I’ve never been much of a Corvette guy. The storied ‘Vette lineage occupied only the periphery of my automotive obsessions, with semi-compelling offerings that got me marginally excited over the years.
I remember raising an eyebrow at the supercar-challenging performance of the C6 Z06, then rolling my eyes when Jeremy Clarkson poked at its rear end, revealing the cheap, plasticky construction of its body panels. I remember being blown away by the power and speed figures of the C6 ZR1, only to be let down by its bargain-bin interior and seats so unsupportive, driving it near the limits felt akin to catching a greased hog.
Then came the C7 generation- the base model did little to pique my interest, though the mean-looking widebody and blistering track performance of the Z06 and ZR1 variants were nothing to scoff at. Still, they were always seemingly compromised, and missing some intangible quality present in the more refined, racy variants of their European rivals- so I stuck to my guns.
In the Summer of 2019, however, we finally feasted our eyes on a revolutionary new mid-engine C8 Corvette, which was set to take the world by storm, apart from one issue- it was devastatingly ugly.
Okay, I get it. Looks are subjective. But apart from one fortunate front three-quarter angle on a build that’s been perfectly spec’ed, the C8 Corvette is, simply, unpleasant to behold. Its front end feels truncated, yet overly pointy at the same time. Monster-truck ride height means the side profile inspires little confidence in its high-speed prowess.
And the rear end is just a mish-mash of overly complex shapes derived from a host of lower end Chevy models.
While I’m sure this paragraph will inspire plenty of rage from the Corvette fanboys, in my opinion, the base C8’s design will almost certainly not age well- perhaps a genius strategy by GM to sell more late-model cars in years to come?
Despite my grievances about the C8’s styling, something about its exotic mid-engine layout, fully modernized drivetrain, and drastically upgraded cockpit made it more than compelling. It was rocking a naturally-aspirated V8, competitive dual-clutch transmission, and perfect weight balance; surely, the ideal recipe for a world-beating track weapon. Below 2 images are courtesy of Chevrolet.
Twisting the selector knob to “tour” for an uninspiring slog up PCH to the Malibu canyons, I had some time to get settled into the cabin and appreciate its creature comforts. Plush leather covered almost every visible surface, and the driver-oriented cockpit made accessing every control effortless.
Tactile feedback from some of the knobs and switchgear was a little mushy- a small detail that hints at a minor discrepancy in quality between this car and its Euro rivals.
Immediately noticeable was the fully-electronic rear view mirror, which utilizes a camera mounted above the rear glass (pictured below) to project an unencumbered view of the road behind.
While this does wonders for rear visibility, it’s catastrophic to the narcissistic driver’s ability to check their hair in the rear view mirror- a custom I now realize I was partaking in far too frequently.
Front/surround view cameras also help guide you in to tight parking spots, without fear of damaging the front end, and, more importantly, looking like an idiot in the grocery store parking lot.
The upgraded carbon buckets in this particular model proved exceedingly comfortable, with both heating and cooling functionality, depending on the temperature needs of your particular backside. And a massive, high-resolution display with CarPlay functionality meant the car instantly and seamlessly integrated with my smartphone, displaying turn-by-turn directions and bumping my playlists through the impressive Bose stereo within seconds.
Targa top removed, the wind in my hair, and the smell of the ocean wafting through the cabin- I could get used to this!
Deep into Malibu, the roads turned twisty, and I dialed the mode selector from “tour” to “sport”. A flurry of rearrangement on the digital dash brought vital tachometer and engine readouts to the forefront, a satisfying bark spouted from the freer-flowing exhaust, and the stiffness of the magnetic dampers transitioned from “‘90s Cadillac” to “I mean business”.
Slightly heavier steering contributed to the sporting feel, but didn’t necessarily transmit additional feedback from the front tires. Having completed its 500-mile break-in, this car was ready to deliver its full payload, and oh, did it deliver.
Acceleration from low revs is initially unimpressive, though as the tach climbs, eyes widen, and an obscene amount of thrust can be extracted from this masterpiece of a V8. The bass-heavy tones emanating from the sport exhaust are music to the ears of any car enthusiast- there’s just nothing to dislike, here.
And, if you were worried about the performance of the DCT based on some early reviews, don’t be. Nigh-imperceptible shifts in touring mode give way to unbelievably-quick and aggressive shifts in Sport and Track modes, with a satisfying “thud” from the exhaust between each upshift, and rev-matched downshifts that maintain perfect chassis composure.
G-meter readings of over 1.0g were effortlessly maintained through the twisty canyon roads, and pushing the car to around eight tenths elicited no perceptible understeer. Grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires was seemingly endless, and the car’s balance and dialed-in damping inspired massive confidence.
My only conclusion after ripping through the canyon roads in this beast, grinning ear-to-ear? “I need to get this thing on the track”.
Returning to LA after begrudgingly departing the Malibu canyons, I took the car for a few laps around Santa Monica and Venice, down crowded streets like Abbott Kinney- voted the “hippest street in America”, and chock-full of shoppers on foot, doing their part to keep the capitalist dream alive. Never in my days of automotive journalism, despite piloting such eye-catching cars as an 812 Superfast, F40, Bugatti EB110, and a Carrera GT, have I experienced a car that turned quite so many heads, and drew dumbfounded stares from endless onlookers.
After countless thumbs-ups, cameraphone shots, and unintelligible remarks yelled from sidewalks, I realized why. The C8 Corvette is a car that every man can aspire to. When I encounter some ultra-expensive hypercar like a Koenigsegg or Pagani, I barely bat an eye, as it feels like a pipe-dream; an art piece so valuable it can hardly be driven. And, come on, do you really want to give that d-bag driver another reason to feel good about him or herself? (kidding… mostly.) Something like a GT3RS or 600LT, however, snaps my neck around in a hurry. It’s the attainability that makes this car so compelling to almost every onlooker, and it’s refreshing to see so many people get excited about any car- let alone America’s new poster-child.
As a lifelong automotive enthusiast and recent journalist, I can’t help but feel unabashedly proud of what Chevy’s accomplished with this car. They’ve pieced together a package that can compete with supercars in an entirely different price bracket, while making almost zero compromise to daily drivability and interior quality.
Having driven cars 2, 3, perhaps 10 times the price of this C8 in my time with AlphaLuxe, I can’t say that any of them left me more impressed than this spunky little supercar out of Detroit. Engineers at the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren must be utterly scrambling to figure out how to compete with the seemingly-impossible value of this new C8. And to think, in a year or so there will be a Z06 variant with a flat-plane V8 churning out 650 naturally-aspirated ponies. Hope the rest of the automotive world is ready for an old-fashioned, American smackdown.
Counterpoint by Billy Johnson
As a car enthusiast, I was excited to see the Corvette switch to a mid-engine platform since the C7 already had the best drivetrain layout for a front engine car; with the entire engine behind the front wheel centerline and a rear mounted transaxle. To improve on that and open the performance envelope further, going mid-engine was the key.
From behind the wheel, the forward visibility was better than I thought it would be. The fender arches frame the road and convey a very exotic and ‘racey’ feeling to the driver. The rear quarter panels don’t look good from the side mirrors and you can’t see anything out of the back, but the rear-view mirror can display the view from the rear mounted camera making that issue irrelevant.
In the post-Jim Mero world at GM, the C8’s suspension and electronic differential tuning has a lot of room for improvement. It’s too harsh over bumps in track mode, yet does not have enough damping to control body movements in roll or heave, making the car feel floaty when pushed. Rear grip is excellent for putting power down but there’s too much safe understeer, especially when trail-braking. The car is not as ‘flickable’ as the C7 and takes some provoking to get it to rotate.
Tremec now has another DCT that rivals Porsche’s PDK (the other is the GT500) which is miles better than the 8 and 10 speed automatics in previous Vettes. While the transmission is fantastic, the sound and volume of the LT2 is mediocre, except on downshifts. Exhausts will be a common upgrade in these cars.
The C8 has a lot of potential. While a little rough around the edges, there is room for improvement in future models and for the aftermarket industry to address. I wouldn’t be surprised to see many of these at HPDE (High Performance Driver Education) events around the country.
Other AlphaLuxe Chevrolet Corvette Articles
Author’s Biography: KevinB
KevinB is a 30-year-old auto enthusiast – a Mechanical Engineer by day, and serial side-hustler by night. By age 4, he could spout the make and model of any passing vehicle, and by 12 he was an expert in the inner-workings of the internal combustion engine. His love for all things motoring expanded into the two-wheeled world at age 17. He currently owns a 2016 Mercedes AMG GT-S, and a 2012 Aprilia Tuono V4R, and has somehow managed to retain his driver’s license.