Whenever there is a new Corvette, there is always great fanfare on how it’s revolutionary. Today, the C8 Stingray becomes evolutionary by going mid-engine.
There is only one way to improve a breed and ensure its species can exist into the next century: it must evolve. You can’t simply change a few pieces and expect to continue in life as the top of the food chain. Therefore the 2020 Corvette Stingray C8 looks the way it does. It has evolved into a mid-engine supercar, but it will retain a sports car price.
“Corvette has always represented the pinnacle of innovation and boundary-pushing at GM. The traditional front-engine vehicle reached its limits of performance, necessitating the new layout,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “In terms of comfort and fun, it still looks and feels like a Corvette, but drives better than any vehicle in Corvette history. Customers are going to be thrilled with our focus on details and performance across the board.”
When you think about the brands and cars the Corvette competes against around the world in GT racing, it was always the last of its kind. The Ferrari 488, Ford GT, Porsche 911 RSR – all these cars have their engine behind the driver. The C7.R and the BMW M8 were the only two GTLM class cars that still had an engine in the front. Even outside motorsports, those same cars – well, save for the 911 – were all still mid-engine vehicles.
There is a reason for that. Putting the engine between the passenger cabin and the rear axle gives it a balanced handling character. All the mass is between the front and rear wheels. A front engine vehicle will typically exhibit understeer as most of its weight is on the front axle while a mid-engine doesn’t exhibit that. It probably still won’t be a true 50/50s split despite what GM’s marketing department says.
Even after splitting the transmission and engine with a torque tube, the C5 to C7 Corvettes still had a majority front distribution. Chevrolet claimed the C7 had a 50/50 split, but it was more 51/49. Similar idea here but reversed with a 49/51 split of the 3366-pound dry weight of the new C8. That isn’t a slight, just some reality on what’s going to happen. It will handle better, though, every Corvette generation has steadily improved over the last and this will be the best until the Z06 or C9.
However, it’s not just weight balance that makes a car handle well. It needs a chassis that puts that distribution to the ground. By moving the engine away from the front end, Corvette engineers were able (and, let’s face it, required) to drastically redesign it. Their bread-and-butter of this is the center tunnel, which also changes the C8 into a true, split cockpit design. According to GM, the center tunnel creates a more torsionally rigid vehicle without needing to strengthen the rocker panels. Doing so would have made getting into and out of the C8 harder and, as you can see, the top of the rocker is very low.
There is also an all-metal chassis under the Corvette C8. Rather than rely on exotic – and expensive – carbon fiber, it uses a mix of different metals. The main structure is made of six high-pressure, diecast aluminum parts in Bedford, Indiana and reduce the number of joints and weak points in the chassis. That’s not to say there aren’t exotic materials in the C8 Stingray. The rear bumper beam is made of carbon fiber while the frunk and trunk tubs are made of a fiberglass with a proprietary resin. GM calls it a “float” as it is light enough to float in water without being made into a buoyant shape. The tubs also give the C8 a cargo volume of 12.6-cu. ft, or enough for a couple of golf bags in the rear and a set of day bags in the frunk.
Finally, COIL SPRINGS
A huge change I think not many people are talking about is the switch from transverse composite leaf springs to the first factory Corvette to get coil springs. Going further, the set on the Z51 Performance Package are also true coilovers with adjustable perches. Every C8 will get a front suspension lift system that raises the ground clearance of the front bumper 1.57-inches (40mm) in just 2.8-seconds. It can also be programmed to work on its own via GPS for up to 1000 locations and speeds up to 24-MPH. The steering ratio is also improved from 16.25:1 to 15.7:1.
The Z51 Package for the C8 will also see larger brake rotors with Z51 logos on the calipers and cooling inlets to the front brakes, enhanced cooling for the engine, its own axle ratio, and a performance exhaust. The front calipers are a Brembo two-piece four-piston set that clamp down on the 12.6×1.18-inch rotors and the rear rotors will be 13.6×1.02-inch and clamped by another set of Brembo four-piston calipers, however the Z51 will get 13.3×1.18 front and 13.8×1.06 rear rotors with four-piston Brembo monobloc calipers. Those will be fitted under a set of 19×8.5 front and 20×11 rear wheels with Michelin tires in 245/35ZR19 and 305/30ZR20. Regular C8s will get the Pilot Sport ALS while the 1G capable Z51 Stingray will get the Pilot Sport 4S on all four wheels.
With any new Corvette, there is always an introduction of a new GM small block engine. The C8 is no exception with the introduction of the LT2. Much like the progression of the LS1 to the LS2, the LT2 sees some improvements to the fifth-generation small block V8. It is essentially an improved LT1 as the LT2 will also feature a bore of 4.06-inches and a stroke of 3.62-inches to make it a 6.2-liter (376-CI) displacement. It uses A319-T7 cast aluminum with cast-in iron cylinder liners and nodular main bearing caps. The heads are also 319-T7 using 2.13-inch diameter hollow intake valves with 1.59-inch sodium filled exhaust valves controlled by a Variable Valve Timing system.
The heads have a combustion chamber volume of 59cc with a compression ratio of 11.5:1. It spits fuel directly into the cylinders by direct injection and has Active Fuel Management that will fire cylinders 1-7-6-4 in that order, but when not activated its firing order is 1-8-7-2-6-5-4-3 and pushes out 495-horsepower and 470-lb.-ft of torque. It will also feature dry sump-style oiling with a 7.5-quart capacity of Dexos 2 specified 0W40 synthetic oil. The engine, as mentioned, sits behind the passenger area and it sealed off from the cabin with a glass partition. The glass hatch is made to allow hot engine bay air to vent out of the louvers and the bottom cutout. If you look closely, the blending of the transparent glass to black is made of Corvette flags.
Dual Clutch Transmission. WAIT, THAT’S IT?!
It’s connected to what’s been the biggest topic discussed about the C8 after it being the first factory mid-engine Corvette: the dual-clutch (DCT) TREMEC 8-speed transaxle. I believe it’s based on the TR-9070 DCT with an extra overdrive gear, of which the seven-speed TR-9070 is going to be found on the 2020 Ford Shelby GT500. Unfortunately, I can’t find any mention of an eight-speed version of the TR-9070 nor a stand alone eight-speed DCT on Tremec’s site and GM is calling it the M1L. What’s further interesting about the C8 DCT is that it allows you to instantly de-clutch the engine from the transmission by pulling back on both paddles. I’ll let you figure out what you can do with that.
This is also the only transmission available for the C8. There are no plans for an H-pattern transmission in the Corvette, even in the future performance versions we’ll see like the Z06 and ZR1. At least according to GM and, again, there are very few cars the Corvette competes with that come with H-pattern transmissions. Nearly all of them feature a DCT of some kind, even the Porsche 992 and its PDK. It will only take a few runs with the C8 for Corvette enthusiasts to fall in love with the DCT, though. It’s a true “have your cake and eat it, too” system as you can let the ECU shift for you or put it into manual mode and you shift it instead, but much faster than you could ever do it with an H-pattern box.
The Best ‘vette Yet?
The mid-engine Corvette is finally here. While many are worried about not having a true, H-pattern manual, the car will perform better without it. With a sub-three-second zero to 60, I think many will forget about needing to row you own gears and fall in love with the “flappy paddles.” Regardless, this is still a Corvette. It still has a push rod V8, it still has a roar that can’t be matched, and a price point that makes Ferrari owners scratch their heads as the ‘vette laps them again.
I certainly look forward to seeing more of it when it finally goes on sale for less than $60,000 to start.
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