It is incredibly rare for an automaker to throw out the fundamentals of an icon and start from scratch, but that’s exactly what Chevrolet did with the debut of the all-new and first-ever mid-engine C8 Corvette. Since 1953, the Chevrolet Corvette had been a front engine rear-drive sports car. Moving the engine to the middle of the platform was no simple feat, but a mid-engine design promises better weight distribution and handling characteristics. We’ve waited two years to get our hands on this clean-sheet design. Of course scheduling a high-performance vehicle review for mid-March is not without its risks. Mother nature made sure we had plenty of variable conditions to throw at the C8.
Arriving in Hypersonic Gray, a new color with hints of green undertones, the Corvette’s updated body is sharp, lean, and unmistakably mid-engine. The creased hood and low profile headlights tie some Corvette-styling DNA into this new shape. Around back, the squared-off rear end and dual-element LED taillamps do the same. But this Corvette also features large side air intakes and a rear hatch that shows off the all-new V8. The angular styling, fighter-jet inspired greenhouse and wide rear haunches are more supercar than Corvette. While the design turns heads, I still haven’t grown to like the slab-sided rear fenders or square dual-outboard exhaust tips. Thankfully the wider and quad-tipped Z06 has arrived to remedy those design quirks. The C8’s styling is now the bane of every McLaren owner, which means Chevrolet definitely hit the nail on the head. Our tester was a 2LT trim, the middle of three trims that includes features like head-up display, Bose Performance Series 14-speaker audio system, Performance Data Recorder and 360 degree cameras among others. For 2022, non-Z51 models like our tester get a new low-profile rear spoiler and Z51 design front splitter. These subtle changes are noticeable and will likely be Corvette-owner car show conversation for decades to come.
What would a Corvette drive in March be without measurable snowfall? On our first day with the 2022 C8, we received 3 inches of snow that unexpectedly stuck to the ground long enough to impact the evening commute. Thankfully I had planned ahead and packed a snowbrush, but it was the Corvette development team that had done the real planning. Despite the C8 Corvette not having an approved winter tire, our tester arrived shod in Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 winter-rated tires. According to Chevrolet, these are the tires used by development vehicles in winter testing. With the drive mode set to Weather, I eased the Corvette out of the parking lot and headed towards home. The crazy guy driving a Corvette in a snowstorm draws plenty strange looks and double takes, but the C8’s excellent weight distribution paired with the appropriate Michelin tire meant it looked much more dramatic than it felt behind the wheel.
The C8 Corvette is assembled around six high-pressure diecast aluminum parts that come together to form the main structure of the Corvette chassis. Engineers focused on making the center-tunnel of the C8 carry most of the load, meaning the rocker panel step-over is minimal. Unlike many supercars that use an exotic carbon tub, the Corvette it easier to get in and out of. It also means the C8’s roof is removable without impacting rigidity, preserving yet another Corvette hallmark. Perhaps the most underappreciated and impactful change comes to the Corvette’s suspension. The rear transverse leaf spring is a thing of the past, replaced with a double-wishbone setup and coil over dampers. Optional magnetic selective ride control also contributes to improvements in the ride quality and handling. At any speed and any drive mode the Corvette feels comfortable and composed. The dampers firm up noticeably between Sport and Track but the ride never gets harsh, even over rough winter-worn roads. The stiffness of the chassis has allowed the suspension engineers to work their magic. Ultimately, the stable and balanced handling characteristics inspires confidence which, in turn, makes you look for every opportunity to bury your right foot.
Chevrolet’s all-new 6.2L “LT2” V8 powers the Corvette with 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque when equipped with performance exhaust. The engine can be mounted lower, improving the C8’s center of gravity, by switching to an engine-mounted dry sump oil system. This means for the first-time ever, the base C8 doesn’t have a traditional oil pan beneath the block. 2022 models get an upgraded direct fuel injection system, new engine calibration, and an enhanced operating range for the cylinder de-activation capability. Performance figures and EPA estimated fuel economy are unchanged with these new components. Packaging constraints mean this is the first Corvette not to offer a manual transmission, but the all-new eight speed dual-clutch transmission’s rapid shifts compensate for that disappointment. In manual mode, the wheel-mounted paddle shifters fire off smooth, crisp shifts with the brush of a finger. With the Corvette in Tour mode, the transmission does an excellent impression of a torque converter automatic, making it easy to drive around town. Unfortunately the transmission’s programming doesn’t perk up in Sport or even Track mode. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of driving a PDK-equipped Porsche 911 in Sport Plus mode, you’ll know how frenetic a transmission can be. We only hoped for half that level of fervor from the Tremec dual-clutch in Track mode, but were left disappointed. Opting to shift to higher gears and stay there no matter the drive mode, the transmission incentivizes taking manual control.
Temps climbed slowly through the week until the Corvette’s digital gauge cluster finally reported warm tires. It was time for a proper drive. It only takes one person to remove and stow the targa top in the C8’s trunk, so for the second time in a week, I was the crazy guy driving a Corvette. It is far easier to hear the new V8’s soundtrack through the optional performance exhaust with the top off than in the closed cabin. With the V8 right behind your head, there’s also a symphony of mechanical and induction noise. The steering is light and direct, reacting instantly to inputs from the square steering wheel. It takes some initial focus to be smooth and precise, but focusing on driving is exactly what the interior layout is designed to allow. Sitting low, the cabin envelops the driver with critical control placement and sight-lines thoughtfully considered. The 12-inch digital cluster is easily readable through the steering wheel and all the auxiliary controls are mounted on a single cascading row of buttons. While the aeronautic cabin configuration is ideal for the driver, your co-pilot will take umbrage with the dividing wall and lack of center armrest. From the passenger seat, it’s awkward to adjust climate settings or reach for the driver-centric touch screen infotainment system. We also didn’t find the optional GT2 seats to be all that comfortable with a seat bottom too short and fixed headrest too low for my 6’2 frame.
March may have been too early to truly enjoy the Corvette with the top off. The metal shift paddles get bitterly cold and the 2LT’s standard rear-view camera screen reflects too much sky when the sun angle is low. The Corvette’s rear visibility using the mirror without the camera is equally nonexistent, but who cares what’s going on behind that 495 horsepower V8. Regardless of temperature, the Corvette is a superb sportscar. It’s also clear that this platform has the capability to handle immense power – something the Z06 will leverage. Supreme balance and grip are what the mid-engine layout is all about, but the Corvette elevates the experience above anything else an American manufacturer has ever accomplished. When the grip fades, either from road conditions or the torque of the V8, the C8 transitions into a controllable and recoverable slide. For the first time, the Corvette’s handling outshines its engine. It’s fun, playful even, in our low-grip testing conditions. But when the tires heat up, and likely when equipped with factory summer rubber, the immense grip and masterful suspension tuning gives the Corvette supercar level capability.
On April 25th, Chevrolet announced an electrified Corvette would be available as early as next year. The company’s post on Twitter shows a camouflaged C8 doing what appears to be an all-wheel-drive burnout and high-speed drifts through the snow. Will the Corvette get an electrically-driven front axle? Only time will tell, but we’ll definitely want another go in the snow!
|2022 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe 2LT||$68,200|
|Front Lift Adjustable Height Memory||$2,260|
|Magnetic Selective Ride Control||$1,895|
|GT2 Bucket Seats||$1,495|
|19″ Front, 20″ Rear 5 Trident Spoke Machine Face Spectra Gray Painted Aluminum Wheels||$1,495|
|Edge Red Painted Brake Calipers||$595|
|Sueded Microfiber-Wrapped Steering Wheel||$595|
|Low Rear Spoiler and Front Splitter||$595|
|Carbon Flash Metallic Painted Outside Mirrors||$100|
Categories: Chevrolet, Christopher Little, Driven
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