMII

    As a C7 Z51 owner I assume a C8 Z51 its slightly faster on equal tires. There is NO way GM designed a new Corvette that can’t outperform the old Corvette, unless the focus was really on its stoplight performance where we already know its 0-60 time is faster. The C8s extra weight over the rear wheels translates to better grip under acceleration. Removing weight from nose should help with turn in.

    Just keep in mind the weight balance on the C7 is 50/50 so its not some sloppy handling mess. Does the C8 weight more? I’m not sure we’ve seen anyone put them on a scale yet. I thought that they were similar at around 3,300lbs.

    Everyone raves about the Super Sports, they were the OEM tires on my ’14 C7 Z51 and I hated them. They rode rough (run-flats) and got greasy quickly on track. I now am running Bridgestone S007A and am much happier.

    I’ve been doing track days for about 6 years now (700 laps approx) so clearly I am not some newbie but also not a hot shoe by any means. My best consecutive laps are about 1 second apart on a 14 turn 2.16 mile course (Homestead). My best real lap vs my best virtual lap, IE: all my best sectors put together, show another 1 second difference. Thus on any given lap my times could vary by as much as 2 seconds.

    So for the C8 to FEEL faster for me it would have to be at least 2 seconds quicker. Part of it comes down to how easily it achieves those times. For example my brother has two track cars: a modified Golf R and a stock Boxster GTS. Both cars will run similar times but Boxster does it effortlessly.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Bark, you seem to be on the jihad against this car. What gives?

  • avatar
    John R

    Shooosh…who ordered all the haterade?

  • avatar
    S197GT

    i get the argument. it’s been made by a lot of people before this and the response always is:

    “we test them as equipped from the factory.” (presuming these were, of course.)

    because why stop at tires? lets start changing brake pads, lighter wheels, do that aftermarket tune for a only a few hundred bucks to gain 30+ hp, etc…

    “The real test would be to put the car in the hands of a capable driver, like Okulski, and equip the cars with the same tires.”

    well, yeah, i’m sure you could find a letter in a motortrend from the 80’s saying the same thing. doesn’t even have to be previous generation to current generation test. i’d love someone to slap the same tire on a current gen camaro and mustang (same driver).

    it almost never happens cause reviewers know few people change tires the day after they buy a new vehicle. and if they do, they already know the obvious difference that will occur.

    it was just on this website a few weeks ago some OE engineer was all like, “Don’t change the tires on your Dodge Caravan or you will kill your family! We know best!”

    all this article had to say was:

    “That C8 vs C7 comparo on Car & Driver??? Tires.”

    And we’d be like, oh, yep, you’re right. Man, I wish some magazine would just equip vehicles with the same tires like we’ve been saying since… ever.

  • avatar
    Fliggin_De_Fluge

    Hope Solo, she HAS the meats.

    Shod? Horses. Although I do believe that pertains to their “wheels” as well.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Whaa whaa whaaa, cry to mommy, this guy hates the C8, we get it. As for the riveting breakdown in this article, I could not care less about a fraction of a second on a track. I have no interest in shlepping my car to a track. But I have the opportunity to accelerate my car several times per day, and 0-60 in TWO POINT EIGHT seconds is mighty satisfactory to me.

  • avatar
    hausjam

    This blog post reads like it was written by a ranting high schooler.

    Not that CD or MT are any better. Journalism is almost non existent these days. Automotive journalism is pretty much a fairy tale.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Well, we all know the Baruths were unjustly missed in the quest for America’s Greatest Driver/Pontificator. Now we have another Bark blartfest of no great import.

    One of C/D’s drivers managed to get 5 seconds off the time the McLaren factory hotshoe set for the Senna at VIR, down to what the Mclaren software said was the limit. So no doubt there’s quite a few seconds left in the Senna for the two boys from Ohio. Because those C/D drivers are just amateurs.

    Of course the tires made the difference between C7 and C8 at Grattan, because the two hundred extra pounds of the C8 wasn’t helping. Even the commenters at C/D know about these things and call out the mag.

    But the commercial imperative is to drum up business for the new product. At C/D they had weeks of Toyota Supra from every angle, and it’s still not clear to me how a 335hp BMW engine is faster than the 384 hp version BMW reserves for itself. Luck or latter day Royal Pontiac? Now it’s the C8 Corvette’s turn to be pressed, squeezed and fondled. C/D do point out that the forward view is worse in the new C8 than the front engined C7 for some paradoxical reason.

    The fastest lap I could find at Grattan was some Porsche GT3 RS at 1:18. Spec Miata record in 2017 was 1:27.65. So it seems that lap times don’t vary much by power, 10% is about it. A Viper ACT for years held the record at 1:22.

    Acceleration guys dig acceleration, track rats rely on lap times to show their skill and derring do, and the 95% of the people who shell out for these Corvette things don’t really care except how the car makes them feel. It’s not clear to me yet from all the expounded verbosity as to how owners feel about the C8. Because there aren’t any! Check back next summer after there are a few production vehicles about.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Doesn’t comparing the new Z51 with an automatic Z51 seem like an effort to stack the deck even before they hobbled the C7 with old tires? How about comparing the fastest C8 with the C7 Grand Sport manual on whatever the best tires are they’re both available on from the dealer? I didn’t even know the C7 Z51 was still available.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Seems to me that GM is chasing performance numbers at all costs. The car is becoming more digital like a Nissan GT-R and less GT3. Performance at the cost of enjoyment.

  • avatar
    monkeydelmagico

    These observations would not have been immediately apparent to a casual gear head such as myself. I rather appreciate journalists who call it like they see it. Part of the reason I loved the old TTAC. Thanks Mark.

  • avatar

    In C/D, IIRC, there was a mention from an engineer that the C6 ZO6 had to get an updated Michelin tire to be faster than the prior car…that the C6 had pretty much exhausted the possibilites of a Front engine-rear drive car. Literally it came down to getting better tires from the supplier….

    Track times ? You need an empty track and a very consistent driver. While you need to compare somehow, track times or BK Ring times when you get down to seconds or tenths IMHO are more driver related or weather related


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