2020 Corvette Launches: Mid-Engine, 495 hp, More Tech, Less Than $60K

TUSTIN,CA—Theeighth-generationofAmerica’sbestandbest-knownperformancecarlaunchedhereThursdaynight.The2020Corvetteisfinallyamid-enginetwo-seater,asitsarchitectshavedreamedofformorethanhalfacentury.Ithasastrongdoseoftechnologyrangingfromover-the-airupdatestoastandard12-inchdigital(LCD)instrumentpanel,abiggerhead-up-display,andaGPSdatabasethatraisesthelow-slungcarwhenitapproachesabumpintheroadorasharplypitcheddriveway.

Thecheapest2020Corvettewillcost“lessthan$60,o00”whenitshipsearlyin2020,accordingtoGMpresidentMarkReuss,oneofthespeakersattheevent.That’sa6percentincreaseovertheleastexpensive2019Corvette.

The66-yearhistoryofCorvetteincludesalong-runningdifferenceofopinionbetweenGM’ssports-mindedengineers,particularlyZoraArkus-Duntov,andcost-consciousfinancialstaff.DuntovproposedbetterunderpinningstomakeearlyCorvettesdriveaswellastheylooked.Fast-forwardhalfacenturyandtheC8–Corvette,generation8–finallyhasoneofthehallmarksofthehighest-endsportscars,themid-enginelayout.SomesayGMhadonlybadexperienceswithitsfewearlymid-engineproductioncars,particularlythe1960sCorvairwhichwasa)rear-notmid-engine,b)troublednotbytheenginelocationasmuchasthelow-costrearsuspensionthatcametotheattentionofayoungRalph(“UnsafeatAnySpeed”)Nadereventhoughc)theVWBeetlehadthesame“swing-axle”designandthatdidn’tpiqueNader’scuriosity.

Thethingsyou’llreadelsewhereabouttheC8Corvettewilloftencenteronthemechanicaldifferences,particularlymovingatraditionalsmall-blockChevyV8withtheverysameborespacing(distancebetweencylinders)asontheearliestCorvettes,fromthefronttobehindthepassengercompartment.Thelonetransmissionchoiceisaneight-speedTremecdouble-clutchtransmissionwithalowfirstgearfortire-smokingacceleration(ourwords,notChevy’s),closelyspacedgears2-3-4-5-6tokeepthecarinthesweetspotofthepowerband,andlonggears7-8,meaninggearsthatlettheenginerunathighwayspeedsatlessthan2,000rpm,forfuelefficiency.Withnodriveshaft,theformertransmissiontunnelisnowapieceofhigh-strengthaluminumwithacarbonfiberfinisher(aero-smoothing)panel.Alsotosavespace,theshifterlinkagegiveswaytoshift-by-wiregears:aPark-Reverse-Driveselectorandpaddleshifters.

Magneticridecontrolshocksareanoption.Theyinstantlyadapttochangingroadconditions;thesamedamperscanbestiffforsportydriving,softfordailydrivingespeciallywithaspouse/partneraboardwholovesCorvetteswithlimousinerides.

Thewrap-aroundcockpitresemblesaracecarcocoon.Ortosomebiggerdrivers,itmayseemalittleconfining.The8-inchcenterstackdisplayhasavolumeandaHomebutton;everythingelseisdonebytouch.

For2020,everyCorvettegetsa12-inchLCDdisplay.It’smatedwithan8-inchcenterstackLCD.Tokeepthedashboarduncluttered,theLCDhasonlyavolumeknobandaHomebutton;everythingelseistouchorvoice.Ahead-updisplayisoptional.AudioisbyBose:10speakersstandardonentrytrimmodels,14speakersincludingwoofersinthedoorpanels.

AMyModefeatureletsthedrivercycleamongpreferreddrivingstyleconfigurations.Asingle“Zmode”(namedaftertheZ06,ZR1,andZ51performancepackages)isactivatedbyasteeringwheelbuttonletsthedrivertakeaMyModefeature,addengineandtransmissiontweaks,andstorethatinthebuttonforback-roadsandtrackuse.

TheCorvetteadoptsGM’snew“digitalvehicleplatform”fornext-generationtechnologies.Itminimizeswiring,allowsfasterdatatransmission,andenableshigher-resdisplays.OtherfeaturesareChevy’sfirstone-touchBluetoothpairingviaaNearFieldCommunicationpatch,Qiwirelesscharging.

Corvette’sPerformanceDataRecorderhasbeenupgraded.It’sanintegratedactioncamera/security,recordslaptimesorpoint-to-pointtraveltimes,andevenknowswhereyouareonaracecourseforauto-calculationoflapinfo.Don’ttrustvaletparking?Youcansetittorecordwhentheignitionissettovaletmode.

First-generationCorvetteC1greetsattendeestothe2020CorvetteC8launchattheTustin(CA)BlimpHanger.TheC1cost$3,490in1953,equalto$33,500intoday’sdollars.

Corvettelaunchedin1953,adecadebeforePorschecameoutwiththePorsche911.Itsbesterawasthe1970s,ironicallyatthetimeofthefirstoilembargosfromtheMiddleEast.Inthisdecade,productionrangedfromahighof42,000in2016toalowofjustunder10,000lastyear.Salesandproductionnumbersalsofollowedtheagingofthemodelswhichran5-10years:

First-generation(C1,1953–1962)

Second-generation(C2,1963–1967)

Third-generation(C3,1968–1982)

Fourth-generation(C4,1984–1996)

Fifth-generation(C5,1997–2004)

Sixth-generation(C6,2005–2013)

Seventh-generation(C7,2014–2019)

Eighth-generation(C8,2020-)

Incomparison,thePorsche911,oftenconsideredthemosticonicsportscar,hasabout1.1millionunitsproduced.(NoFerrariisremotelyclosetoamillion.)PorschesalesarethroughouttheworldwhereCorvettesalesarecenteredinNorthAmerica.Porschesold35,000911slastyear,worldwide.Butwherethe911byitselfwasPorscheCarsfordecades,nowit’sonlyafractionofPorsche’s256,000worldwidesaleslastyear,outsoldbytheMacaancompactSUV(86,000),Cayennemid-sizeSUV(71,000),eventhePanamerasedan(38,000).The911cameoutin1963,atwhichpointCorvettehada70,000-unitheadstart.Porsche’sbiggestmarketisChina,followedbytheUSandGermany.

Detroit-focusedCampbell-Ewaldadagencycampaignfromadecadeagonotedwhogetssungabout.

Morethanadozensongshavebeenwrittenaboutthecar,including“LittleRedCorvette,”evenifthelyricsmeantsomethingelse,“RidingwithPrivateMalone,”“DeadMan’sCurve,”“ShutDown,”“TheBestDay,”“CorvetteDreams,”“TheOneILovedBackThen,”and“CorvetteCrusin’.”

TheCorvettehasbeentheIndianapolis500pacecar16times(17whentheC8pacesthe2020race).IthasbeenontheCarandDriver10BestCarslist20times(HondaAccordhasbeenon33times,BMW3Series23times).IthasbeenMotorTrendCaroftheYearin1984and1998.

Chevroletproduced1.7millionCorvettesoversevengenerationssince1953.Productiontopped50,000in1979and1984.Thisdecade,productionaveraged23,000unitsayear.Note:Lowfiguressuchas1983arewhenmost1983saleswereassignedto1984.Newmodelswerein1953,1963,1968,1984,1997,2005and2014.

Chevroletproduced1.7millionCorvettesoversevengenerationssince1953.Productiontopped50,000in1979and1984.Thisdecade,productionaveraged23,000unitsayear.Note:Lowfiguressuchas1983arewhenmost1983saleswereassignedto1984.

ThecargoesintoproductionlaterthisyearatitssoleproductionfacilityinBowlingGreen,KY.Firstsalesareduetobeearlyin2020.Youwilllikelyfindfewsub-$60Kcarsintheearlyallotments.Buyerswillfinddealermarkupsbecausethat’swhatthemarketwillbear.While100Corvetteownersstagedtheirownpolishedcarsoutsidethelaunchsite,therewillalsobecrankyownerswhocan’tfathomtheideaofaCorvettewithamid-mountedengine,asifbetterweightdistributionandhandlingisabadthing.Theirfatherslikelyprotestedfuelinjection.

2020CorvetteCrossflagssymbolandscriptinchrome.

Thebase2020CorvettewillbecalledStingrayandgetsa6.2-literV8(LT2)enginewith495hp(369kW)and47-pound-feetoftorque.Tiresare18inchesinfront,19inchesinback,with35seriesfronttiresand30seriesreartires.OneoptionwillbethefirstCorvetteratedall-seasonperformancetires.

Chevroletwillreleasemorecompletepricinginthefall.Bepreparedfordealerpricingadjustments(markups)iftheCorvetteisinhotdemand.Inthepast,premiumsonpopularhigh-endsportscarshavebeen$10,000-plusintheirfirstmonthsonthemarket.

AlongwitheveryotherjournalistinAmerica,wecan’twaittotest-drivetheC8Corvette.Version8appearstobeaquantumleapforward.

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