After years of tracking C8 Corvette prototypes, sharing spy photos, sitting in the show cars at various events, and living vicariously through the efforts of the Corvette team as they track-tested the car on the Nurburgring, my opportunity to drive the all-new mid-engine Corvette finally arrived this week.
I was thinking that it would be tough to be objective about testing this car, and I was somewhat concerned if the car would live up to the hype. Now that I’ve returned home after spending two days of driving the new car on both public roads and at Spring Mountain, we can say that it absolutely is one of the most impressive Corvettes we have ever driven. In fact, it’s also true that it will take a good two weeks for the smile to leave my face.
As a quick disclosure, Chevrolet paid our travel and accommodations to Las Vegas, but these words are mine alone and were not shared with anyone prior to posting.
Our first opportunity to get behind the wheel of the 2020 Corvette Stingray came on Monday afternoon. We would be pairing up with other writers and taking the car out on a pre-determined route that would lead us from the Las Vegas Strip and through the Valley of Fire State Park and then back again to Vegas on Interstate 15.
Chevrolet had multiple configurations of the 2020 Corvette Stingray Coupes available to drive and so my good friend and driving partner for the day was John Elegant of the Mid-Engine Corvette Forum who selected a Silver Z51 Coupe with Magnetic Ride Control and 3LT trim that also included the Competition Seats.
One of the fun things of driving a new Corvette Stingray this early is seeing all the people that point at the car as we drove by or those that followed us on the road to take photos of it. We got a lot of thumbs up from others on the road and it was fun to acknowledge those that appreciate the new Stingray. The “Look at Me” factor is very strong right now and that is sure to continue for the next few months!
The 2020 Corvette Stingray is a seriously fun car to drive. Those that have C7 Corvettes will be familiar with many of the controls and functions of the car that include adjusting the HUD, selecting driving modes and more. The car feels very solid and stable on the roads and around the surface streets of Las Vegas where speeds are 35 to 45 mph, the exhaust note is very docile. But get it out where you can open it up a bit and that’s where the 495-hp LT2 V8 really comes to life.
That V8 engine offers power on demand and features that great low-end torque that previous Corvettes equipped with the small-block engines are known for. But what makes driving it different from previous Corvettes is the new 8-speed Dual Clutch Transmission from TREMEC. With the DCT, the car shifts effortlessly from one gear to another, up or down. From a standing stop, we did a few wide-open throttle launches and used the paddle shifts to bang through the gears. As the car shifts from one gear to the next, there is no loss of power, and you don’t get that “snap back” feeling like you do when shifting through the gears of a manual transmission.
When I first got in the car and we were on the busy streets with other traffic and stop lights, I let the DCT do the work in Automatic mode, but once I started using the paddle-shifts, I kept it in Manual mode almost exclusively until returning back to the strip where the Automatic mode makes it easier to let the car do the shifting while my concentration was more focused on the traffic and the route back to the hotel.
The Drive Modes were fun to cycle through and I enjoyed the Sport Mode much thanks to enhanced feelings of tighter steering, firmer brakes, and slightly elevated exhaust note. My driving partner John choose the Track Mode almost exclusively as he loved that display the most as well as the feel of the car when it’s in the top performance mode. The new C8 Corvette also features two customizable modes called MyMode and Z-Mode. They had the Z-Mode set up for us with pre-configured settings and it was fun to switch to it when the roads in the Navada countryside featured sweeping turns and elevation changes.
Each Drive Mode offers a custom display for the driver on the 12-inch configurable gauge cluster and each mode also has its own dedicated Head Up Display (HUD) which is projected onto the windshield in front of the driver.
Speaking of displays, both John and I are were blown away by the rearview camera display on the rearview mirror. The view can be adjusted up or down, zoomed in or zoomed out, and you can increase the brightness for a sunny day, or decrease it when driving at night. Not only that, but the display also gives the passenger a great look at what’s behind the car as well. And once you get used to the display, switching it back to the regular mirror that looks through the rear hatch of the car is like time-traveling back to the stone age. Once you get hooked on viewing that display, you won’t want to go back to the traditional mirror at all.
This side mirrors on the new 2020 Corvette give drivers a great view over the rear hunches of the Stingray. I still am a driver that prefers to “look over their shoulder” when changing lanes, but the mid-engine design does make that harder so I found myself again relying on both the wide-angle rearview display as well as utilizing the side mirror’s Blind Spot detections that would glow yellow when there was another vehicle around the car.
I was also wondering how the Squircle-shaped steering wheel would feel in my hands while driving and to tell you the truth, I forgot about it being a different shape after about 10 minutes of being behind the wheel. I usually like to hold the wheel traditionally in a “9 and 3” position and I found that the top corners of the steering wheel where it bends is a good place to grab hold of when turning sharply onto a side street or parking lot.
As a passenger in the car, I didn’t feel constrained or partitioned off from the driver due to the center console and the “Great Wall of Buttons”. The passenger can access the center infotainment display for changing stations or volume, but it’s a bit of the reach so most likely changes on the entertainment choices and volume of the music will fall to the driver who can easily access the infotainment controls via the steering wheel or use the touch screen that’s perfectly angled. As mentioned above, the rear camera display gives the passenger a great view of the cars behind them. I also found the HVAC controls on the Great Wall of Buttons to be intuitive and easy to use.
As we were driving a 3LT-equipped Corvette Stingray, the stereo was the 14-speaker premium Bose sound system and OMG is that thing loud!! With the top on, I could only crank it up to about 60% before my head wanted to explode and I can imagine with the top off (or down in the Convertible) that you will have no problems listening to your tunes when driving down the highway. It was shocking how incredible the stereo sounded.
On the flip side, the cabin of the car is incredibly quiet during normal driving and you could have a conversation with your passenger at even a whisper. There was a bit of an exhaust drone from the NPP exhaust when John was driving the car in Track Mode at 75 mph on the highway, but a switch of the Driver’s Mode back to Touring Mode put an end to that.
When I first got in the car, the Competition Seats felt very stiff and confining, but once we were in the drive, I sort of forgot about any discomfort and ended up feeling okay once I got the seats adjusted the way I liked. The seat bolsters are very stout when trying to climb in and out of the car, however, I did get to drive a Corvette the next day with the GT2 seats and they were the perfect seat for me.
The weakest part of the new Mid-Engine Corvette Stingray is the lack of interior storage space. As John and I climbed into the car, I had my DSLR camera, a GoPro and my notebook. But with a passenger, there is simply no place to put these items so they would be within easy reach. Each door has a side cove but they aren’t that deep for holding anything substantial. If driving with your wife, she will most likely have to put her purse on the floor in front of her feet. There might be some limited space behind the seats depending on how tall you are and how far back the seats are set, and you could probably stuff a coat or jacket behind them while driving. The good news is that the new C8 Corvette offers more storage space overall than most of its competitors with 12.6 cubic feet available between the front and rear trunks. So you can still take with you what you need, you just have to make stops to access it.
After roughly three and half hours of driving the C8 Corvette, we returned to the hotel and I opened the rear trunk where I had my camera bag stored and the bottom of the trunk was hot from the exhaust. Chevy told us they did a “candy bar” test and that the chocolate bar didn’t melt, but still, my camera bag was very warm from being on the floor in the rear storage area so you will want to consider what you place in the back and instead utilize the frunk for anything that might be sensitive to heat. As the Corvette Team once stated, “beer in the front…pizza in the back”!
Track Testing the Z51 Coupe at Spring Mountain
The second day of our test found us whisked by shuttle van out to Pahrump, NV to Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club, home of the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School. Leading the program out there was Vehicle Performance Manager Alex MacDonald who gave an overview of the track characteristics of the 2020 Corvette Stingray.
This was my fourth time for driving at the “North American Nurburgring” where I have previously done the two-day level 1 school in a C7 Stingray and participated in the C7 Z06 Media Drive. So while I am no track rat, the C8 Corvette Z51 Coupe is the perfect sports car for both serious track drivers and the owner who wants to do occasional track days or autocross.
We were divided into three groups and my group first went to the autocross course that was set up on one of the track’s skid pads. At the time, the temps were probably in the 50s and with the wind gusts it was pretty cool outside, so I let every in my group go first so I could get in the car with somewhat warmer tires (thanks guys!).
The new Corvette Stingray exudes confidence on the track and can make anyone feel like they are Ron Fellows behind the wheel. With the weight of the LT2 engine over the rear wheels, the car hooks up amazingly well and in the corners, you definitely feel the rotation of the car around you. Alex MacDonald said that when the rear of the C7 kicked out, you have to correct it immediately, but when it happens in the C8, it’s not as urgent and I found that to be true especially when I was on the autocross course.
On the Autocross course the car is extremely nimble. It accelerates hard and then darts through the corners. And because the driving position is forward and the engine in the rear, you get a great view of the track ahead and can better see when to turn in the curves. I see from my PDR video that the car generated more than 1 g several times and I saw a high of 1.2 g on my second go-around:
After a fantastic lunch at the Spring Mountain Club House, it was back to the fun and time our group would be doing the lead/follow exercises. Our instructor was Rico who gave a quick classroom session that went over all the procedures and safety tips, and then it was time to really get the car out on the track to see what it can do.
My ride for the track exercises was a C8 Z51 Coupe with GT2 seats and the Magnetic Ride suspension. The fact that it was Elkhart Lake Blue with the two-tone blue interior was also a factor because you want to look good while getting in your track times!
Right from the start, I felt like a hero driving the car and the instructors from the Ron Fellows Driving School take the time to bring up your confidence as each lap progressively gets faster. The ride was exceptionally smooth with the Magnetic Ride Control adjusting the suspension with the use of accelerometers instead of position sensors to make changes to how the car responds.
I alternated between using the paddle shifters and letting the car do its thing with the DCT set to Automatic mode. I had grown to enjoy the paddle-shifting as it requires you to pay closer attention to the car and its various shift points. The DCT allows the driver to keep both hands on the wheel and as Alex MacDonald mentioned in his earlier talk, it’s smarter and faster than any human driver.
The DCT in Manual mode also has some fail-safes built into it. At one point I meant to upshift as I was approaching the red line and instead I toggled the left paddle to down-shift, but the DCT read my intentions, aka “he’s an idiot”, and didn’t do the shift as requested.
Like the autocross experience, the Stingray has a very balanced feel on the track and the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires provided plenty of grip while the coil-over suspension had no problems with me running up on the curbs. Not once did the car ever feel sketchy and that improves driver confidence which allows for faster lap times.
The new monobloc Brembo brakes on the 2020 Corvette Stingray provide exceptional stopping power as I had to lean on them hard at one point to avoid the car in front of me who missed a turn. The brakes stopped the car nice in straight and most importantly, fast!
Following our Lead/Follow exercises, we then got the opportunity to see how fast these cars could go with a hot lap from one of the instructors. While I thought my speed was pretty good for a novice driver, the instructor’s hot lap blew me away with what he was able to do with that car on the track. At those speeds, it was both exhilarating and also it was a particularly brutal ride for a passenger with no handholds to hold on to dear life too.
After two days of driving the C8 Corvette on a variety of roads and in different settings, I am more than convinced that Chevrolet did the right thing in making the move to the mid-engine design. The Corvette’s exotic looks and its ability to punch above its weight keeps it true to Corvette’s heritage. In addition to keeping the Corvette base excited about the new car, we expect the mid-engine design and low price points to attract a whole slew of new owners into the fold who will be proud to call this car their first Corvette. I may be overstating it, but we are witnessing history being made with the introduction of the mid-engine design and the 2020 Corvette Stingray is just the first in what is going to be a fabulous generation of Corvettes.
Numbers and Stats
2020 Corvette Stingray Z51 Coupe
Price as tested: $89,295.00
MSRP Starting Prices
1LT Coupe: $59,995
2LT Coupe: $67,295
3LT Coupe: $71,495
Trim Packages with Featured Equipment
1LT: 19/20 inch wheels, Leather GT1 seats and steering wheel, 10-speaker Bose
2LT: Nav, 14-speaker Bose, Front Parking Cam, Rearview video display, HUD, PDR, Memory Seats, Safety Features
3LT: premium leather GT2 seats, carbon fiber, suede upper trim
Engine / Transmission / Fuel Ratings
LT2 V8 makes 490 hp/470 lb-ft torque. With the dual mode performance exhaust (NPP $1,195) part of Z51 or standalone (Z51 offers NPP, E-LSD, Brakes, performance rear axle, summer tires)
First ever 8-speed paddle-shift dual-clutch transmission from Tremec
Optional FE4 magnetorheological dampers (an additional $1,895 requires Z51)
15 City / 27 Highway – cylinder deactivation allows the engine to run on only four cylinders in certain situations.
We were unable to do any performance timing of the 2020 Corvette Stingray, so here are the big-three auto magazines and their test results:
Car and Driver:
0-60 mph in 2.8 sec / 11.2 sec @ 122 mph / 149 feet from 70 mph braking /1.03 g on Skidpad
0-60 mph in 2.8 sec / 11.1 sec @ 123.2 mph / 97 feet 60-0 mph / 1.04 on Skidpad
Road & Track:
0-60 mph in 2.8 sec / 149 feet 70-0 mph / 1.03 g on Skidpad
Tires and Wheels
Michelin Run Flat tires are offered in 245/35ZR19 front and 305/30ZR20 rear and are available in two different configurations:
Pilot Sport All Season 4 – All season tires offer 0.97 g grip and three-season capability.
Pilot Sport 4S Summer Tires – Standard on Z51
Six total wheel designs – Four RPO Wheels and two LPO Wheels
Interior / Cabin Features / Storage
Chevrolet Infotainment 3 Plus System with 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, 4G LTE mobile hot spot, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. 10-Speaker or 14-speaker Bose, plus 12.6 cubic feet of cargo space
Blind Spot Monitoring (2LT, 3LT)
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (2LT, 3LT)
Rear Park Assist (Standard)
Advanced Theft Deterrent
Front Curb View Parking Cameras (2LT, 3LT) Rear Camera Mirror (2LT, 3LT)
We’d like to tip our hats to the Chevrolet team for inviting us to test drive the all-new 2020 Corvette Stingray. Thanks to Corvette Team members Harlan Charles, Ed Piatec, Alex MacDonald, Mike Kociba as well as Chevy PR team including Kevin Kelly, Chris Bonelli and Carole Waldowski for answering all of our questions and generally showing us a great time. Also, a huge round of thanks to Rick Malone, Todd Crutcher, and all the crew out at Spring Mountain!
[VIDEO] The 2020 Corvette Stingray on the Road, at Spring Mountain, and On the Las Vegas Strip!
[VIDEO] Walkaround and Highway Driving Scenes of an Accelerate Yellow 2020 Corvette Stingray
[VIDEO] Watch These Multiple C8 Corvettes Utilize Launch Control