2020 mid-engine Corvette first drive: Everything you want to know
It’s been a long time coming, but there can be no denying the final product has lived up to the hype: The 2020 C8 mid-engine Corvette Stingray is everything promised and more. And while the ultimate proof will reside in the opinions of the owners who shell out the $60,000+, the early perception is—world class leader. I should tell you that you will be into your C8 for about $78,000 to $85,000 price range (more on that later) in order to fulfill your lust for performance, comfort, and wow factor! By years end, there will be enough Corvette fans who will have driven the proverbial wheels off their C8 to truly give us the “last word.”
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The 2020 C8 mid-engine Corvette Stingray needs to be experienced, and what better way than to spend a few days exclusively with your own fleet of C8 mid-engine Corvettes. Chevrolet offered a handful of scribes the opportunity to “live” with the 2020 C8 mid-engine Corvette Stingray in, of all places, Las Vegas. Turns out this was just the right place for a mid-February jaunt. Our base of operations was the latest in opulence, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Resort.
There was ample time to drive our personal C8 on the Vegas Strip (day and night), make a quick jaunt to Lake Mead (sampling the drive with the removable panel on-and-off, more on this later), and spend a day at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch. (Thanks to Director of Marketing Todd Crutcher who was our host at this world class facility.) Before I get to the E-ticket portion (for those who remember the Disneyland rides of the 1960s and 1970s) of the test drive, let’s go over a few observations.
How Excited are Corvette Fans About the new 2020 C8?
According to Chevrolet there’s five times the normal dealer demand for the new Stingray. Followed by 6.9 million Reveal page visits. (Remember the Reveal, back in July 2019, that took place at the El Toro Lighter Than Air Base in Tustin, California?) Follow this with 2.5 million Corvette visualizer visits (as the Reveal was occurring in real time), and an additional 13,000-plus chat room inquires. Clearly, it has been a long, long time since any car by any manufacturer has stirred this degree of passion and desire among its fans. (Oh, did I mention that the 2020 C8 mid-engine Corvette Stingray has also garnered several industry awards with the MotorTrend Car of the Year for 2020 leading the list.)
We should also note that at this time 74 percent of the 2020 C8 mid-engine Corvette Stingrays that are already ordered are coupes with the remaining 26 percent convertibles. (The convertible was recently introduced and most likely this accounts for the wide disparity in order rates. Time will tell.) It should also be noted that the first-ever retractable hardtop completes its cycle (up or down) in 16 seconds, at speeds up to 30 mph. Of the C8’s ordered to date 9 percent have the 1LT package, 37 percent have the 2LT package, and, finally, a whopping 54 percent have the 3LT package ($11,950.00 as an option). The 3LT coupe is the most popular model, Torch Red is the most popular color.
Which Is the Most Popular 2020 Corvette Option?
The most popular mid-engine C8 Stingray option is the $5,000 Z51 package. It includes; front splitter and rear spoiler, performance brakes with Brembo four-piston monobloc calipers (painted in bright red, $595 option), suspension with track-tuned springs, sway bars, dampers, and electronic calibrations, performance exhaust, enhanced rear axle ratio, electronic limited slip differential, rear spoiler, high performance tires (run flat) that are Michelin Pilot Sport 4S (summer-only tires), and heavy duty cooling system (we were impressed with how cool the Corvettes ran regardless of road or track conditions).
More on braking: The standard front rotors measure 12.6×1.18 while the Z51 rotors measure 13.3×1.18; while the standard rear rotors come in at 13.6×1.02 and the Z51 rear rotors measure 13.8×1.06.
We mentioned the Michelin rubber and brake specs but what about the wheel sizes and tire sizes? The front wheels measure 19×8.5-inch with 20×11-inch in the rear wrapped with Michelin Pilot Sport ALS for the base model and the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S for the Z51; sizing is as follows with fronts measuring 245/35ZR19 and rears are 305/30ZR20.
Aerodynamics and Cooling
As mentioned, the aerodynamics adds to both performance and economy through optimized downforce. The C8 mid-engine Stingray is the first Corvette with a flat underbody. The front splitter and open two-piece rear spoiler add up to a combined 400 pounds of downforce at 180 mph. (Doubt any of us will see those numbers but it’s nice to know it’s there!)
The side air intakes are functional parts of the body panels and house two of the heat exchangers (another secret on why the car runs cool under many adverse driving conditions). The cars we drove ran anywhere from 173 (light throttle at freeway speeds slight downhill gradient) to 210 degrees (aggressive track driving); impressive cooling system).
The cooling system is validated for maximum effort on the track (and we ran the mid-engine through its paces) at 100 degrees F with the A/C on for hours on end. The cooling system works plain and simple.
2020 C8 Mid-Engine Corvette VIN #0001
The first ever C8 coupe (VIN #0001) was auctioned off and purchased by Rick Hendrick at the Barret-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona for $3,000,000. The funds were donated to the Detroit Children’s Fund. (The plan for the money is to fund school interventions to help set up kids for academic success. The funds will also be used to recruit, develop, and retain teaching talent and school leadership. Looks to be money well spent!) It should also be noted that the red C8 coupe that rolled across the B-J stage was not the actual one sold. The first production mid-engine Corvette, VIN 001, that Hendrick will take delivery of is a black-on-black 3LT trim Corvette with the Z51 performance package.
What’s World-Class Performance Going to Cost?
Arguably the most stunning news to come out of Chevrolet regarding the new mid-engine C8 was the base price. Now that there’s a convertible online and an option list long enough to satisfy any highway or track fan what will one of these world class sports cars set you back? Here’s the base price for the three different trim levels in coupe and convertible configuration.
Coupe Price: $59,995 starting
Convertible Price: $67,495 starting
Bose premium 10-speaker system
8-way power GT1 seats
Driver Mode Selector
All-season performance tires
Coupe Price:$67,295 starting
Convertible Price:$74,295 starting
Front curb view cameras
Bose Performance Series 14-speaker audio system
Heated/vented seats and heated steering wheel
Available GT2 seats in Napa leather
Coupe Price:$71,945 starting
Convertible Price:$78,945 starting
13 interior color options
Custom leather-wrapped instrument panel and door
Sueded-microfiber upper interior trim
Standard GT2 seats in Napa leather
The Corvette team wants to make sure that the entire journey for the new C8 buyer will be both informative and enjoyable. Before your new Corvette Stingray arrives, there are emails that contain a pre-delivery checklist, a video and document review, and day(s) before delivery there’s a plan on how and what to expect when you will receive your C8. There’s the initial email telling you your car is on the way, followed by another email letting you know your car is one week out and what you should be doing to prep yourself to take delivery, and one day prior another email that tells you about you appointment and what you need to do and what you might expect. Can you say, “Customer Service.”
Driving on the Road
Key to the C8 Stingray is the mid-engine design. It allows for 40/60 front/rear weight distribution which translates into more traction for the rear tires. This design also places the driver closer to the front axle for enhanced turn response. Again, the design enhances the driver’s feel/sensation while driving as the center of gravity is at the driver’s hip. Additionally, the driver’s down vision (forward to the front bumper) is improved as he (or she) is moved forward by 16 inches from previous models.
All Out Acceleration & Performance
Before I get to the breath-taking experience all of us had at the Spring Mountain facility it should be noted that the 2020 C8 mid-engine Corvette does have the following already “in the bank” so to speak.
As the Corvette people like to say: “Performance speaks for itself.”
The entry-level C8 Corvette will make 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque from the new, 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 VVT. (Since this V-8 has cylinder deactivation we thought we would share with you the V-8 firing order: 1-8-7-2-6-5-4-3, while in the V-4 mode with deactivation the firing order: 1-7-6-4.) Between aerodynamics and the fuel management system the 2020 C8 brings in 15 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway according to DOT/EPA numbers. During our drive time we found 22-25 mpg was easily achieved during our city/highway driving. Of course, once on the Spring Mountain track fuel economy wasn’t part of the equation.
That’s 35 more horsepower than the current Corvette Stingray, and if you opt for the performance exhaust ($1,195 option) output increases to 495 hp and 470 lb.-ft. with a top speed of 194 mph. Additional bar raising performance was achieved at the Nurburgring with an un-certified lap time of 7:29.9 set by Corvette Racing with Oliver Gavin behind the wheel. (Look up lap times and you will be impressed!)
The C8 is capable of 1.25g sustained lateral accelerations on a track. We found ourselves pulling 1g and slightly over on the autocross and certain corners while at the Spring Ranch track.
The 2020 mid-engine Stingray will achieve 0-60 mph in 3 seconds; while the Z51 equipped C8 will see 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. The standard measure of performance is the -mile. Our base model covered the 1320 in 11.2 seconds at 123 mph; while the Z51 model covers the 1320 in the same 11.2 seconds but at a slight slower 121 mph. Why the difference you might ask; there’s a difference in effective final drive ratios.
A mechanical slip differential is standard on all C8 mid-engine Stingrays. The mLSD has an effective final drive ratio of 4.9:1 and is intended for straight line acceleration and dynamic handling. An electronic limited-slip differential is offered on the Z51 Performance Package and has an effective final drive ratio of 5.2:1. It’s intended for ultimate control during track driving and commands more authority than previous generation eLSDs. Though they have different purposes, the mLSD and eLSD were engineered together and, as such, they share a common ring and pinion gear ratio of 3.55:1.
Engine Cover Insight
That oh so cool engine cover and detailed engine compartment, that you can see through the glass on the rear decklid, is derived by adding the Engine Appearance Package ($995 option). The entire under hood environment needs to be completely functional looking and to expose as many parts as possible. According to Corvette style engineers the kind of challenges with that packaging is the engine is so low that when you open the hood, the heads are literally exposed and that’s very rare these days.
Once again, according to Chevrolet, it was an unprecedented move for a separate design team that was dedicated on a much higher level to do the entire engine compartment environment. The manifold cover is part of the entire picture, right down to the fasteners. Even the finish color(s) was agonized over throughout the engine compartment. You basically open the rear hatch and its part of an entire jewel. Chevrolet engineers and designers needed to “nail” the aggressive and mechanical look. We think they “nailed” it just fine!
Magnetic Ride Control
Here’s another worthwhile option. The fourth generation Magnetic Ride Control ($1,895.00) as it “reads” the road better. Combine this with the performance traction management system through “communication” and when the C8 is airborne or when the rear wheels are about to be very lightly loaded the MRC takes over and corrects wheel spin.
Traction Control & Performance Traction Management
Because of the C8’s mid-engine design, it allows for increased longitudinal acceleration which then allows for the integrated eLSD, driver mode control, and tire temp monitor all to enhance smooth engine torque control from the mildest of street outings to an all-out assault at the track! The traction control is clearly one of the key reasons why the C8 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds. Can you say, “world class time.”
This combined with the DCT clutch allows the system to launch and shift faster and better than even the most experienced of drivers. If performance is your game, then you will not be downtrodden because there’s no manual trans. Of course, all of us enjoy a manual but with the power the new C8 has negotiating life with a manual may be asking too much from the new Corvette owner.
All Out-Transmission Shift Control
The heart of the eight-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT) from TREMEC uses dual concentric wet clutches that are opened by springs and closed by hydraulic pressure. The paddle shifters (two; “shift up” is on the right wheel spoke, and “shift down” is on the left wheel spoke) are directly wired to the DCT for immediate shifts in manual mode.
Gear ratios were engineered to be low-end biased for maximum acceleration. First gear takes advantage of the additional traction to get off the line quickly and reach 60 mph in 2.9 seconds with the Z51 package. The Z51’s 11.2 second quarter-mile acceleration is achieved by lightning-fast upshifts and excellent low-end torque.
2020 Corvette Gear Ratios
- 1st: 2.91
- 2nd: 1.76
- 3rd: 1.22
- 4th: 0.88
- 5th: 0.65
- 6th: 0.51
- 7th: 0.40
- 8th: 0.33
- Reverse: 2.73
As Fast As You Can
While negotiating the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, we were able to try our hand at autocross and road course tracks. The autocross was a relatively mild experience but gave all of us the opportunity to get the feel of acceleration, cornering, and braking.
When it came time for real acceleration and driving then it was onto the 3 -mile road course. For experienced drivers the end of the main straight brought you would see speeds approaching 125 mph. There’re a number of turns, several are “mirrors” of others on the course and once we played follow the leader with our instruction showing the proper line you could see you lap times coming down and your heart rate going up. (One might say the “pucker factor” was in full affect.)
Brandon Chappell is a Spring Mountain Instructor and gave the two of us in our group instruction as we negotiated corners and straightaways. It’s truly amazing how the C8 sticks to the course and slowly but surely you find yourself increasing speeds into and out of the corners. Although I found myself a good 13 mph slower at the end of the long straight than Chappell as well as every corner on the track.
Nearing the end of the day I was able to ride with Chappell on a dozen or so hot laps. It didn’t take me long to realize how inept I was behind the wheel and how proficient he was. I guess that’s why you go to driving school and learn the ins and outs!
Interior & Comfort
Corvettes have always been two-seaters and for 2020 the mid-engine C8 is no different in that respect. But the layout, overall space, comfort and attention to detail is, some would say, light years ahead of anything that has come before. It truly is on par with the most luxurious and well-appointed of any car on the road today. The attention to detail and quality throughout is truly something to behold.
Let’s go over some of the reasons why the new C8 is truly amazing. For starters, premium materials along with hand-wrapped, cut and sew leather is used along with aluminum and carbon fiber giving the space age and performance appearance. There are now 12 exterior and six interior colors. Outside, red and black will remain two of the most popular colors and inside because there are six seat belt colors and four custom stitching options one can really spend some time custom tailoring the cockpit specially to ones liking. There are also three seat choices to enable one to further tailor one’s own ride comfort demands.
We already stated that the C8 is a two-seat design but if the truth be told the car is really designed with the ultimate in driver experience. Don’t get me wrong, as a passenger you will be cuddled in comfort and style but as the driver, well this is a new world. Both driver and passenger sit closer to the front end thereby having a more commanding view of the road. Couple these with state-of-the-art ergonomic controls and a race car-inspired steering wheel.
The steering wheel has curved, or rounded off, corners to allow easy entrance and egress from the Corvette cockpit. The wheel also frames very nicely the 12-inch reconfigurable cluster. (I spent two days with the new C8 and still didn’t get through all the possible readable instrument combinations available to the driver!) The steering wheel also has the shift paddles, one on the left spoke (downshift) and one on the right spoke (upshift). There is also Heads Up Display (HUD) controls to the left-hand side and down low of the driver.
Immediately to the right of the driver’s path of vision is the 8-inch infotainment screen. (They’ve been around long enough on all makes and models of cars now to become common and well accepted by car owners.)
Immediately to the right of the driver’s hand is the ETRS and Mode selector. While the layout is a bit different than a current Corvette owner might expect it was my experience that you will adapt quickly. The gear selector switches as well as the mode selector are all close at hand and easily operated. Remember, that the C8 has a mode selector that will allow you to dial between Weather (engages stability control and manages wheel speed in slippery conditions), Tour (chassis, steering and powertrain maximize smooth operation and fuel efficiency), Sport (chassis steering stiffen, powertrain favors performance over comfort), and Track (entire vehicle responds to demands of an aggressive track environment) modes. Each of these modes performs specific function immediately transferred to the engine, sound, and suspension performance.
One immediate and distinct advantage of the mid-engine design that you will experience when driving your C8 for the first time is the stunning, and we do mean stunning, quietness of the cockpit. You cannot hear, or almost not hear, any engine noise, there is no discernable wind nose and the road noise, typically transmitted through the tires isn’t there. We were driving on the AST we would suspect there would be more tire (road noise) transmitted with the performance summer-only tires.
There is no question that the driver-focused interior has a bit of a fighter plane appeal and once you are seated and buckled in you truly get a race car feel. There are different levels of seats with mild to high-performance bolsters and more race inspired seatbelts. Depending on the overall purpose you are purchasing your new C8 will determine how mild-mannered or aggressive you become with the seating.
Offering a definitive separation of driver form passenger seating is the HVAC control panel that is a linear length of switches in arranged in a long bank. Here you will find such lighted push buttons for seat heating and cooling, overall heat and A/C. There are two matching sets of control buttons; the top string of buttons is for the driver while the lower string of buttons is for the passenger.
One appointment truly fascinated me. The second-generation digital rear camera mirror can tilt, zoom in and out, and adjust brightness. And if all this high-tech unnerves you the mirror will function in conventional mode. I thoroughly enjoyed the digital rear camera mirror and when you can see the disappointment on the driver behind you, you know you have the right accessory in the correct car! Because of the number of camera’s the C8 comes equipped with, you have “surround vision” which allows for an up close and detailed view through the front and rear cameras when parking. Additionally, this is the first Corvette with side blind zone alert and rear cross traffic detection. You still must pay attention and be observant but having these additional “eyes” really makes driving a Corvette much safer.
We had the opportunity to drive our C8 to and back from Lake Mead, about a 130-mile drive. On the way back we opted to pop the top on our coupe. It was amazing how easily the top panel comes off, how lightweight it is, and how easily it stores in the rear compartment (engine area) and snaps securely into position. (As one who has a 1968 T-top coupe, I can attest to the fact that the single C8 top panel is lighter than a single T-top panel, remember you have two!)
During this time, we were able to put the latest infotainment system through its paces. There is Bluetooth pairing as well as 14 speakers as part of the Bose stereo system. Amazing sound! There is also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which have been around a while and now everyone expects this. There’s also the phone charger by resting your smartphone on the surface (between the two bucket seats and on the rear bulkhead.)
Two Customizable Modes
MyMode and Z Mode are two customizable modes. MyMode is designed to store personal preferences for exhaust sound, steering and brake assist, suspension damping, throttle and shift aggressiveness. Once set your everyday mode is retained trough ignition cycles. And then in Z Mode you can memorize preferred performance settings with one-button activation through the aluminum “Z” on the steering wheel.
Curbs, Driveways & Other Things That Go Bump
It’s called Front Lift Adjustable Height with Memory and it is a $1,495.00 option. The front of your new mid-engine C8 will raise approximately 2 inches in the front to negotiate steep driveways and inclines. It’s activated by pushing a button or via GPS. The system can memorize up to 1,000 locations. (I could get from home to work and not tear off the front valance that’s a wonderment to me!)
What to Do When the 2020 Corvette Battery Dies
What do you do should the battery “leave this world”? And what happens if it does this while your C8 is locked up? The battery is in the front compartment, center mounted near the windshield. One way to get it is to remove the key from the fob and then then on the driver’s door, underneath the scoop, you will probably have to lay down for this next step, if you look up you will see a key cylinder, put the key in and unlock the door. Bingo, you’re in.
Now what happens if you have the dead battery and need to get into the engine compartment (in the rear)? You will need some simple tools like a screwdriver but located behind the license plate (which will need to be removed) there’s another key cylinder entry point. Presto, it unlocks the rear deck and you have access to the engine compartment and the luggage storage area.
There apparently is another secret way to get into the car when the battery is dead but I’ll be damned, I forgot, and it appears not many others know about it either. So, there you go, something to search for kinda like a treasure hunt.
2020 C8 Mid-Engine Corvette Dislikes
What we liked and didn’t like Corvette. It sounds blasphemous but alias, there are a few items that just didn’t sit well. As a passenger I felt there was no comfortable place to rest my left arm—comfortably. About the only place you could place your arm if you wanted to stretch it out was to rest it on the HVAC control bar. It works but it just doesn’t seem like a long-drive solution.
Also, if you find yourself hauling around a computer or electronic equipment such as a video camera or even a still shot camera, we wouldn’t recommend putting it in the rear storage area. We tried this but the ambient air temp transferred heat to this equipment. Now was it hot enough to cause any damage probably not but it was easy just to place the bag up front and this seemed to deal with the heat issue just fine.
If it sounds like we are nitpicking, you are correct. The 2020 C8 mid-engine Corvette Stingray does so many things ranging from well to spectacular that it’s really embarrassing to bring up these two points but what the heck it’s all we could find.
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Worth the Time and Money
Is the 2020 C8 mid-engine Corvette Stingray worth the wait time; is it worth whatever you will pay? YES. Do not hesitate, this is truly a world class sports car that over delivers and couple this with the “giggle factor,” the “fun factor,” or whatever “factor” you measure these things by and you will not be disappointed.
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