With six figures separating their prices, are these mid-engine sports cars even comparable? Yes.
Alexander StoklosaWriterWilliam WalkerPhotographerMar 31, 2020
The new-for-2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 can seemingly drive on water, its holy combination of exoticism and affordability winning praise and awards across the automotive spectrum. We named it a 2020 Automobile All-Star. Is there nothing the first-ever mid-engine Corvette can’t do?
Curious to test the new Chevy sports car’s limits, we put it up against another mid-engine supercar that we found lying around during our 2020 All-Stars testing: The 2020 Lamborghini Huracan Evo. Absurd? Perhaps. The duo’s base prices are separated by $124,039, and the Italian has a 141-hp advantage (136, if you count the extra five ponies the Corvette’s sports exhaust unlocks), two additional cylinders, and an extra driven axle. Surely, the Huracan will make meatballs out of the Vette, right?
So long as you suspend the obvious observation—that someone shopping for the Huracan definitely wouldn’t step foot in a dealership that also sells white bread stuff like the Equinox and Spark, and no would-be Corvette buyer is cross-shopping a new Lamborghini—this comparison is a lot closer than you might expect. Mostly, that’s because the Corvette punches way above its weight, and not due to any specific deficiency on the Lambo’s part.
Power And Acceleration? Yes.
Both the Corvette and Huracan are powered by naturally aspirated engines. The Chevy uses a 6.2-liter pushrod V-8 engine, an all-American masterpiece producing 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque in base form. Bump those figures by five each when the optional performance exhaust—fitted to our test car—is selected. That 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft are sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle and an electronic limited-slip differential.
Lamborghini fits the Huracan with a 5.2-liter V-10, which produces 631 horsepower way up at 8,000 rpm (the Vette’s horsepower peak hits at 6,450, and its redline is similarly lower) and 442 lb-ft of torque at a high 6,500 rpm (the Corvette’s torque peak lands at 5,150). A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission distributes engine torque to the front and rear axles via all-wheel drive.
Surprisingly, the Corvette streaks to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds (as tested by our friends at MotorTrend), matching the estimated figure for the Huracan Evo. The European boasts a higher top speed of 202 mph, whereas the Corvette tops out at 184 to 194 mph, depending on equipment. Since there are basically no places in America for owners to probe those speeds, the Lambo’s lead here is negligible. What counts is that the C8 can hang with the Lamborghini in straight-line speed—with less power (but greater torque) and without all-wheel drive. Oh, and for less than a third of the price. Take your pick on which engine sounds better—the Vette’s classic American soundtrack or the Lamborghini’s exotic V-10 wail, but know that the Huracan’s engine power seems to hit harder, likely a consequence of the drama-free all-wheel-drive traction it enjoys.
Handling And Drivability
Chevrolet has long tuned the Corvette for everyday use (well, at least the regular-grade Vettes), and the C8 delivers a downright supple ride. Our test car came with the adaptive suspension, which, left in its default Tour mode, soaked up bumps smoothly and quietly. The Lamborghini is more bucking bull, with a firm, unyielding suspension and a tendency to allow bump impacts to reverberate through the structure and cause cabin booming.
At the track, both mid-engine sports cars are capable, despite their vastly different personalities. The Lamborghini leverages its gobs of mechanical grip, all-wheel drive, and utterly stable-feeling chassis to simply go wherever the driver points the nose. For all the intensity in the V-10’s noise and the driver’s low seating position up near the front axle, the Huracan Evo is remarkably approachable when driven quickly. That isn’t to say it is boring—the experience is visceral, and you can coax the Lambo into giggly oversteer with an aggressive throttle foot, but the experience never feels a hair’s width away from a big, expensive, ego-bruising “oops” moment.
The Corvette also is forgiving when driven hard, though its driver-selectable chassis and powertrain modes seem to afford it greater behavior bandwidth than the Huracan. Flipping the Vette from Tour mode to its Track setting and dialing back the Performance Traction Management (PTM) to its more permissive stability-control thresholds wakes the C8 up considerably, though it also comes with a needlessly heavier (and artificial) steering weighting. Most drivers preferred the quicker-feeling, lighter Sport steering setting.
Details aside, the Corvette can be pushed comfortably to its limits, never delivering any snappiness or edge. The chassis seems tuned to initially dole out moderate understeer near its grip limit, but skilled drivers can easily transition past this safety net with heavier throttle inputs, revealing the Corvette’s balanced setup. Perhaps GM’s chassis-tuning mavens—some of the best in the business—built in the slight push to keep Corvette buyers uninitiated to mid-engine handling behaviors from backing their new C8s into guardrails.
We take greater issue with the Chevy’s brake pedal, which operates with a somewhat spongy weirdness (it artificially shifts its response depending on the drive mode). Never did we feel as if the Vette’s stopping power was in question—only that it was difficult to understand; the Lambo’s stoppers operated more linearly and predictably, with far better feel.
Looks And Prestige
Buying a Lamborghini isn’t solely about taking home an exotic car—you’re buying into a lifestyle, one in which you’ll be stopped often by passers-by looking to snap photos, or challenged to drag race by folks in Dodge Challengers with those stupid yellow lower-bumper pre-delivery protector caps still fitted. Everyone will assume you’re wealthy and eager for attention. But you already knew that. How does the Corvette compare?
Until now, the Vette has been a pretty common thing. General Motors considers it a volume sales model, so previous iterations weren’t rare. And we can’t ignore front-engine Corvettes’ street image as chrome-wheeled, automatic-transmission golf shuttles for old men. Forget all that.
The C8 attracts Lamborghini levels of attention, a phenomenon unlikely to subside no matter how many GM builds. Americans are intimately familiar with the Corvette, less so with this new wedge-shaped, exotic-looking version, so we encountered plenty of curious onlookers in California and especially Michigan with our test vehicles. Just like its performance, the long, pointy 2020 Corvette’s visual wattage zaps well beyond its attainable pricing.
Chevrolet also finally fixed the Corvette’s previously subpar interior, bringing it not merely in line with the sports car’s $60,000 base price, but to some plateau slightly beyond—knowing full well it’ll lose money on the less-expensive models as a result. Porsche’s been doing this for years with the 911, acknowledging that the same basic interior has to be acceptable both in the entry-level model and in those 911 variants costing twice as much. The Corvette’s cabin materials seem downright appropriate at our test car’s $80,000-some list price. Those nicer plastics and leather are stitched and tightly fitted to form truly original shapes and adventurous styling elements, such as the long, thin row of climate controls bifurcating the interior and the squared-off two-spoke steering wheel.
And, so, we end this non sequitur on familiar turf: The Corvette is a screaming deal, delivering the looks and performance of a more expensive vehicle. In the past, that’s been enough to occasionally pick off a Porsche in a head-on comparison—but is it enough to vanquish a Lamborghini? As we mentioned up front, there will be almost no overlap between C8 and Huracan Evo buyers, so the question is basically abstract. Dissociated from reality and buyer prejudice, however, yes, the Corvette rises to the Lamborghini’s occasion while delivering better everyday livability. And, remember, this is the base 2020 Corvette C8. Just wait until Chevy delivers the high-performance Z06, the hybrid, and the rumored 900-hp ZR1 hybrid. What will the Corvette usurp then?
|2020 Chevrolet Corvette Specifications|
|PRICE||$59,995 (base)/$83,825 (as tested)|
|ENGINE||6.2L OHV 16-valve V-8/490-495 hp @ 6,450 rpm, 465-470 lb-ft @ 5,150 rpm (higher figures due to performance exhaust)|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|2020 Lamborghini Huracan Evo Specifications|
|PRICE||$184,034 (base)/$235,084 (as-tested)|
|ENGINE||5.2L DOHC 40-valve V-10/631 hp @ 8,000 rpm, 442 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|