Handling, performance, refinement
Maybe too quiet on the inside. HVAC switch location compromises passenger compartment
What is it?
Chevrolet has been talking about building a mid-engined Corvette for years – decades even – but we’ve had to wait until 2020 for the idea, the dream, the concept, to become a production reality. You might think this landmark centre-engined model’s arrival would herald a whole new naming strategy, but no. It’s simply the next-generation Corvette, so it’s simply the C8. The same applies to all the models so far unveiled by the company. The base car is the Stingray, the performance pack is the Z51. And so on.
But don’t for one moment think that this car bears any relation whatsoever to the C7 it replaces in anything other than name. The C8 is to the C7 what Champagne is to Mountain Dew – a completely different product with a totally different performance offering.
Where the C7 rips and snorts its way down the road, the C8 is a pool of quiet – almost silent – calm. When you speed up, the C7’s brutish, sometimes wayward, mix of under and oversteer is replaced in the C8 by a delicate mix of crystal clear, swift and linear responses which make the 'Vette's behaviour far more accurate. So it’s a better car, no question.
But is it a better Corvette? That is one of the questions we have to answer here. If a Corvette is supposed to have muscle car manners and noise yet offer supercar performance, then I suggest it isn’t. Something has been lost, some of it bad but also some good. Then again, everything needs to progress and will always – well nearly always - lose some of the original charm. Look at the uproar that happened when Porsche had the nerve to water-cool its engines in the ‘hated’ 996. By the numbers, that was a better, more capable car than the 993 it replaced. But just look at which ones are worth more today to find out how the market voted. Clue: it ends in 3.
So, should you rush out and buy a C7 now while you still can? Actually, no. Because we’ve only just started with the C8 and there is plenty more to come from this model. The engines will only get stronger. The quality is already on another level, too. So give it a moment and let’s see how the C8 develops. Plus, remember, this one is coming to Europe and the UK in right-hand drive for the first time.
What's the verdict?
We might have had to wait for decades but, after our first session with the C8 on road and track, the wait has been more than worthwhile. It has all the performance we were promised but it also has a presence and character that was unexpected but very welcome. It’s not like the previous Corvette, but it’s also not like any other car you can buy today. It still costs muscle car money and gives you supercar performance. But now it just doesn’t make you work quite so hard to access it. And it’s all the better for that, whatever the diehards might say.
In Z51 form, nothing comes close to the performance for the money. But tick a swathe of options and it climbs into the beginning of 911 territory, which makes you think about which one you’d buy. At that price, it also draws comparisons with the new Ford Mustang GT500. But you should ignore those. The GT500 is the finest muscle car you can buy today, and an extraordinary track weapon. But, while the performance numbers might look similar, the C8 is a completely different type of car with a unique character and responses. Both are equally impressive, just in their own ways. It’s like arguing over whether Indian or Chinese food is better.
The one major area the C8 does over the GT500 is global availability. While the big Mustang is a US only model, as of 2021, the C8 will be sold in right-hand drive form around the world. That will be the true acid test of how the C8 stacks up – taking on the world’s best in their home markets. Will it win? We are looking forward to finding out.