2020 Chevrolet Corvette Review: Highway Star
2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 3LT Z51
Some of the best driving roads on the continent, the Hocking Hills of southeastern Ohio, lie roughly one hour from my front door. Not coincidentally, those roads are also merely four hours from every Detroit-based ride-and-handling engineer, not to mention the buff books. These twisties, shaped by the glaciers, have been worn smooth by generations of gearheads.
The hour of driving to get to the hills, however, is via a mind-numbing highway slog, often well patrolled by the local constabulary and the notorious Ohio Highway Patrol. There’s no shortcut.
This is where the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray shines. Making a sportscar manage sportscar things, while certainly no easy feat, is right in the wheelhouse of the speed-addled engineers. Making that same car not just livable on the highway, but genuinely excellent, takes some serious doing. Chevrolet has done exactly that here with the C8.
Let me list the few things that Chevrolet didn’t quite get right with the car that was sent my way. First, the doors swing rather wide, making ingress a serious challenge when the roof panel is in place and some jackass in a three-row crossover decided to park on the damned white line at Kroger. It’s a coupe, of course, so wide-swinging doors are exactly what you’d expect.
Next, that removable roof panel? While it’s remarkably easy to remove and install solo – just three latches and the lightweight panel lifts off – it does take up a good bit of room in the rear trunk. Well, really, it takes all of the room in the rear trunk that would theoretically handle a pair of golf bags. If you’re one to enjoy motoring with fresh air tickling the scalp, don’t expect to carry much more than a day’s worth of luggage. There will be little room to stow junk in the frunk.
My third and final complaint applies to a single option fitted to this test car – the $500 Competition Sport bucket seats. These would be supremely comfortably had I, around the age of twelve, committed myself to a lifetime of physical fitness and taken up running. I did not. After a week of driving the Corvette with these seats – both commuting and during brisk driving in the hills – I found myself with a deep bruise on my left hip. If your waist measures thirty-eight inches or smaller, you should be fine with these competition seats. However, if you (like myself) have more junk in the trunk (or frunk! – Ed.), choose the standard chairs or the GT2 seats that are standard on the Z51 package.
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You’ll no doubt read others complain about the flying-buttress interior bank of switches neatly segregating the driver from the passenger. Indeed, my wife complained that it made it hard for her to put her elbow on the central armrest. Further, it could be a challenge at times to recall which switch managed temperatures on which side of the cockpit. But within a day or so of driving, we got used to it. It really isn’t that big of a deal once you start driving.
The rest of the interior works remarkably well. It’s cozy, certainly, but with plenty of room for the job at hand. The squared-off steering wheel looks weird, but it feels great in hand. The shift paddles behind that wheel feel great on the fingertips – though I’ll admit that after half an hour driving aggressively, I stopped playing with the paddles and let the transmission shift for itself. Audio controls on the wheel work intuitively, as does the touchscreen.
Of course, once you start driving, all else is swept away in a snarl of small-block noises. That is, of course, if you choose the Z51 package – which includes the selectable exhaust. The standard settings allow you to get out of the neighborhood without waking those still sleeping in since their first Zoom meeting doesn’t start until nine. Disengaging the exhaust cutouts remains civilized, just with more fun noises especially on releasing the throttle.
Even if you have absolutely no plans on taking your C8 to the track (I didn’t, sadly) you absolutely need to order the Z51 package. This unlocks the magnetic selective ride control option, where for $1,895 (atop the five grand for the Z51) you have the magical magnetic dampers that make the ride on Ohio’s ruined urban roads more than tolerable.
Separate from the Z51, but not available on the entry-level 1LT package, is the $1,495 Front Lift with Memory option. This, with a touch of a button, raises the nose of the Corvette a couple of inches at low speeds to better negotiate speed bumps and treacherous driveways. The memory option is especially brilliant – you have the option of storing hundreds of nose-lift locations in memory, which will be automatically recalled via GPS location.
Look, I’ve made peace with the fact that the government is always watching me. Might as well let General Motors know about that nasty pothole through which I always crash on the way to the office.
As I noted, I stopped shifting for myself after a short time in the twisties. The eight-speed dual-clutch transmission is smarter than I am, I’m ashamed to say – I simply couldn’t manage to snap off full-throttle upshifts at redline nearly as consistently as this transmission could. While I do miss the tactile experience of slotting a shift lever into gear, progress has finally made that option superfluous.
If you’ve driven any mid-engined car, you’ll recognize the steering feel. It’s disconcertingly light at first, and while maneuvering around the neighborhood at slow speeds you’re concerned that it’s vague.
It’s not vague.
The lack of weight on those front wheels gives you the light feel, but the Corvette communicates exactly what the 245-section Michelins are doing at every moment. And it turns in RIGHT NOW. You don’t think about turning – you turn your head toward the apex and the car follows. The 305-section rear tires simply stick, and as you roll on the throttle, hold on. There might be a slight wiggle if you haven’t unwound the steering square fully, but no matter – you weren’t stupid enough to turn off the stability control, right? That slight wiggle quickly becomes a shove in the backside as the beeches and hemlocks blur in your peripheral vision.
If you enjoy remaining under the radar, this is not your car – especially not in the $500 Accelerate Yellow Metallic. If my photography doesn’t show off this color appropriately, strap on a mask and head to your nearest office supply store. This is the color of a yellow highlighter. Everyone will notice you. Neighbors who you’ve never spoken to in the fifteen years you’ve lived nearby will suddenly decide to walk their dogs in front of your house several times a day. People will stop in crosswalks and talk to you. You will get waves from fellow motorists. At a stoplight, one young man in a modern Mopar sedan revved his Hemi, then looked over and waved me off. To the other side of me, a crossover-driving mother asked if she could photograph the Corvette. I’m probably on someone’s Instagram somewhere.
Mercifully, I avoided attracting the attention of the entire law enforcement community, as I’m pretty sure this particular paint hue can be seen through walls with your eyes closed. There’s no running from a ticket.
Were I to sell off a kidney and perhaps a child, this would not be the Corvette for me. Certainly not this color, at least. As I mentioned, I’m starting with a 2LT trim so I can spec the front suspension lift. The performance Z51 package, along with the magnetorheological dampers, is a must since there would likely be a track day in my future. The 2LT gives a lovely 14-speaker Bose audio system, versus the 10-speaker system fitted to the base 1LT, along with the optional ($1,495) sporty-but-not-ass-bruising GT2 seats. Importantly, the 2LT adds front cameras to the standard rear camera – so you can see that parking barrier with which you’re about to obliterate your front splitter. Otherwise, I don’t know that I’d go nuts with the options. No changes to interior trim, no stripes. Elkhart Lake Blue Metallic is a no-cost paint, though the optional Rapid Blue and Long Beach Red hues ($500) are both magnificent and worthy of consideration for my hard-earned imaginary money.
That configuration works out to $77,180 delivered – it’s roughly the cost of a nicely-equipped Chevy Sonic over the much-lauded base price of $59,995, but it gives you the car with world-beating performance for less than the cost of my first condo. It’s daily-drivable in most conditions save for deep, unplowed snow, and will make you feel like a hero every time you thumb the starter button.
The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a budget supercar, with few of the compromises a supercar typically demands.
[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn/TTAC, screenshot courtesy chevrolet.com]
Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.
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