Mid-Engined Chevrolet Corvette C8 Likely to Be a Hit, but for the First Time Since 1996 I Don't Want a New Corvette
There’s a theory – and when I say there’s a theory, I mean that I quickly concocted one night as sleep began its wash over me – that says the Corvette you love most is the Corvette of your licensing year.
For me, that means the revolutionary C5 Corvette must, by law, take its place as my favourite Corvette. That bulbous rear end, those pop-up headlights, and three top options are memorable aspects to the fifth-generation Corvette. So too is the downmarket interior highlighted by miserable seats, surprisingly decent fuel economy, and remarkably strong sales figures of roughly 30,000 units per year in the U.S.
Objectively, of course, the Corvettes C6 and C7 are markedly, distinctly, better cars. They don’t abide by my favoritism rule, but they’re better cars. Thus, just as I always aspired to ownership of a new C5, I shifted that desire to the C6 in 2005 and the C7 in 2014. The Corvette’s consistently reasonable entry price has always made that aspiration relatively attainable.
But everything has changed with the arrival of the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8. No, it hasn’t become unobtainable, but it’s not clear that it’s an objectively better car. And even if it is, I still wouldn’t want one.
These may be the feelings of one Corvette fan and no others. But the mood swing, however individualized, is noteworthy if only for its bipolar nature. What causes someone who’s wanted a Corvette for 23 years – who’s craved a Corvette, who’s built and priced a thousand Vettes – to completely lose the entire appetite?
It’s not the so-so reviews, although they do little for the Corvette’s case.
“It’s a potentially great car that’s not quite there yet,” Road & Track’s Jason Cammisa wrote. In Car and Driver, Rich Ceppos said, “despite its long list of compelling attributes, it’s still not quite everything we had hoped it would be.” The word “undramatic” crops up in CNET’s review. And back at Road & Track, Travis Okulski doesn’t have much good to say about steering (“either overly light or overly heavy”) while also talking about early understeer and delayed downshifts.
It’s not the lack of a manual transmission, although my last three daily drivers have all been DIY shifters. Performance-oriented automatics and DSGs (such as the C8’s) have come so far over the last decade that the loss of shifting interactivity can be neutralized by tangible, visceral improvements elsewhere.
It’s not the haywire interior. When last did the Corvette source any of its appeal from its cabin?
It’s not the on-paper performance figures that, initially, appear to be scarcely improved from the previous-generation Corvette. GM is nothing if not a company that’s willing to upgrade a Corvette: Z51, Z06, ZR1, and other Z names like Grand Sport are vital components of a Corvette range.
Those issues are not the issue. The problem? The historically unmistakable Corvette silhouette is gone. And now, it’s generic.
It looks like the result of a Mitsubishi brainstorm when the bosses asked for a 360 Modena redux. It’s the McLaren MP4-12C idea Ron Dennis rejected for being too mild. There’s sadly more Noble M600 than Aston Martin Vanquish Vision in the new Corvette’s profile picture.
It’s not the engine placement so much as it is GM’s failure to rekindle Corvetteness whilst relocating the V8. Although designers have fallen into the trap time and time again, a new mid-engined car doesn’t have to be drawn by stencil. Cars such as the Alpine A110 and Audi R8 have shown that the foreordained mid-engined silhouette can be realigned.
With its first mid-engined Corvette, however, Chevrolet didn’t deviate.
It may end up as a great car. I may even enjoy driving one, even with only two pedals to operate. It’ll almost certainly be a force in the marketplace. But the legend’s luster is less luminous now. Having marched so loudly to the beat of its own drum, the Corvette now plays a distressingly popular ear worm.
I am glad the C8 Corvette exists and that it will almost certainly instigate even greater competition in the semi-affordable sports car arena.
But I don’t want it. I won’t want it.
[Images: General Motors]
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Driving.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.
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