With C8 production officially underway, we wanted to reminisce about the past six years of Corvette production. The seventh-generation is widely considered the greatest ‘Vette of all time and a fitting pinnacle to the 67-year run in which America’s Sports Car had its engine in front of the driver.
Performance and sales-wise, it is impossible to call the C7 anything but a roaring success. It also took large strides towards rehabilitating the image of the Corvette’s interior which had been maligned by journalists for decades. As of right now, the C7 holds several distinctions in Corvette lore. The two most powerful Corvettes of all time are C7s, the fastest straight-line and track times ever set in a ‘Vette were done in seventh-gen cars, it boasts the most expensive variant in GM’s long history, and, as far as we know, it will be the final generation to offer a manual transmission. We would say that the Corvette Team hit a home run with the C7 but, hindsight being 20/20, there are some things that we wish would have been implemented before the switch to a mid-engine layout.
They made a Stingray, Grand Sport, Z06, ZR1, and a convertible version of each and we still wanted more? Hear us out.
Ever since they got a glimpse at SEMA 2010, HPDE enthusiasts have been craving a production-spec Z06X. If you missed out on the concept back then and aren’t into clicking on links, the gist of the X version of the Z06 was this: Chevrolet engineers took our favorite Z07 package to the next level of track-worthiness by cutting weight with additional carbon fiber, racing wheels, and the deletion of carpeting, radio, and sound-deadening materials. They then added an adjustable carbon wing, a roll cage, coil-over struts, and stabilizer bars to help the 427 ci monster corner even better. The X might not have made it past the concept stage but it left a lasting impression.
Enter the summer of 2018, when Autoblog’s spy photographers captured a glimpse of a C7 Z06 out in the wild with a Sebring Orange ZR1-Style wing, a roll-cage, and a tow-hook running around Michigan wearing manufacturers plates. This sighting led many, including everyone at CorvetteBlogger, to hope that a real, production version of the X was on the way but alas, the time has come and gone and this one didn’t even make it past the testing stage. Perhaps this car wasn’t a Z06X at all, and GM was simply testing out some new C8 tech out in the open, we may never know but there is always hope that the X will finally show its face on showroom floors with the next generation ‘Vette.
A further differentiated Grand Sport
The C7 Grand Sport was widely hailed by journalists as the sweet-spot in the Corvette line-up but we can’t help but look at the GS and imagine what could have been with one small supplement. We would have loved seeing the most balanced, best-handling Corvette in the corral receive its own engine. Envision, if you will, a world where Chevrolet chose to introduce the 495 HP LT2 in the C7 GS, creating a model structure that spanned from the 460 horse Stingray to a Grand Sport with 495 ponies, and then on up to the supercharged Z models.
This would have added value, speed, and prestige to the GS while also forcing the C8 team to up the ante even further for the introduction of the mid-engine marvel, which would have been that much better if it featured a hypothetical LT3 making in the neighborhood of 530 horsepower.
Parts and Tech
The C7 was (and still is) a technological powerhouse but there are a few items that, if included, would have improved the most advanced car in the Corvette lineage even further.
Carbon Fiber wheels
It looks like the reduction in weight and rotating mass that accompanies the undeniable flair of a carbon fiber wheel are headed to a C8 variant near you in the coming year or so; but why did it take GM so long to pick up the phone for a call to Carbon Revolution to make them a wheel supplier? The Corvette is supposed to be the first domestic car to debut a flashy, new, race-inspired feature, that is the way Zora did it, that is the way Chevrolet has always done it, and it had worked out pretty well up until 2016 (technically late 2015) when Ford beat them to the punch of offering mass-market CF wheels. Now, not one, but two separate Mustang models have an option for carbon rims (three Fords overall if you include the GT) while, five model-years later, Corvette buyers continue to be left in the cold and it doesn’t feel right, we don’t think that Snickers hole they drilled in the world for the Super Bowl is working!
The C7 Z06 would have been the perfect place in the timeline to launch these wheels to the public with much fanfare and disbelief but when they actually show up on the C8 Z06, it will still be awesome, but in more of a “better late than never” kind of way.
Pilot Sport Cup 2Rs
Corvettes have been on the bleeding edge of the automotive industry in semi-slick track-special tires since they debuted the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup on 2012 Z06 and ZR1 models upgraded with either the Z07 or PDE ultimate performance package. These tires were so grippy, that Motor Trend gave them the majority of the credit for the Z06 setting the fastest lap the first time GM sent a Z06 on Sport Cups to their Best Driver’s Car Competition and Mercedes-AMG just chose to fit their top-spec GT-R supercar with C7 Z06-spec Michelins, in lieu of collaborating with the French tire manufacturer for a bespoke version.
So, imagine the surprise GM must have felt when the C7’s 755 Horse swansong was met on the battlefield by Porsche’s 700HP 911 GT2RS wearing a new Cup 2R that was specifically to “beat track records.” When compared to the Z06-spec Cup 2 that continued on the ZR1, the R has a 10% greater contact patch and is worth a claimed .5 of a second per kilometer over the “standard” Cup 2 (though you didn’t hear MT mention that when the 2RS set a new lap record at Laguna Seca during another edition of Best Driver’s Car).
We desperately wanted to see the ZR1 be the first American, and the first sub-$250k car, to break the 7-minute barrier at the Nürburgring. It ended up (unofficially) falling just short due to a string of unfortunate luck as told by engineer and Corvette ‘Ring hot-shoe, Jim Mero. With the R version of the Sport Cup 2, even with less than ideal conditions, the King of the Hill should have easily shaved the necessary five seconds to get into the 6’s on the infamous 20.832 km track and it could have given the top-of-the-line Porsche a run of its money at Laguna Seca.
We will chalk this one up to a shift of focus to the mid-engine program.
Active Aero and a DCT
We covered our desire for active aerodynamics to show up on the C8 last week but want to reiterate here that the patent that GM filed for this tech showed a C7, not a C8. We would have loved it if the C7 ZR1 had been a testbed for this technology. The same thing goes for the much-publicized Dual Clutch Transmission on the new Stingray. The C7 Z06 and ZR1 deserved to have a similar system developed for them when it was decided to offer automatic Z models for the first time. This could have lowered lap-times even further, “vetted” the DCT earlier, and even cut into a good deal of the early C7 Z06’s notorious overheating issues which were attributed to the 8-speed torque converter.
The following are also things that were on the C7 wish lists that we sent to Santa at various times during development. We believe that we would have seen them in an ideal world.
Paint to Sample
We have covered it quite a bit here lately, but we were expecting to join other high-end manufacturers with some paint customization options when the opening of the new paint shop in Bowling Green. Paint quality seems to have improved but we hoped to see more payoff from GM’s $439 million investment.
An Heir to the LS7
Before Chevrolet debuted the C7 Z06 in 2015, many were hoping that it would carry on the tradition of the C5 and C6 iterations with a focus on lightweight and a sublime, naturally aspirated V8. The LT4 was, indeed, sublime but we still wonder what a 7.0L fifth-generation small-block would have looked like. The addition of variable valve timing and direct injection to an LS7 could have yielded 550-600 sweet, NA ponies without the added weight of a supercharger. It could have been glorious; just imagine our purposed GS above and give it an extra 100 ponies. In the words of my students, mind blown emoji!
Our hope for a true successor to the LS7 didn’t die with the (admittedly fantastic) blown Z06. Later on in the C7’s run, when rumblings of a ZR1 started to circulate, we thought maybe that car would be our chance. Engineers said that they couldn’t meet MPG targets with a large-bore LT engine, but, just maybe, they could fulfil our free-breathing fantasies by going another route. This hole in the market mixed with the reborn “LT” engine nomenclature had us wondering about an encore for the 4 Cam, 32-Valve layout last seen in 1995. This would have flipped the C6 hierarchy upside-down, giving us a supercharged Z06 (possibly with a power bump to 700ish horses) and a unique, NA ZR1 with 600ish horses.
None of this came to pass and instead, we got two different supercharged monsters to choose from. Enthusiasts of atmospheric engines are still holding out hope for a high-revving DOHC, flat-plane V8 to show up in the middle of a C8 Z06 or Grand Sport before we see turbos and fancy hybrid tech across the board. Looking back, it is pretty cool to have two big supercharged engines in the C7 line-up while the rest of the industry was laser-focused on downsizing, adding turbos and power while losing some of the character that made the past decade+ of performance cars so interesting.
As we say goodbye to the final new C7s, what do you think, Corvette Nation? Is there anything you would have liked to see on the post-bailout Corvettes or, in retrospect, were they the perfect cars for their time? We are heavily leaning towards the latter; our missed opportunities are largely bragging-rights items that wouldn’t have changed much about the C7’s overall narrative of excellence. You could say that we are still head over heels for 2014-2019 Corvettes and that the classic, front-engine design will be dearly missed in these parts.