Whispers of a mid-engine Corvette have whirled around the automotive rumor mill for the better part of 50 years, and while high expectations and anticipation often lead to disappointment, such is not the case for the new mid-engined C8 Corvette. It should be noted that while the overall score may seem low, our review system is encompassing for all cars, and oftentimes sports cars score low due to their fundamental attributes, and the numbers don’t tell the full story. The new Corvette manages to impress despite this, heres why.
Out of Spec Score: 67.5/100
Would you believe me if I said during my time with the new C8 more people said “nice Ferrari” or “ how can you afford a Lamborghini?” than “nice Corvette”? You should, and it’s easy to see why, as the C8’s sharp mid-engined lines are a clear departure from the classic front engine silhouette of the previous seven generations. While Corvettes of the past have certainly had presence in the flesh, most look tame next to the newcomer and blacksheep of the family.
The C8’s front is dominated by two massive inlets that provide cooling to two of the four radiators, and a forward cabin with a short hood that borrows styling cues from a certain V10 Italian supercar. It’s a nice touch that makes the C8 look a bit more bespoke. Completing the front end are sharp LED headlights that somehow still manage to remind you that you’re looking at a Corvette. Studying the C8’s side profile is equally impressive, as it does a fantastic job of showing off its new midship layout. Notable features include two massive Aventador-esque inlets feeding the other two radiators used to cool its massive V8 and the introduction of flying buttresses and a small retractable window behind the cabin, which makes its presence ever more menacing though it’s not too much.
Perhaps the rear of the C8 is what has maintained more traditional design philosophy than anything else, as the taillights are unmistakably Corvette. Despite this similarity, the centered quad exhaust tips found on the C5, C6, and C7 has been replaced by a more traditional quad tip design. It doesn’t look bad, though I do wonder what it would have looked like had they kept the centered design for the C8, as this seems to be the norm with MR supercars.
While the rear end does look good, it doesn’t flow quite as well as the rest of the car. It’s a bit bunched up to speak, but I really am picking at details here. While the staggered 19”/20” wheels (front and rear, respectively) help pump up the aggression in the rear, I found them to be too sunken in, which has the opposite effect. Still, it passes the “if you don’t turn around and look at it everytime you walk away you bought the wrong car” test with flying colors. I scored the Corvette a 8/10 for styling, better wheel fitment and ‘off’ rear end being what kept it from a perfect score.
Radical exterior changes aren’t the only thing new for 2020 with the C8, as the cabin has undergone massive changes as well. The dash now sits lower, offering better visibility while still maintaining the cockpit feel. A driver focused digital dash provides everything from trip information to lap times and vehicle telemetry, and also changes from blue to red when switched from touring to sport mode on the selector dial located on the center console. Opt for track mode and it changes to a motorsport style flat bar tachometer with telemetry readouts and engine monitoring to make sure everything is running as it should.
Our 3LT spec’d interior ($11,950) came equipped with ‘GT2’ 8 way adjustable bucket seats, one of three seat options currently available for the C8. Wrapped in either nappa leather, perforated leather, or with suede inserts, I found them comfortable all considered, though I’m not sure how they’d fare on a long distance road trip. Other 3LT options include stitched leather throughout, a 14 speaker Bose sound system, a heads up display, and 13 interior color options help make the C8’s cabin a fine place to be. A new driver 8” focused infotainment system also found on the Cadillac AT5 is easy to use so long as you’re behind the wheel, as it is a bit of a reach for passengers.
The introduction of a dual clutch transmission, more on that later, has led to buttons being mounted on the center console for drive, reverse, manual mode, and park. These feel quality and are ergonomically located. The C8 offers a bit of interior storage in the center console though don’t bank on it holding much. Removing the hardtop convertible is as easy as pressing a button found on the drivers door. While it does take a bit longer than the competition, sight tight and let the electric mechanism do all the work for you and you’ll have more fresh air than you can handle in no time.
I applaud GM as the C8’s interior quality is a huge step up over the C7, inching closer to its rivals across the Atlantic in terms of quality. It’s a welcomed change, as interior quality is something that journalists and owners alike have historically been critical of with previous generations. The good news is the new C8’s interior doesn’t feel like it’s going to explode if you so much as sneeze in it, quite the opposite actually, though it is not without some minor faults. The infamous button stack which houses the C8’s dual climate zone heating and air con controls is confusing to navigate, specifically for passengers as it is oriented heavily towards the driver. Even after a few days I was not able to navigate ‘the stack’ fluidly.
Another gripe I had was the square steering wheel, while it looks sharp and feels great wrapped in premium leather, it’s a bit difficult to operate mid corner in spirited situations, and while the wheel mounted paddles are fine for spirited driving, they’re a bit small for around town duty when your hands may not be in ‘9 and 3’ position. I also noticed the column stalks felt a bit cheap, inevitably borrowed from the GM parts bin. But that’s okay, progress not perfection, right? It’s miles ahead of its predecessors and is better than ever, hence the 6.5/10 score.
Arguably the most anticipated part of the C8’s new midship platform is how well it would perform, and while there were certainly doubts about if GM could pull it off, especially after it was announced there wouldn’t be offered with a conventional manual, I am relieved to say that the C8 hits most of the marks. Starting with what hasn’t changed, GM has opted to retain the tried and true OHV pushrod V8. Now on it’s 5th generation, the C8’s 6.2L ‘small block’, dubbed the LT2, is rated at 490bhp and 465 ft/lbs of torque.
Opting for the performance exhaust package bumps horsepower and torque figures up 5. Power is channeled through a new Tremec sourced 8-speed dual clutch transaxle, specific to the C8 for the time being. Our C8 was equipped with the Z51 package ($5000) which included more aggressive suspension, increased brake and engine cooling, better brakes, performance exhaust, electronic limited slip differential, and shorter rear end gearing. While our C8 was not fitted with the FE4 magnetorheological adaptive dampers ($1,895), heavier duty dampeners with stiffer spring rates all around are still a part of the Z51 package.
On paper the ingredients are all there; midship layout, an almost 500hp naturally aspirated V8, and a dual clutch transmission, but how well does it all work? You can breathe a sigh of relief, the C8 is far and away the most dynamic Corvette yet. Toss it into a corner and you are rewarded with sharp and predictable turn in that very neutral, erring on the side of slight understeer once you reach the limit, which might I add, is very high. Steering isn’t as responsive as its P car rivals or the likes of McLaren and Ferrari, but it’s more of precision scalpel than it’s front engineer predecessors, which were more of a sledgehammer. Mid corner corrections are effortless and the chassis is impressively difficult to upset. The electronic LSD does a great job of distributing power in low traction situations and takes the guesswork out of when to get back on the loud pedal. The C8 doesn’t require a lot of skill to drive fast, which I will get to in a little bit.
While purists have protested their disdain at the lack of a conventional manual transmission, the Tremec unit in the C8 is surprisingly crisp and refined, especially for a first generation dual clutch. Upshifts are seamless and near instantaneous, while downshifts are smooth and the computers will not limit you from gearing down even if it sits you near the LT2’s 6,500RPM redline. The C8 has three modes for it’s dual clutch transmission and traction control settings as standard (touring sport, and track), the latter two offering faster shift speeds and loosening up the stability aids and enabling you to really kick the tail out for power on oversteer. After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that while a three pedal setup would make the C8 more involving, I am not sure it would make it better.
How often is power and acceleration the last thing discussed when talking about how a new Corvette performs? Times are changing. With almost 500 horsepower on tap, it’s not slow. GM quotes a 0-60 time of 2.9 second and quarter mile time of 11.2 at 121mph. Based on my time in the Corvette, this feels about right. It leaves really hard in first gear and pulls hard through third, but really tapers off as speed increases from there. However, it should be noted that I drove the car in Colorado at an elevation of about 5,000ft, where the natural aspiration V8 would be making closer to 400bhp as opposed to the 495bhp it makes at sea level and this is the likely reason it felt anemic on the top end.
Despite this, it’s still a Corvette in that there is an abundance of torque available at nearly all RPMs, though you’re now more likely to slap the left paddle a few times and seamlessly downshift just to feel the crips rev matches before giving the skinny pedal a mash. Even though the LT2 is a fantastic powerplant, I do wish we were able to hear it a bit more, especially at part throttle around town. Even with the performance exhaust, it’s relatively quiet despite having an aggressive tone at idle. A bit more steering feedback and lack of aural pleasure from the big V8 are the only thing keeping the C8 from a perfect score, but an 8/10 is very respectable nevertheless.
Mid-engined practicality is an oxymoron, and while the C8 certainly does err on the side of impractical, it’s not terrible for a midship sports car. To start, ingress and egress are more difficult than Corvettes of the past due to the C8’s large door sills, requiring a bit of technique to do so gracefully. This may be an issue for potential buyers who are older or have mobility issues. Once seated, I found the GT2 bucket seats surprisingly comfortable, in part to their 8-ways of adjustability. New for the C8 is a low slung dash that offers good forward visibility, though the same cannot be said for side and rear.
That said, a digital rear view mirror is optional on the 2LT and 3LT packages which help tremendously and eliminates some of the guess work in low rear visibility situations. Standard on all C8s is a rear parking camera which is easy to use, once you learn to trust it. Available as an independent upgrade for the 1LT or included on the 2LT and 3LT packages are HD cameras both fore and aft. These make navigating tight parking spots or parallel parking much easier in part to a unique front curb assist system, but you’re still reminded you’re parking a midship sports car as opposed to a Camry.
The spacious rear trunk synonymous with Corvettes of past has fallen victim to the new mid-engined layout, and despite the introduction of a “frunk” under the hood, cargo space stands at only 13 cubic feet. The frunk can hold a small overnight bag, and our optional cargo nets both front and rear did make it easier to organize. Don’t cancel that tee time just yet though, as the rear trunk does have enough room for at least one set of golf clubs, possibly two if the bags were small. Interior storage is few and far between and parallels cargo space. It should also be noted that in automatic mode the dual clutch does a great job of taking away the guesswork and is practical for day to day use when loads of skinny pedal aren’t being used. Despite being more practical than some of its competition, it’s still a car that a lot of people would be hard pressed to drive every day and does require a bit more work, coupled with lack of cargo space and limited visibility, I score it a 4/10.
Most two seater sports cars are of the notion that comfort takes a backseat to performance and looks (see what I did there?), however that’s not necessarily the case with the new C8. Okay, it’s certainly not easy to get into with it’s large door sills and low slung seating position, and it doesn’t ride like a big body Cadillac, but once you are in its cockpit themed cabin it is an easy place to spend time. Around town, the C8s dampers are not too stiff and absorb road imperfections very well, especially for not having the optional magnetorheological adaptive dampers.
The GT2 seats in our 3LT spec’d example offer 8-way adjustability, fiddle with them long enough and the C8 becomes as comfortable as one could hope for a sports car of its caliber. The perforated leather that our seats were wrapped in certainly helps, as do the heating and cooling features which offer three levels of adjustability for each setting. The dual climate control does a good job of keeping both sides of the airy yet small cabin where they should be.
Wait, so the C8’s cabin is both larger and smaller at the same time? Yes, let me break this down. Despite having a huge dash that’s much bigger than its predecessors (due to the new midship layout) and ample headroom, it has less room due to the massive cockpit style center console, button stack, and large side sills which brings the doors in a bit. Even though I’m relatively skinny and 6’1”, I found that I did not have a ton of side to side space in the C8, especially on the passenger side. This may be a point of contention for larger customers who need a bit more room to comfortably enjoy their new sports car or midlife crisis. Due to these flaws, the Corvette ranks relatively low at 5/10.
Corvettes haven’t always been the most tech savvy sports cars on the market, but the C8 does it’s best to fight that stigma. Starting in the cabin, the 12” digital dash is high resolution and very interactive, offering everything from trip information to lap times and vehicle telemetry. If you don’t like what it’s displaying, you can change that as well. It’s a bit tricky to figure out, but once you set your modes there is a trick button on the steering wheel that will display your selected settings. Another thing I really like about the dash is how it changes based on what driving mode is selected (touring, sport, and track). I preferred touring mode for around town duty and sport mode for spirited driving, though track mode would be my obvious choice were I in that environment. A simple feature, but it really can change the mood of the car, giving it a bit of personality, oftentimes lost with modern cars.
Available as standard is an 8” touchscreen infotainment system also used on the Cadillac AT5, it’s is remarkably easy to use and dare I say it, doesn’t even feel GM. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make bluetooth streaming and connectivity easy as ever, as do in vehicle apps that can be personalized. Remote start and keyless entry are standard features as well. A 10 speaker audio setup is standard, though our 3LT spec’d car sported a Bose premium 14 speaker system that was an absolute treat. Opt for this and you will be rewarded with rich highs, full mids, and plenty of bass.
Both track rats and casuals alike will be pleased to have the option of a performance and video logger, included as standard on our 3LT spec, utilizing the HD cameras for the front and rear parking assist to take video of on track laps and record telemetry. Other nifty features include wireless charging on the rear firewall and USB charging/connectivity. The C8 isn’t moving mountains with new technology, but it has caught up with a lot of its competition and offers more than would be expected for a sub 100k sports car, earning a 7/10 score.
Connected Services 7.5/10
While Tesla remains the gold standard, GM does offer many connected services worth mentioning with the C8. OnStar services are available for a subscription fee, with a few different price levels being available through GM. In addition to crash reporting and emergency roadside service, it unlocks useful day to day functions such as the ability to unlock or start the car remotely, among a variety of other things such as scheduling service appointments. 4G-LTE WiFi is now available as an option as well, helping with some of the remote features available through the OnStar app. A 3 month all inclusive SIRRIUS XM Radio is included with new purchases, though a subscription must be purchased when the trial is up.
Another useful standard feature on the C8 is the ability to do over the air updates, for everything from engine software to infotainment system updates, meaning you don’t have to visit the dealership to have the most up to date firmware. It’s a nice touch for those who are tech hobbyists or those who simply don’t want to take time to visit the dealership. While often overlooked due to some of the more radical changes ushered in with the C8, it does offer a lot of useful and easy to use connected services, scoring it a 7.5/10.
Active Safety 2/10
While the new C8 oozes with go fast tech and connected services, it is seriously lacking in the active safety department, in that it doesn’t have any as standard or options. Even basic features such as emergency braking or lane-keeping assist are not available. I did give the C8 a score of 2 because 2LT and up spec’d cars come with blind spot warning which is an absolute must with the lack of visibility inherent with a midship sports car.
Even so, changing lanes in traffic was a bit nerve racking, as I utilized passenger feedback any time I had someone in the car. The C8 Corvettes rear view mirror screen helps see what’s behind you, and the rear pedestrian warning system are good safety tech, but none of it is active. I would really like to see this change in the future, as it doesn’t make the car any less thrilling or of a spectacle, just more safe.
How often is it that a sports car scores the highest on value of all things? In the case of the Corvette, quite often. Our 2020 Stingray Convertible based at $66,400, and between our 3LT ($11,450), Z51 ($5,000), yellow brake painted brake calipers ($595), yellow seat belts ($395), and yellow stitching ($395) that total jumps to $84,235. Add on the destination charge of $1,095 and our C8 rings up to $85,330. This is a bit deceptive however, as most dealerships are currently marking them up to over six figures given the current demand far exceeds the supply. Expect this to level out in the coming years, but still worth mentioning.
While a hundred thousand dollars certainly isn’t chump change, when compared to some of its rivals, it’s easy to see why the C8’s price makes it such an attractive prospect for those in the market for a new sports car. A base 991 Carrera Cabriolet starts at $112,000 before options. Per usual with Porsche, everything is an option, and that number can quickly rise to north of $140,000. Even a Cayman GT4 starts at $102,200 before options, and it’s down almost 75 horsepower.
Other mid-engine competition, such as the NSX and R8 start at $157,500 and $169,900, respectively. Jump up another level to the McLaren’s 570S at $192,500 and it’s even more of an incentive to consider the C8. I deducted half a point due to dealership markups, but otherwise the new Corvette is as much car as you’re going to find for one hundred grand, bar none.
Editors Influence 9.5/10
It’s not often that a sports car formula which has been tried and true for over 60 years is completely changed from the ground up in the manner that the Corvette platform has with the C8. Imagine if Porsche’s next 911 was front engined, you see my point. As a journalist, having the privilege to review cars like this is something truly special. Like many others,I feared my high expectations for the C8 may end in disappointment, though fortunately this was not the case.
The mid engine prowess and incredibly planted chassis is something I always wanted to see from a Corvette. It’s sublime, and the ease at which the C8 can be driven at truly terrifying pace is amazing. You don’t need to be an Ayrton Senna or Lewis Hamilton to drive the C8 near its limit, and that speaks volumes about how well set up the chassis is. Furthermore, the interior is finally a place you want to be, as opposed to a compromise for its value. The leather, buttons, digital dash, and dual clutch transmission all feel every bit of a near hundred thousand dollar sports car. I cannot wait to see where GM takes this platform and how much better it will get with time, as every Corvette up to this point has been a substantial improvement over the previous generation. Remember, this is only the base model Corvette, we are still yet to see the Z06 and ZR1 offerings.
Despite the razor sharp midship handling, a near 500 horsepower V8, and a seamless dual clutch box, it’s not as exciting to drive as I had hoped. Where I tested the C8 in Colorado is home to some of the best driving roads the United States has to offer, and at no point in time did the new Corvette ever scare me. Never once did it communicate “be careful going wide open throttle out of a mid speed sweeper like that”, or “are you sure you’re a good enough driver to trailbrake into that hairpin?”.
The C8 can set a pace that will get you in trouble quicker than its 2.9 second 0-60 time, but you don’t feel like that’s the case. At one point mid corner about half way through one of my favorite canyon roads I thought to myself “I should be terrified to push this car at this pace”, but the fear wasn’t there at all.
In fact, I checked my Apple Watch and my heart rate was about 85BPM, a mere 15 more than resting. Perhaps it’s because you have all of the electronic aids to fall back on should you make an erroneous input, but I was left wanting a car that commands the driver’s respect, like some Corvettes of the past. I gave the car an editor’s score of 9.5 out of 10 due to its sporting capabilities, surprisingly refined interior, excellent transmission, and to earn some points back for the low safety score. If only it was a little less perfect, it would have received a 10/10