The cadence of a modern Corvette product roll-out is like the beat of a familiar song for us faithful fans.
First, the base model breaks cover and its newness is leveraged for all its worth. Then, over the lifespan of the car, multiple trim levels debut creating lustful thoughts from existing owners who yearn to trade up to the latest version. A clever (and profitable) strategy by Chevrolet to maintain interest and sales over the lifespan of the car.
The trim level names include a familiar cast of characters. Stingray, Grand Sport, Z06 and ZR1 with the only deviations being where they are slotted in the performance hierarchy.
While the all-new C8 is going to continue this strategy, there’s a new twist that is rarely talked about in the open air. First, we told you about the electric hybrid E-Ray trim level that will not only replace the Grand Sport, but will introduce all-wheel drive and electric propulsion to the Corvette for the first time. Combined with the LT2 V8, the hybrid will be estimated at 600hp and will slot nicely between the base model and the 650hp, flat-plane crank DOHC V8 Z06.
A top-of-the-line Zora model will take the E-Ray a step further with 1000hp and nest at the top of the lineup. Motor Trend brings us a deeper dive of the new model mix, but if you read between the lines, the future of Corvette unfolds further. Based on this article, when the full C8 lineup blossoms, fully half of the lineup will have hybrid-electric power.
We can liken this staggered lineup of mixed propulsion C8s to tenderly wading into the icy ocean on the first day of spring, a gradual immersion that offsets the thermal shock of just diving in. Petrol Corvettes will keep the faithful happy and the hybrids will simultaneously attract new buyers to the marque while softening up the base for the future of an all-electric Corvette.
I hate to break this to you, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the LT2 and flat-plane crank V8s will be the last internal combustion engines developed for the Corvette. The next gen, C9 Corvette will be an electric performance car.
GM has made several, very conspicuous moves that coincide with my hypotheses. The corporation’s public vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion is well known. They recently moved the Corvette development team under the umbrella of the corporation’s electric propulsion group. Before all this with little fanfare, they moved the father of the Camaro, Al Oppenheiser, over to EV development as well. To move ALL the go-fast talent that brought us the modern Camaro and Corvette over to EV development is telling to sat the least. While GM is historically tight lipped when it comes to future product, these clues point in the same all-electric direction.
Which leads us to the next question, how would an all-electric C9 Corvette be configured?
Today’s C8 has a big lump of metal behind the seats, exhaust plumbing, fuel delivery system, extensive air management and a complex, traditional cooling system, all which would be absent in an electric model.
To put it bluntly, the C8’s architecture is set up around a technically obsolete internal combustion engine and all its attendant subsystems. Retrofitting the existing C8 architecture for all-electric propulsion would be unrealistic at best.
To get an idea of what a C9 Corvette might look like, let’s look at current modern EV architecture. The latest Tesla Roadster has three motors, a pair driving each front wheel and a single unit bringing up the rear. The battery pack is mounted low within the wheelbase, putting the heaviest component at the point of rotation. This clean sheet design garners all benefits of an old school mid-engine car without the packaging hurdles and compromises.
This blueprint might be the best glimpse of what an all-electric Corvette would look like. The performance gains from this EV architecture would be as big a leap as we saw with the mid-engine layout of the C8.
I know this is hard to swallow, but the good news is, for those not sold on the mid-engine C8, it might be a “one and done” generation. In the meantime, Chevrolet still makes gas-powered Corvettes with over 100 years of internal combustion engine refinement. So, if you think all this talk is sacrilege, Chevrolet would love to sell you the best gas-powered Corvette ever produced for at least five more years. Get yours now and preserve it for future generations.
The Corvette has always been the technological tip-of-the-spear for GM. From its plastic body, four-wheel disc brakes, fuel injection, fiber optics and multiple cams, the ‘Vette has debuted and mainstreamed new GM tech over the years. To think that would change in the age of electrification is Pollyanna at best.
For those grumbling about how this is the end of the Corvette, all is not lost. The Corvette will turn 70 years old in 2023 and hundreds of thousands are still on the road. As a C4 owner, I love and maintain my car and hearing it rumble to life on a Sunday morning is a timeless treat. We can love and preserve eight generations of old school Corvettes and still enjoy the wonders that modern technology holds in store for us. It truly is the best of both worlds.
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