Sting in the tail. New Corvette Stingray will be mid-engined - and available in right-hand drive, too.
If you need any convincing that nowhere is car culture in a better position than in the United States of America, then consider that towards the end of this year Chevrolet will offer its latest, C8-generation Corvette Stingray - a mid-engined, 500 horsepower supercar - for under $60,000 (USA), or around £48,000 (in UK).
Over here that money will get you a 2-litre Porsche Cayman with a few extras, or perhaps an Alpine A110, or if you leave every option box on the order form blank, a BMW M2 Competition F87. Great cars all, but an illustration that America doesn’t just do everything bigger, but it generally does it faster and cheaper, too.
The Corvette’s new engine location will cause some consternation among the diehards, who have just about tolerated minor changes in seven previous generations and 66 years of Corvette production, but in an era of front-wheel-drive BMWs and Lamborghini SUVs, is a mid-engined Corvette really so bad?
Probably not, especially when that engine is a 6.2-litre, naturally aspirated LT2 V8 producing 495bhp and 470lb ft of torque - the most that an entry-level Corvette has ever offered, and its atmospheric aspiration makes it unique in its segment.
In some respects the engine is a blast from the past, with pushrod-driven overhead valves, and there are only two of those per cylinder.
But that has always been the way with Chevy’s ‘small-block’ engines, and it renders the unit both compact and lightweight. It’s not devoid of modern tech anyway, with variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation, a dry sump (allowing it to sit six inches lower in the chassis) and a standard eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. All of this means that, even with a fairly porky dry weight of 1530kg, Chevy claims a 0-60mph run of ‘under three seconds’ in Z51 trim.
The new layout should be transformative for the way the Corvette handles, too. Suspension is by double wishbones at each corner, and the car’s centre of gravity is lower than before. The mid-engined arrangement promises greater agility, and steamroller tyres (245-section fronts and 305-section rears) mean even the standard ‘all-season’ run-flat Michelin Pilot Sports are good for almost 1G of lateral traction. The Z51 package should push that even higher, switching the all-seasons for Pilot Sport 4 S rubber, and adding adjustable magnetic-ride dampers. Other Z51 tweaks include bigger brakes (345mm discs replacing 321s at the front and 350mm instead of 339s at the rear), and a specific axle ratio for the standard limited-slip differential.
And so to the styling, which will cause as many grumbles as where the engine is housed. It’s a busy shape and from some angles not immediately recognisable as part of the Corvette family, but the sharp details and front
and rear lights are reminiscent of the outgoing car’s. What it loses in beauty it gains in drama, something that can also be levelled at the Vette’s cockpit. The two-spoke, squared-off wheel and enormous row of buttons on the buttressed centre console are unusual, but the lower scuttle, high centre console and digital displays should give it the right supercar vibes.
The large tunnel is said to stiffen the car’s structure in lieu of the usual wide supercar sills, but it’s hard not to imagine it containing a battery pack in the future. Another major change is the driving position: it’s now a full 16.5 inches further forward, owing to the new layout.
A wide range of options will be available, including a nose-lift, 12 paint shades and three seat choices. Oh, and did we mention General Motors will sell the new Corvette in right- hand drive? Just don’t expect it to cost under £50,000 by the time it lands over here...
Engine V8, 6162cc
Max Power 495bhp @ 6450rpm
Max Torque 470lb ft @ 5150rpm
Weight (dry) 1530kg
Power-to-weight (dry) 329bhp/ton
0-62mph 3,0 sec (claimed)
Top speed 200mph (claimed)
Basic price $60,000 (2019 USA)
Left: centre console is huge - a clue that the Stingray might soon be going part-hybrid? Right: exterior styling busier than that of Corvettes of old, but rear lights are similar to those on the C7-generation car.
‘THE LAYOUT SHOULD TRANSFORM THE WAY THE CORVETTE HANDLES’
There are surprising parallels between the R8 and the new Corvette - angular styling, a naturally aspirated engine, a dual-clutch transmission, and a vibe that’s less flash than the Ferrari and Lambo end of the market. The 562bhp R8 outpunches the Vette, but at £128,295 it’s also about double the price...
The oft-forgotten 540C makes 38bhp more from its turbocharged 4-litre V8 than the Chevy’s naturally aspirated 6.2, and with a 1495kg kerb weight it’s lighter too. It also rides and handles beautifully. It’s surely enough to give the Vette a run for its money, but you’d expect that really: the 540C is a £137,125 car.