They say if you can remember the 60’s you probably didn’t really experience them. But those were the days of peace, love, good vibes and, of course, the introduction of the first Corvette Stingray and it’s beautifully iconic design. Fast forward to 2021 and the new eighth generation Corvette. Though a huge departure from its predecessors, it seems to also inspire those same good feelings and positive energy from driver, passenger and passers-by alike.
Rarely have I driven a car that inspires so much goodwill, smiles, waves, and positive energy. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times. Maybe we are just looking for a friendly face or a beacon of familiarity and comfort after the surrealism of 2020, but this Corvette genuinely lifts the spirits. It’s a feel-good drug. A true crowd pleaser.
BELIEVE THE HYPE
The new C8 was launched in 2020, and with the mid-engine configuration, is clearly a significant departure from the earlier models. The challenge for the Corvette designers was to develop a car that would attract a new, younger generation of owners to the brand while still retaining the loyal following of Corvette aficionados. It seems they were successful, given how the market has responded to it.
This is the most basic Corvette Convertible of the range, it’s a 1LT with no packages or options. That hasn’t prevented people from stopping me at the grocery store though, or cyclists backtracking to snap some photographs. A Harley gang waved and gave me the thumbs up when they passed. The new Corvette turns heads and attracts attention wherever I go.
Corvettes have always offered massive performance for the price and the C8 is no exception. But the with the new styling Chevy have completely upped the ante. With a design and profile similar to super-cars, that command upwards of two to three times the price, the base model Stingray Coupe goes for $59,995 which is incredible value for money. The Convertible that I tested starts at $67,495 MSRP. With the new C8, GM has created a car that is both aspirational and accessible with wide appeal.
CABRIO WITHOUT COMPROMISE
Incorporating convertible designs usually requires styling concessions, but this is not the case with the Corvette. The convertible looks much better than the coupe, particularly with the fairings that rise up behind the seats and give it the air of a speedster. From the rear of the car the roof lines follow the engine cover leading down to the Stingray emblem, that’s a nod to the iconic 1963 Corvette. The only part of the design that, in my view, is a slight miss is the rear of the car. It looks a bit busy with too many angles below the taillights, a sharp contrast to the smooth symmetry of the front and side profile.
From a distance the mid-engine shape is more reminiscent of Ferrari, but the familiar Corvette styling features—like the headlights, lower front fascia and taillights—are a clear evolution from the C7. One of the bigger challenges was incorporating the air-intakes on the front and rear of the car, whilst retaining the aerodynamics and styling. Both have been done really well. I like the aggressive, bold look of the big air-intakes at the front and the side, but also how all the lines at the front of car and the headlights converge down to the sharp nose angle.
My car came in the Ceramic Matrix Gray Metallic with the Adrenaline Red interior, which looks fantastic with the top down (and slightly more sober and buttoned up with the roof up). The Ceramic Gray also contrasted nicely with the glossy black air-intakes and really shows the lines and styling of the design.
The C8 is the first Corvette to incorporate a power folding hardtop. It was designed from the ground-up as both a coupe and convertible, and both versions have similar performance and handling. Chevrolet has worked hard to reduce the weight of the convertible using composites instead of steel and the retractable top only adds just over 80lbs to the weight, mainly coming from the mechanism and its six electric motors. The drag coefficient of Coupe and Convertible is similar particularly with the rear spoiler on the Z51 package. The roof can be raised or lowered in around 16 seconds and at speeds of up to 30mph, with the touch of a single button, which makes it really practical. I am not generally a fan of convertibles, but in a mild Northern California January I found myself dropping the top every time I drove the Corvette. With the side and small electric rear window up it was comfortable at highway speeds with minimal buffeting.
VASTLY IMPROVED INTERIOR
GM has really come a long way from the ill-fitting creaky interiors of the C5. The new C8 is vastly improved, uses tactile finishes and feels very well put together.
Inside the Corvette, the cockpit is primarily oriented to the driver, with a unique center console and sleek climate control panel rising up to an eight-inch touchscreen that is angled towards the driver. The center console doubles as a comfortable armrest, with the buttons for the transmission and a bezel for drive configurations conveniently at arms-length. The instrument cluster, switchgear and every other detail feels ergonomically designed within easy reach. The rotary drive-mode selector, which switches between Tour, Sport, and Track, is a little awkward and the leather cover feels a bit like an after-thought, but these are minor gripes and overall GM has come a long way on improving the Corvette interiors.
The squared wheel is perfectly sized, feels great and I rarely felt the need to shift from the 10-to-2, it also provides a nice clear view to the digital instruments. The handy ‘Z’ button that can be pre-programmed to personalize the drive mode, which I used all the time.
My car was a 1LT without options and the interior finishes are perfectly acceptable and nicely done for a base model. The dash and doors are covered in a grippy leatherette with red stitching that feels robust and durable. The brushed aluminum below the air vents and on the controls on the doors nicely contrasted with black and red seats. The climate control system is excellent and the vents are well placed, particularly for a convertible when you want to keep your hands and upper body warm for a leisurely drive, and whether by default or design, also for track use when you often want some cooling on your hands.
The 10 speaker Bose Audio system is excellent, and with Apple Car play it is easy to dispense with the navigation system. The standard GT seats are comfortable and supportive, even after several hours of driving, and the steering column has plenty of movement to get the wheel nice and close while maintaining plenty of legroom.
The 2LT adds additional electronics with a head-up display, navigation, 14-speaker surround sound, heated seats and steering wheel, and a range of driving aids. The 3LT adds GT2 seats, Napa Leather, Suede and Carbon fiber. Some Nappa leather and suede would be nice but otherwise, the 1LT was perfectly fine.
The two functional trunks on the C8 are also both very practical, with the rear trunk able to accommodate a set of golf clubs.
PLENTY OF GRUNT
All the C8s currently come with Chevy’s 6.2-liter LT2 V8 with 490 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque, which is transferred to the rear wheels via the Tremec eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The Corvette comes with a handy 0-60 performance timer in the dash and I was able to consistently get to 60mph in 3.2 seconds. The Z51 package with sport exhaust adds another 5hp, 5-lb-ft and the Michelin Sport 4S ZP Summer tires, which shaves 0.4 seconds off the 0-60mph propelling the Corvette to 60mph in 2.8 seconds.
With the rear mounted engine, 60 percent of the mass of the Corvette is over the rear tires which enhances the traction and makes it super grippy even without all the electronic nannies. The ride quality with the regular suspension is smooth and comfortable and there is also an option to upgrade to the Magnetic Selective Ride Control for $1,895.
The base car with the regular exhaust sounds good and provides a refined experience, but it lacks the guttural throatiness that one might expect.
Around the doors the Corvette is very smooth and compliant. Shift changes through the eight gears are imperceptible and when in Touring mode at around 2-3,000 rpm, the C8 makes for a very affable daily driver with light steering similar to a regular family sedan. This flexibility – easy to transition between a run to the grocery store and hooning around B roads – has long been a signature of the Corvette. Forward visibility on the C8 is great with a large windshield, though rear visibility is limited over the higher engine compartment with the regular mirror. The 2LT package comes with a rear camera mirror on the coupe.
Winding up through the rev range the naturally aspirated V8 smoothly delivers the power all the way around to redline at 6,500 rpm and the engine and exhaust notes sound fantastic as you get up above 4,500 rpm. Though even in Sport and Track modes, without the Z51 package the Corvette is still pretty quiet compared to other more brash mid-engine super cars, due to the extensive acoustic insulation. It almost feels a bit too refined, but this is likely to broaden the appeal to a wider cross section of owners and GM will undoubtedly introduce more belligerent iterations.
Switching to Sport and Track modes, the Corvette tightens up considerably. The throttle response is exceptional, shift changes are crisp and rapid and the C8 is phenomenal on the backroads. The steering weights up and is precise making the car feel incredibly balanced in mid-engine form. The low-end torque delivered by the big V8 feels wonderful as you slingshot out of tight corners, and it feels refreshingly linear pulling all the way up to the peak torque at 5,150 rpm. The C8 feels reassuringly planted in the corners, and always well within its limits. Braking was smooth and progressive even without the upgraded Brembo brakes that come with the Z51 package, (though these would be a must for more consistent performance driving or track use).
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
It’s easy to see why the C8 has won so many accolades in the press. This car is a real winner. It was a risky decision to switch to the mid-engine, but GM has really pulled it off, they have produced an affordable super-car that can hold its own and will bring new owners to the brand.
I am already excited about the C8 models that will follow the Stingray. It is rumored that there will be a high revving 600hp DOHC-32 valve flat-plane-crank version that may debut as the Z06 – sign me up right now, and potentially a hybrid.
After playing around with the configurator I would go for the 1LT Convertible with the Z51 Performance Package and Magnetic Selective Ride Control, in Rapid Blue with Spectra Gray Wheels with Yellow painted calipers and Carbon Flash outside mirrors. On the interior I would add the Competition Sport Bucket Seats, Suede Steering wheel and of course the yellow seat belts to match the calipers – because of course, collar and cuffs must always match.
There is no doubt about it—if you want to be happy go and buy yourself a new Corvette. It is the ultimate crowd pleaser. It will bring a wide smile to your face every time you drive it, and best yet, for performance-for-your-dollar you will be truly content when you remember what you paid for it. Well worth every penny.