Popular Mechanics recently played the guessing game on the 2012 C7 Corvette and since we’re all about Corvettes here (hence the name – CorvetteBlogger), we decided to reprise our role of irresponsible speculators. Besides, now that the supercharged ZR1 is rolling off the assembly line, we need something new to dream about. With the changing times brought on by $4/gallon gas, we know two elements that will become the mantra for those in charge of developing the next Corvette – reduced weight and fuel efficiency. How GM gets there will be the trick.
Development for every generation of Corvette since the C4 has started out with engineer’s dreaming of a mid engine layout. And every single time its tried its ruled too expensive. As one of the hallmarks of the C7 program will be weight reduction, a mid engine Corvette will not be in the cards for the C7. Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics tells Popular Mechanics “The mid-engine Corvette is simply too expensive. It would need costly new tooling and offers little weight savings because it requires an extra, metal-intensive firewall.” So count on the next Corvette being like the first Corvette – front engined and rear wheel drive.
So what will go in that engine compartment? GM’s recently foray into supercharged engines could mean a smaller V8 with displacement returning back around 5.7 liters instead of the 6.2 liter and 7.0 liters we see on the C6 Corvette. But superchargers, turbo charging and variable valve timing will still make the smaller V8’s much more powerful than their predecessors.
Can a Corvette be a Corvette without a V8? Another bold idea being floated is a twin-turbo version of the 3.6-liter DOHC V6 that’s currently in the Cadillac CTS. That engine could easily pump out 400 hp, just 36 less than today’s LS3 V8. Drop that engine into a Corvette that weighs several hundred pounds less than today’s C6 and you’ll have something moves.
And speaking of weight, the new C7 Corvette will have to be several hundred pounds lighter to maintain that all important performance to weight ratio. The Corvette Z06 is already considered relatively light at 3200 pounds and technology exists to cut this figure even more. Katech recently announced that their ClubSport Z06 in its ultimate performance configuration has a weight of 2825 lbs, so we know its doable.
We could see the next generation Corvette make more extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum, especially as these materials mature and higher production levels can be achieved. The hydroformed steel frame found on the Coupe and Convertible models could be dumped altogether in favor of the aluminum frame used on the Z06 and ZR1 models. Titanium and Magnesium are two other pound saving materials that have found their way onto Corvettes in limited production but the cost factor for these metals is higher so use may still be limited to wheels and exhaust.
Popular Mechanics also believes that despite the fuel savings that could be gained from Corvette moving to a dual clutch gearbox, one with seven gears and a wide ratio spread, the development dollars for such a project, estimated at half a billion dollars, has already been shifted to other more pressing projects like the Chevy Volt. We’ll have to wait and see if this is the case as that UAW agreement that ended the strike last fall calls for such a transmission to be built.
And finally, the next Corvette will be drawn by the same talented designers who’ve been on a roll lately with efforts including the Cadillac CTS, Pontiac’s Solstice Coupe and the new Chevrolet Camaro. The Corvette Centennial Design Concept that will make its movie debut in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen may provide some insight to the limits that GM’s designers are willing to push for the 2012 Corvette C7.