Mount Van Hoevenberg track (Provided photo — Jimmy Reed)
LAKE PLACID — USA Bobsled/Skeleton athletes are back on ice at Mount Van Hoevenberg to kick off the much-anticipated 2020-2021 season. U.S. athletes are normally on track by early October, but increased safety measures due to the global pandemic delayed the start of the season.
“It’s great to have the team back on the ice,” USABS CEO Aron McGuire said in a statement. “We’ve had all hands on deck to get our athletes back to the ice safely. While it’s complicated and things continually change, our athletes have done an exceptional job of remaining flexible and focused. One of the positives of this pandemic is that we’ve seen just how resilient and strong our athletes are.”
Team trials were originally scheduled to take place in Lake Placid and Park City, Utah, but USABS leadership announced Tuesday, Nov. 3 that team trials will take place entirely in Lake Placid. The coaches and staff want to limit the number of variables involved in team selections by not disrupting the system currently in place. In addition, warmer temperatures are expected in Lake Placid, which may push the current competition days back. USABS is hoping to utilize the Park City track for national team training camps after the team is named.
Skeleton athletes were welcomed to the track by a snow storm Monday, Nov. 2, when they had the opportunity to take their first runs of the season.
“After a longer than normal offseason and so much uncertainty leading into this winter, it was nice to finally get on ice,” skeleton Olympian Kendall Wesenberg said in a press release. “We know how much effort went into getting us to this point, and we are so thankful for the extra effort. Our USABS staff, the U.S. Olympic Training Center staff, and the track crew put in a lot of hard work to make this happen, and it feels great to be back getting to do what we do.”
Bobsledders had to wait one more day before getting back on ice, and took their opening run of the 2020-2021 season the evening of Election Day.
“Getting back in the saddle was huge today,” bobsled pilot Hunter Church said in a press release. “It’s hard enough to go an entire summer without driving, but even harder because my last run of the 2019-2020 season was a crash. It felt really good to shake that off finally. The track crew is hustling the best they can to keep us sliding, and we’re very appreciative for everyone’s extra efforts to get us on ice this season.”
USABS athletes will be training and competing in Lake Placid for the start of national team trials to decide who will compete on the World Cup tour. The U.S. team has opted out of at least the first half of the international season to reduce quarantine times and travel for the athletes.
Ranging from pure performance monsters to cool and unique designs, here are some of the coolest forms the Corvette has taken over the years.
Long live America’s sports car – first shown to the world at GM’s Motorama in 1953, the Corvette is nearing its 70th anniversary as the premier American sports car, and one that has come to represent the American performance game. With its signature V8 power, and price that makes it a great value for the performance, the Corvette has stuck around in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts, even through its darkest years during the Oil Crisis.
Along the way through, the Corvette has also been defined by a multitude of special editions. Ranging from pure performance monsters to awesome looking aesthetic changes, the special edition Corvettes have been some of the coolest forms the car has taken over its long life. These 10 though, are among the sickest special edition Corvettes to ever hit the street.
The greatest of all classic Corvettes, the L88 is an absolutely wicked, special, and rare ‘Vette that now commands millions of dollars at auction.
Unleashed onto the world in 1967, the L88’s development was carried out under command of Zora Arkus-Duntov himself. Packing plenty of racing-oriented modifications, the L88 was intended to help further the Corvette’s status as a motorsports icon. But, what was truly special about the L88, was its engine. Thoroughly modified, the legendary 427 V8 inside the ‘Vette was brought up to a truly wild number of around 580 hp.
Stripped of most comfort based options and features, GM tried to scare people away from buying the monstrous car. Down-rating it, and claiming the engine had 435 hp, intentions were for people to be scared off by the lack of “civilized” features, and opt for another performance package that included them while having similar power. Mostly ending up used as race cars (to GM’s relief), only 20 L88 Corvettes were made in 1967, making them one of the most powerful, and rare special editions in the Corvette’s history.
A familiar name in the modern Corvette’s legacy, the ZR1 began life as a successor to the earth-shattering L88, and still stands for the ultimate performance edition a Corvette can have.
Sold under a Regular Production Order (RPO) from 1970 until 1972, the ZR1 was similar to the L88 in that ordering it meant you had to sacrifice many comfort-based options such as air conditioning, the radio, and power steering. What you got in return though, were specialized performance parts like beefy suspension, a performance transmission, and big brakes. More importantly, though, the ZR1 gave you the special LT1 small-block V8 laying down 370 hp, turning the C3 Corvette into a monster. Yet, only 25 ZR1s were sold in 1970, making it among the rarest special edition Corvettes.
With the Corvette losing most of its performance and overall greatness during the tail end of the C3 generation, and the first years of the C4, the 1990 ZR1 came about to reclaim the nameplate’s glory as a performance monster.
Named “King of the Hill” during its development, this revival of the ZR1 would live up to that name in spades. Forgoing the standard V8 that had been powering the C4, a special 5.7 L LT5 V8 making 380 hp was mounted inside – developing over 400 hp by the end of its run. Not just powerful though, at the time GM owned Lotus and brought them on to make the ZR1 handle as well as it accelerated. An instant success, the 1990 ZR1 was one of the fastest cars of the early ’90s, helping rekindle the Corvette’s flame, and remaining on sale until 1995.
1966 Grand Sport
While somewhat overshadowed by the 1990-95 ZR1, the 1996 Grand Sport was an awesome way to send off the C4 generation Corvette.
Built as an homage to the ’60s Grand Sport Corvette racecars, the 1996 Grand Sport was situated in a tough position. With the C4 ZR1 ending in 1995, and the all-new C5 ready for release in 1997, Chevy needed to make a splash with a special edition for the C4’s retirement.
While not the performance beast that the ZR1 was, the Grand Sport was one of the coolest C4 Corvettes to be released. Tuning the LT1 V8 to 330 hp, and renaming it the LT4, the Grand Sport was genuinely quick for the late ’90s. Sporting the iconic blue and white paint with red fender marks, the 1996 Grand Sport did its job of sending off the C4 with great style and set the tone for later Grand Sport editions of the Corvette.
2004 Z06 Commemorative Edition
Similar to the 1996 Grand Sport, the 2004 Commemorative Edition was a send-off for the C5 generation of Corvette, and focused on a flashy red, white, and blue paint job.
Available on either the coupe, convertible, or Z06 flavors of Corvette, the Commemorative Edition was mostly just aesthetic changes. Painted in the same base scheme as the Le Mans C5-R, the Commemorative Edition came with plenty of cool touches like badges and seat embroidery. One performance touch present though, order the Commemorative Edition Z06, and you had the option to add a carbon fiber hood.
Bringing the special edition ZR1 nameplate back for its third shot at crushing the performance game, 2009 saw it return with the greatest power of any road-going Corvette before it.
Gone from the market since the previous one’s end in 1995, the ZR1 returned with ferocity after 14 years. Like the previous ZR1s it followed in the footsteps of, a monstrous and unique engine was placed inside – the supercharged LS9 V8 spitting out a whopping 638 hp. With features like a window in the hood that displays the supercharger, the most power a stock Corvette had up until it, and a 200 MPH+ top speed, the 2009 ZR1 helped prove that the Corvette was a competitive force in the modern car industry.
2011 Z06 Carbon Limited Edition
Another special edition that celebrates the Corvette’s long-lived presence at Le Mans, the Z06 Carbon Limited Edition does more than just add a special paint job though.
A number that will be instantly recognizable to Chevy fans, the 427 Convertible pays tribute to the legendary 427 big-block V8 of Chevy’s muscle car past.
While the Z06 is a favorite amongst Corvette fans for its balance of performance, affordability, and ease of street use, one of its best features on the C6 generation was the 505 hp LS7 V8. Although the Z06 and its LS7 didn’t come in convertible form – the 427 Convertible changed that.
While missing Z06 exclusive features like its aluminum frame, the 427 Convertible drops the LS7 into a convertible Corvette and adds touches like a special paint scheme, and the rear axle and shock absorbers from the Z06. Back to the name though, the LS7 is technically a 427.7 cu-in engine, but Chevy rounded down to pay tribute to their classic big block, it’s a technicality that’s easy to forgive though, especially when the car is this cool.
The 4th, and most powerful iteration of the legendary ZR1, the C7 based edition is also the last time ZR1 will be used on the Corvette’s traditional front-engine layout.
Even better, or worse – depending on your perspective, the C8 ZR1 is confirmed to be a hybrid. But back to the C7 ZR1 – serving as the 4th time the special edition ZR1 has graced Chevy showrooms, the 2019 ZR1 evolved from the 2009 version with even more ridiculous amounts of power. Capable of a 0-60 MPH time of 3.0 seconds thanks to the 755 hp its supercharged LT5 V8 produces, the 2019 ZR1 is the most powerful and most insane stock Corvette so far – though, the C8 ZR1 is said to be shooting for 900 hp.
2016 Z06 C7/R Edition
A team with many decades of racing legacy, Corvette Racing’s C7.R is the focus of this special edition, using a Z06 to pay tribute to the full-on racecar and its iconic yellow paint.
Limited to only 500 units, the C7.R edition was available on Z06 Corvettes and offered the Z07 Performance Package with its carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes. Otherwise, the C7.R Edition is mostly an aesthetic one, packing Corvette Racing Yellow paint, special graphics, wheels, yellow brake calipers, as well as a black interior with yellow contrast stitching. Equipped with the C7 Z06’s supercharged LT4 V8 with 650 hp, the C7.R Edition is one of the coolest for fans of the Corvette Racing team.
Luxury automakers are trying to lure in younger fans through hyped-up partnerships with insidery clothing companies like Aimé Leon Dore, Kith and Supreme
EARLY THIS FEBRUARY, before we all began sheltering in place, visitors streamed into the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in downtown Manhattan to ogle a one-of-a-kind Porsche.
The refreshed vintage Porsche 964 coupe—white with a shiny red Pegasus emblem, a honey-tinted leather interior and a swooping “duckbill” spoiler tacked on the back—was designed by Teddy Santis, the founder of Aimé Leon Dore, a 7-year-old streetwear label based in Queens. The result of an official partnership between the label and the German automaker, the car sat in the gallery’s center on an interwoven heap of Persian-style rugs. For four days, Mr. Santis’s fans poured through the doors in droves to inspect the interior’s splashes of Loro Piana fabric, scoop up co-branded apparel and take photos of the extremely hyped, extremely not-for-sale auto.
The partnership was the first of several 2020 pair-ups between luxury automakers and youth-seducing clothing designers. This April, Italy’s Lamborghini and the streetwear virtuosos at Supreme released a run of hoodies, quilted jackets, tees and other items splayed with the car brand’s glimmering gold-lettered logo. In September, Mercedes-Benz debuted “Project Geländewagen,” a widely publicized and frankly confusing initiative in which the German carmaker worked with artistic director Virgil Abloh of Off White and Louis Vuitton to design a G-Class SUV. The only tangible result: Sotheby’s auctioned a one-third-scale mock-up of the concept car, with the proceeds going to charity.
The most extensive collaboration yet—between BMW and Kith, a New York hoodie-and-sneaker emporium—was unveiled last week. The results included: a co-branded 94-piece clothing and accessories line; a single rebuilt vintage BMW M3; and 150 special-edition, Kith-branded M4 Competition sports cars that started at $109,250 and were distributed through BMW dealerships.
During a preview last week, Kith owner Ronnie Fieg was quick to point out that outsiders might underestimate the number of big spenders who worship his brand. And true enough, within an hour of the Friday morning release of the Kith-ified M4s, all 150 of the six-figure cars were spoken for.
However, for the 2020 partnerships, selling a car is not, the only (or even primary) objective; for the automobile brands, it’s also about targeting a young demographic that could someday evolve into a reliable customer base. As Uwe Dreher, head of marketing for at BMW North America put it, it doesn’t matter if the “people who buy the hoodie with the Kith BMW logo….also buy the car.” As he said in an interview before the launch, many of Kith’s shoppers aren’t even old enough to drive. The partnership is also about building awareness.
For car manufacturers, young people are an increasingly elusive demo. “The people who are buying new cars are people my age, baby boomers,” said Carla Bailo, the president and CEO of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit in Michigan. A study released in 2019 by Sivak Applied Research found that in 2017, half of all vehicle buyers in the U.S. were over 54 years old, while those 34 and under comprised just 14% of the total. Instead of purchasing cars, many young people are turning to ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft.
Mr. Santis, the Aimé Leon Dore designer, said that Porsche voiced these very concerns at the outset of his collaboration with the brand. “They came to us and they felt like the sports car consumer and enthusiast they had was kind of getting aged out. And the newer kid, the younger kid was more caught up with, you know, Uber and Lyft,” he said. Deniz Keskin, Porsche’s head of brand management and sponsoring, said that “getting access to these new people was definitely a plus” in working with Mr. Santis. Many of the oglers who poured into the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery to see the resulting car, he said, “were only coming from the angle of Teddy’s fashion brand and would normally not attend a Porsche-type event.”
Brandon Watson, 27, a commercial photographer in Buffalo, N.Y., was one such onlooker. As a longstanding Aimé Leon Dore customer, he was duly impressed that Porsche tapped an emerging clothing label. By tying itself with a “streetwear brand,” Mr. Watson said, the automaker “refreshed people’s memories of what Porsche actually is.”
And what’s the perfect way to draw in auto-agnostic kids? Clothes. If streetwear has proven anything, it’s that when armed with enough clout a clothing brand can make any partner—no matter how random—appear desirable via a co-branded T-shirt or hoodie. Kith’s recent collaborators, for example, have included properties as disparate as the see-and-be-seen eatery Nobu, Looney Tunes and Coca-Cola.
Such apparent randomness aside, Mr. Fieg said that he’s felt a personal connection to all of Kith’s collaborators. BMW is no different: his grandfather owned a 1989 M3, the same model Mr. Fieg worked on restoring as part of the collaboration. As for the idea that anything he stuck his logo on would sell, Mr. Fieg said “I never go into anything assuming that. But we have definitely built a loyal consumer in nine years.” “Loyal” might be an understatement: All of Kith’s recent collaborations have sold out swiftly.
In both the BMW and the Porsche collaborations, the idea of bundling in co-branded tees, keychains and other take-home souvenirs came from the clothing brands. Both Mr. Fieg and Mr. Santis viewed that element as vital to making the collaborations a success. “There’s got to be some component of product or merchandise or something tangible that the kid who knows nothing about what we’re talking about shows up and leaves with something,” said Mr. Santis. Porsche went along with the idea of offering clothes; the collaborative pieces sold out in two days.
The art gallery event also allowed Porsche to wiggle further into Instagram, another key piece of the teen-and-twenty-something ecosystem. The entire space was set up like one giant Instagram shoot, complete with the sort of verdant potted plants you can’t escape on the social media platform. Even after the clothes sold out, fans continued to pour into the Dietch gallery to snap selfies next to the Porsche.
Covid-19 has temporarily derailed plans to host these kinds of bustling events, though automakers are trying to find workarounds. For “Project Geländewagen,” Mercedes-Benz created a digital simulacrum of the car that Instagram users could “place” in their homes using augmented reality. Though in theory a savvy way to bring the collaboration right to users, the technology proved a little awkward to use. (Mercedes-Benz declined to be interviewed for this story.)
Meanwhile, BMW and Kith previewed their collaboration for editors and influencers at a small, relatively socially distanced event in Brooklyn, spurring some buzz on social media—albeit much less than Porsche enjoyed from its partnership with Aimé Leon Dore. Nevertheless, by Friday afternoon, just a few hours after it launched on Kith’s website, most of the clothing collection had sold out.
General Motors today is celebrating two separate reports that show more GM vehicles have the most “Made in the USA” content than any other automaker. We’ve featured both reports already as the new C8 Corvette ranks high on both lists. As a bonus to Corvette enthusiasts, GM is sharing a new video showing the C8 Corvette under construction at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant.
First up comes the Cars.com American-Made Index for 2020 which had the 2020 Corvette Stingray in 8th place on its vehicles with the most domestic-sourced content. In addition to the Corvette, the Chevrolet Colorado was 10th and GM placed another seven vehicles in the Top 25.
As for the American University Kogod School of Business and its Made in America Auto Index, the 2020 Corvette tied for 3rd place alongside the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickups and behind the automatic Chevrolet Camaro. GM had 10 models in the Top 25, the most of any manufacturer. GM also received credit as ranking the highest among manufacturers for total domestic content across all 2020 models.
“We’re proud of GM’s massive American manufacturing footprint, consisting of 11 vehicle assembly plants, 26 stamping, propulsion, component and battery plants, and 19 parts distribution centers,” said Phil Kienle, GM vice president of North America Manufacturing and Labor Relations. “Our manufacturing strength in the U.S. is a team effort starting with our employees and extending to our supplier partners and local communities across the country.”
The Making of the C8 Corvette
In this video from General Motors, go inside the Bowling Green Assembly Plant for a look at how the mid-engine C8 Corvette is manufactured. We also get a great look at the construction of certain parts from vendors like the Bedford aluminum castings and the carbon-fiber rear bumper beam.
When Corvettes are shipped to a Chevrolet dealership, they have to go through a pre-delivery inspection known as PDI. Service technicians take the cars fresh off the truck into the service bays where they run through a checklist of things to do that include installing any parts and accessories as well as checking and topping off the fluids.
We’ve talked about the PDI process previously, and have even shared some of the processes like the installation of a High Wing. Now here’s a chance to watch a 2020 Corvette going through PDI with a time-lapse video that condenses the hour-and-a-half process into just under 5 minutes. While we don’t really learn anything new from the video, we are treated to a scene that most of us will never see.
Forget about the 1960s and 70s; we are truly living in the golden age of the muscle car, where power levels have pierced the stratosphere, and quarter-mile times keep tumbling down at an incredible rate. Cars such as the Dodge Challenger Hellcat are best suited to racing in a straight line, but people are just as interested in seeing more dynamically capable cars duke it out on the strip. Two such cars are the Chevrolet Corvette, which is no stranger to the drag strip, and the sonorous Ford Shelby GT350. These two cars are more track-focused, but can still get down in the quarter, and in a YouTube video posted by Driving Line we see these two square up for a bit of a friendly battle.
The Corvette shown here is of the Z51 variety and produces 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque from its 6.2-liter V8. The Z51 package also adds an electronic LSD and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. This allows the C8 Corvette to sprint to sixty in only 2.9 seconds, and cross the quarter-mile in a scant 11.2 seconds. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, on the other hand, is motivated by a 5.2-liter Voodoo V8 that produces 526 hp and 429 lb-ft, but the car in the video has seen some extensive modification. Chris Wise’s GT350 now produces 875 hp thanks to a supercharger, while the C8 ‘Vette remains bone stock. That’s quite the power disadvantage.
After some tight practice rounds, the two cars line up for the official race. The Corvette blasts off the line, leaving the Mustang, which is struggling with traction, in the dust. The Corvette keeps pulling down the track, and by the end of the run the Mustang starts crawling back, but it’s too little, too late. The end result reveals that both cars crossed the line in the 11.8-second range. To then level the playing field, both drivers climb in identical Chevy Sparks, packing 98 hp, and burn down the strip. In a show of skill, the Corvette driver takes the race, proving that sometimes skill (and appropriate weight balance) outweighs power.
The Shelby GT350 is not long for this world: we recently found out it will not be produced for the 2021 model. Perhaps GT350 buyers might want to buy a new Corvette instead.
The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8 has been hailed as a performance bargain since it first arrived on the scene, but if you’re saving money on the cost of a car, that just means you have more money left over to make it even faster and better. For some, that can even include altering its appearance for a more exotic look. But while some prefer technical circuit racing, where the C8 excels too, the most popular form of motorsport in America is arguably drag racing. We know that a standard C8 with 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque can clock a 10-second quarter-mile, but now someone has made it into the nines.
Extreme Turbo Systems, a company famous for mind-blowingly powerful Nissan GTRs, has just set a new record for the C8, achieving a time of 9.95 seconds at 144 mph. Naturally, this required some extensive modifications, with the ETS C8 receiving new Mahle pistons Ferrea and valves, Mickey Thompson drag radial tires, a bespoke intercooler with an ice box, and direct port methanol injection. As imperative as these mods are, it’s the addition of Precision turbochargers with 46 millimeter wastegates that truly elevates the ETS C8 to a new level.
With 13 psi of boost, this Stingray produces 872 hp. 18 psi generates 980 horses, and then 20 psi gets the team into quadruple digits with an astonishing 1,021 hp. That’s more than double what the car comes with in stock form.
But as any racing enthusiast will tell you, a dyno run does not prove that your car is fast. Thus, ETS headed to Woodburn Dragstrip to lay down some rubber, and despite battling some launch control and transmission issues, achieved some incredible figures. At 11 psi, a time of 10.49 seconds was achieved at 141 mph. Turned up to 13.5 psi, the C8 managed 10.05 at 145 mph. Being that close to the single digits with no breakages, it only makes sense to turn it up again. Interestingly, although the team achieved 9.95 at 144 mph, this was done with just 15 psi, meaning less than 980 hp. Assuming that transmission and launch issues can be resolved and more power put down, this car may achieve mid-nine-second passes very soon.
Livable. Comfortable. Mostly pleasant. Quiet. A good balance. Pleasantly terrifying. Thrilling.
Those are a few of the ways Popular Mechanics describes the 2020 Corvette Stingray, the new mid-engine monster from Chevrolet so good it’s just become that magazine’s Car of the Year.
“So much of what makes Ferraris, McLarens, and Lamborghinis the stuff of phone wallpaper fantasy is present” in the new Corvette, Popular Mechanics writes.
Things like a 0 to 60 time of 2.8 seconds “with a pleasantly terrifying exhaust sound.”
With the seats so far forward, the Corvette gives you “that tip-of-the-cruise-missile feeling.”
Even after a week-long test drive, Popular Mechanics says the car never lost its novelty, noting that “it is thrilling to hold the keys to this thing.”
Unlike so many other supercars, the new Corvette is still a practical vehicle, with PM calling it “livable. Actually comfortable.”
With two trunks that hold 13 cubic feet of stuff, the Stingray can fit two week’s worth of groceries for three people.
Even a four-hour trip in heavy traffic and rain was “mostly pleasant,” the magazine reports, with sound dampening materials that “kept the cockpit quiet at highway speeds.”
Even the “strange center bar with the air conditioning controls made sense within just a few miles of our first drive,” PM admitted.
It wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows, though, as the magazine did point out a few minor nitpicks with the car.
The overall comfort means that the Corvette “loses some of the vibration that helps you feel feedback from the road, even in its most aggressive drive setting. And as our colleagues at Car and Driver have pointed out, the steering feel doesn’t quite have the precision you get from six figures.”
But with a base price under $60,000, the Corvette more than delivers its money’s worth to owners.
PM says the $100,000 718 Cayman and Spider are “slightly more engaging (though slower) driving experiences” thanks to their six-speed manual transmission over the Corvette’s new dual-clutch automatic.
“But for those of us who like a little utility in a two-seater,” PM says, “the Corvette is a good balance.”
Ironically, the gasoline-powered Corvette breaks a three-year-long streak of electric vehicles earning the Car of the Year award. We wouldn’t be surprised, though, when the rumored E-Ray electric hybrid version of the Corvette debuts in a couple of years or so, if that car doesn’t restore order to the PM universe and win this award again.
The Corvette runs blistering laps on track and ruins back roads for the price of a Porsche’s option list.
The spiritual home of the sports car in North America isn’t Detroit. It’s not Southern California. It’s not even Bowling Green. It’s upstate New York, specifically Watkins Glen. A tiny American town with an outsize reputation.
From the November/December 2020 issue ofRoad & Track.
After World War II, sports cars followed returning service members to America. Lithe, light, and low-powered, they were the antithesis of the American way of travel. Cameron Argetsinger, a Watkins Glen local, saw an opportunity. In 1948, he staged the first Watkins Glen road race, an event that became an annual showcase of the country’s bravest drivers on challenging country roads. In 1951, legendary General Motors designer Harley Earl attended the race to show off a concept LeSabre and was inspired to build a purely American sports car. In 1953 he came back to the race with his creation: the Corvette.
The first generation wasn’t quite up to its world-beating task. But through seven generations and more than 65 years, the Corvette evolved into a car that did everything a Porsche or a Ferrari could for less than half the price. It’s one of few cars at home in every possible environment. It’s underrated to the point of disdain by those who simply don’t want to believe that an American sports car can beat the hell out of models from Europe.
Part of that may be the working-class price. Another may be the lackluster interiors. The biggest knock may have been the perception that the engine was in the wrong place. And for decades, rumors insisted that the Corvette’s V-8 would move behind the driver. It was always just about to happen, with a string of mid-engine concept cars giving credence to the rumors. But a series of false starts, including one C7-generation plan scuttled by bankruptcy, saw hopes continually fall. Until now.
The C8-generation Corvette is easily the most anticipated American car of the last 20 years, one with impossibly high expectations from customers, journalists, and GM itself. It must be a grand tourer, sports car, track car, drag racer, and golf-club hauler, displaying versatility not expected of any other model. That’s the Corvette’s dilemma: Because it has doubters, it must to do everything flawlessly.
Our first drive of the C8 for Performance Car of the Year saw us get behind the wheel of a preproduction model, one not 100-percent finalized. At the time, it seemed the Stingray was very good but best considered as a building block for higher-powered versions of the car to come, variants that would truly take advantage of the mid-engine architecture.
But the completed car stands on its own. This is the performance bargain of the century.
Like the Corvette, Watkins Glen has evolved. Racing moved from public roads to a purpose-built facility decades ago, but the track is no less daunting. This circuit hosted the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix for two decades and still sees professional sports-car racing each year. It’s one of the old-school tracks, iconic blue barriers lining a course carved out of the land by men on tractors, not mere algorithms. What you get is a gorgeous, flowing track, a fast 3.4-mile goliath as intimidating as it is iconic. This is where we reacquaint ourselves with the C8.
It gets you the first time you push the start button, the familiar small-block bark smacking your brain from behind, the unrefined lope a brief reminder that you’re not in something from Europe. The new engine, dubbed LT2, is an evolution of the V-8 we saw in the C7, now producing 495 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque with the Z51 package. That gets it to 60 in 2.8 seconds, better than the last-generation Z06 and ZR1, cars with at least 150 more horsepower.
The C8 gives the illusion of ever-present grip. It’s a rear-wheel-drive car with an almost all-wheel-drive character, able to fire in any direction at any time. That acceleration from a dig is thanks to the mid-engine layout and aggressively short gearing from the eight-speed, dual-clutch gearbox. Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter said shifting weight toward the rear axle would allow the C8 to put more power down, hence the move to a mid-engine layout. Perhaps the C7 Stingray and Grand Sport had no traction issues; the C8 has less than none.
You do lose the dance of clutch, accelerator, and steering, of making sure you have the right mix to stay straight. On the track, going for lap times, that’s undeniably a good thing. But losing that theater is noticeable on the road, where instead of worrying about controlling the rear end, you need to worry about hitting imprisonable speeds within seconds of touching the throttle.
Unlike Corvettes past, the controls are delicate, with light steering and paddle shifters. A sign of modern trends. While it was a sad day when the Corvette lost its third pedal, the gearbox has vastly improved since we first drove the car months ago.
Shifts from the Tremec-designed transmission are crisp and rapid in manual mode, thanks to paddles wired directly to the box. Downshifts are quick and perfectly rev-matched, when you get them. That’s one annoyance. In a heavy braking zone, like into Turn 1 at The Glen, you’re snagging gears quickly. Occasionally the gearbox takes more than one pull to react, likely because a paddle was pulled before the engine was ready to allow a shift. Instead of delaying that shift slightly, the gearbox denies it, then forgets you ever asked. Exercising more patience with the paddle results in delay-free downshifts. Driven in automatic, it’s telepathic, keeping the engine in the powerband at all times and banging off shifts without issue.
Chevrolet has recently compared Corvette automatics to Porsche’s PDK gearbox, and every single time Chevy’s automatic has been a letdown. The PDK is still the best you can buy, but this Tremec is leagues better than any automatic ever fit to a Corvette, a half-step at most behind the best.
WATKINS GLEN Tucked in the hills just outside the hamlet that bears the same name, Watkins Glen International is one of America’s greatest and most challenging tracks.
1. TURN ONE A fast right. Get your braking done beforehand, hit an early apex, and use all the track for the fast run up the esses.
2. THE BUS STOP The place to be brave. Brake late and clobber the curbs. The Vette was touching 150 before the braking zone.
3. THE BOOT Quicker than it looks. Use the track’s compression to get back to power early, maximizing that short straight.
4. THE TABLETOP Secretly the most challenging turn on track. An off-camber left, get this one wrong and you’ll end up in the wall.
Like the gearbox, the brakes have gone digital, a brake-by-wire setup bypassing the physical connection between pedal and braking system (though there is a mechanical backup if the by-wire system fails). This means the computer can change the pedal feel depending on the driving situation, which is gimmicky—and disconcerting, since brakes should be a constant—but also a likely sign of an upcoming hybrid system. But left in Sport mode the pedal is linear and accurate, the brakes showing no fade after repeated use at more than 150 mph through The Glen’s bus-stop chicane.
The delicate controls, light steering, and paddle-shift gearbox may lead you to believe that the Vette needs a light touch. Not the case. In fact, it’s the opposite; in corners like The Glen’s Turn 5, a long, downhill right-hand sweeper, you need patience with the throttle lest you make the front push. A big swing at the wheel or an aggressive move on the pedals is needed to make the Corvette come around. Steering, while accurate, is numb, meaning your inputs must be informed by something other than your hands.
Vague steering is always a letdown. But as the pace gets higher, the chassis comes alive. It may not be as adjustable as the last car, likely a design choice made to save drivers from the 6.2-liter pendulum behind their backs. Still, speeds become very serious very fast, although the car remains stable and predictable, two confidence builders. The last thing you want in a car this accessible to so many people is a tricky experience. Otherwise we’d likely be hearing about a lot of owners who aren’t thrilled with GM after wrapping their C8s tail-first around a tree.
But get on the power at the right time, and from apex to corner exit there isn’t much that drives like this. A big part is the fantastic Performance Traction Management (PTM) system, hyper-advanced traction control that actually cuts spark instead of using the brakes to bring the car back in line. This is racing-level stuff, and it works excellently, though we’re not sure it’s being fully exploited. The sheer rear-end grip is so massive that traction control is more safety net than necessity.
Stopwatch estimates from pit lane put the Corvette at a sub-2:10 lap at The Glen, positively blistering when you consider that this is a lightly optioned base Corvette putting up numbers that are tough for any car to match.
On the road, heads snap when it drives by, some innocent bystanders wondering what the hell it is, some refusing to believe it exists at all. The front three-quarter view is the winner, a mixture of angles and shapes invoking stealth fighters. The rear view is inelegant at best, the need for golf-bag storage creating squarish hips, denying the Corvette the lithe, tapered beauty of other mid-engine cars. No matter what you think of its looks, it has serious presence.
The ride quality is simply outstanding. Magnetic Ride Control shocks make this the most comfortable sports car you can drive that doesn’t cost more than $300,000. It’s truly a feat, keeping the Corvette comfortable for hours. And this iteration has an excellent interior.
The seats are normally a Vette low point. The GT2 buckets in our car were supportive and on the verge of being too tight, though that’s honestly a sign that I need to spend more time on the bike than I do eating cookies. It’s a great place to be, especially if you’re behind the wheel.
Everything is angled towards the driver, including a raised panel housing the ancillary controls, which creates a border wall the passenger must summit in order to change the radio station. On the track or a solo drive, it’s wonderful, a cocoon that lets you focus without distraction. But trips with a friend or significant other feel like you’re in two different cars, particularly if your passenger is short. There is one blessing of the control wall: Passengers with music ADD won’t change the radio as often.
While companions struggle to find some way to turn off the Gin Blossoms, you can focus on driving. The gearbox’s on-track blindspots are eradicated on the road. The dual-clutch system begs you to put it in manual mode, as if it knows it can do everything itself but would really rather have you as part of the fun. There may not be a clutch pedal, but the transmission feels visceral enough that you can forget it’s not there.
The C8 Corvette is years of anticipation made real. On first impression, it does all the right things. It tucks crisply into corners, the engine has that perfect lope, it attracts the eye, and it feels like you’re driving a car worth three times the price. It’s a wonderful road car you could use daily, in any location, without worry. Unlike any other mid-engine car, it’s relaxed around town, a gentle cruiser, perfectly at home. On a good road it comes alive, quick and agile, the small-block V-8 once again proving it will never be outdated. It’s an outstanding combination.
Yet something undefinable is missing. The C7-generation Corvette had layers, getting better the more time you spent behind the wheel. The C8 seems to throw everything at you from the first drive, shouting its inherent specialness from minute one, relentlessly showing you every trick it has. It’s the same with its appearance. The C7 flew under the radar, eliciting knowing nods and glances and occasional waves, but nothing that’d attract a civilian crowd. The new car may as well come with a disco ball and DJ air horns. A drawback? Perhaps not. But if you’re running an errand, expect it to take twice as long as planned. Grocery run? Everybody on the dance floor! WAH-WAH-WAHHHHH!
Put it all in perspective. The Corvette’s base price is $59,995, with our tester coming in at $86,710. Either price is a bargain for a car with Ferrari/McLaren levels of performance. It’s impressive on every level, and the mid-engine platform will pay bigger dividends as engineers add power, hybrid systems, and handling packages that truly exploit the layout, if you actually need more performance. It’s hard to imagine that anyone does; more speed usually leads to sacrifices in comfort, usability, and—most importantly—price.
After every run at The Glen I had the same thought: This is the first car from Chevrolet with the engine behind the driver since the Corvair. Their corporate history is not mid-engine unobtanium but budget performance. And now they have a mid-engine Corvette that runs blistering laps on track and ruins backroads for the price of an option package on a high-end supercar.
If this is the future of performance, we’re going to be all right.