At least conceptually, Chevrolet has been contemplating the creation of a mid-engine Corvette since 1960, when Zora Arkus-Duntov first broached it via the CERV I engineering concept car. We’ve been through other Corvette studies like the Astrovette and Aerovette, but despite its refinement into a legitimate world-class sporting piece, Corvette orthodoxy always had the engine positioned ahead of the driver. No more. With what has to rank among the most ballyhooed rollouts in automotive history, the eighth-generation Corvette has been revealed to the public, and it’s indeed now a mid-engine GT car that belongs on any enthusiast’s shopping list.
We’ll say this much: The new Corvette Stingray puts exotic or hypercar driving capabilities into the hands of thousands who can’t afford a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Yes, it’s the only naturally aspirated car in its market group. But what a piece. The new Stingray weighs an entirely reasonable 3,366 pounds, but it packs a base 495 SAE-certified horsepower from its 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 with direct fuel injection, 11.5:1 compression and variable valve timing. The entire engine is cosmetically dressed and polished, since it will be visible through the Corvette’s huge clear backlight. This is a pushrod-actuated OHV engine we’re talking here, folks. It has dry-sump lubrication, the first for any Corvette, with three oil-scavenge pumps. With the optional Z51 performance package, which includes a specific final-drive ratio, the Stingray makes 0-60 in less than three seconds, the quickest Corvette ever. There’s SLA independent suspension and huge Brembo-stopped brake discs at each corner. All this in a car that starts at around $60,000 or so.
From the standpoint of packaging, of making the mid-engine layout possible, the new Corvette Stingray’s transaxle assembly deserves special notice. Designed by Tremec, it’s a first for General Motors, an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox with the model designation M1L. It slots in behind the engine, fitting snugly into the new Stingray’s lightweight, stiff center tunnel that gives the car its high level of torsional rigidity. The transmission can be manually shifted using paddles. Look at how short the gearbox’s overall length is. Its middle five ratios are matched to the engine’s power curve for optimal performance and seamless shifting at a whole range of speeds. As it stands, the shifting performance is mode-programmable to match driver preferences. Technology abounds, ranging from a standard heated steering wheel to a camera-equipped data record for really fast driving, ideally on a track. There are scant limits to the performance possibilities of this Corvette, including in motorsport; witness Ford’s experiences with its reborn GT. I’ve got to flatly believe that after a few miles in this transformed Corvette, you’ll agree that all the decades of speculation and wishing will have been worth it.