SOURCE: Aaron Young for HotCars.com
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.
With the C6 on the horizon for 2005, and the C5-R Corvette racecar scoring consecutive class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Commemorative Edition sent off the C5 generation by celebrating those Le Mans victories.
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.
Limited to just 500, the Z06 Carbon Limited Edition takes the already performance-oriented Z06 and imbues it with performance parts from the monstrous ZR1. Included in the Carbon Limited Edition are the big carbon-ceramic brakes, adjustable shocks, wheels, and tires from the ZR1. But that’s not all, as the “Carbon” in its name also refers to the carbon fiber front splitter, hood, and roof panel it comes with. Only available in a special shade of blue or orange, the Carbon Limited Edition is one of the coolest modern Corvette special editions.
2013 427 Convertible
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.
SOURCE: Aaron Young for HotCars.com
And there’s still more in the tank.
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.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. spent his whole life chasing meaningful rewards.
He waited for a pat on the back from his famous father, worked diligently to generate compliments from crew members and other drivers, and reveled in the roar of his fans — those he inherited from his father and the new ones he brought along for the ride.
NASCAR’s longtime fan favorite received the sport’s biggest honor Tuesday, when he was selected to join his father in the series’ Hall of Fame. Earnhardt will be inducted in Charlotte, North Carolina, along with the late Mike Stefanik and 87-year-old Red Farmer, who is planning to race on Talladega’s dirt track this weekend. Ralph Seagraves was named the Landmark Award winner for his contributions to the sport.
Despite never winning a series championship, Earnhardt received 76% of the votes cast on the modern era ballot.
“Just talking about it, it’s really emotional because I feed off affirmation,” he said wistfully. “It’s such a great feeling to know people think I made an impact. I know what my numbers are, and I feel like I was chosen because of that, but also for the impact I made off the track, being an ambassador for the sport.”
Junior’s grandfather, Ralph, went into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1997 and was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Junior’s father, The Intimidator, also made the list, even before finishing his career with 76 wins and a record-tying seven Cup titles.
The team-owning father gave Dale Jr. his first big break: a full-time ride in the Busch Series in 1998. It didn’t take long for Junior to prove he was a natural — on and off the track.
He won Busch championships in each of his first two seasons and two races as a rookie Cup driver in 2000.
When the elder Earnhardt was killed during the 2001 Daytona 500, Junior suddenly found himself in a place he never imagined.
“I knew when Dad died, I was going to assume most if not all of his fan base, and I feel like I took care of that,” he said. “I didn’t squander that, I didn’t ruin that, and I also introduced myself to a lot of people who never heard of Dale Earnhardt.”
Suddenly, the brash, 26-year-old Earnhardt emerged as the face of the sport and started adding his chapter to the family legacy. He won 26 races — including two Daytona 500s and the 2001 Pepsi 400, the first Cup race held at Daytona after his father’s death — before retiring as a full-time Cup driver following the 2017 season.
Fans watched to see if he could replicate the fearless style that made his father so popular. But Junior never tried to compete with that image.
“There was a point in my career where I started to think I’m not going to win seven championships; I might not even win one. I’m not going to win 100 races; I might not even win 40,” he said. “There were a lot of people that wanted me to be as successful as he was and be as aggressive as he was and spin people out or whatever. So I started to think about what I could do outside of that and what else I could do to help the sport.”
Junior introduced new fans to stock car racing through different news outlets, social media and podcasts. The result: 15 consecutive Most Popular Driver awards.
Stefanik won seven titles in NASCAR’s modified series and two more in the Busch North series. His nine total championships are tied with that of Richie Evans for the most in NASCAR history, and Stefanik was named the second-greatest driver in modified history in 2003.
Stefanik, who died from injuries sustained in a plane crash in September in Connecticut at age 61, edged Ricky Rudd for the second spot on the ballot with 49% of the vote.
“Phenomenal when you think about what he did. Nine championships,” Kyle Petty said during NBCSN’s announcement show. “Phenomenal record, phenomenal amount of wins.”
The 87-year-old Farmer won four Late Model Sportsman season titles and an estimated 700 to 900 races. He was a member of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers and became a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2004. This week, with the big series returning to Talladega, he’s scrambling to put together a car for two nights of racing on the dirt track across the street.
“I had a little fender bender in a 40-lapper last weekend,” he said. “They had a three- or four-car pileup right in front of me, and I slid into it and messed up the nose pretty good. So I’m getting my backup car ready.”
An executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Seagraves helped spearhead Winston’s decision to sponsor NASCAR’s premier series from 1971 to 2003. Winston’s financial support allowed many tracks to upgrade their facilities, and the season-long points fund bolstered purses for drivers and teams.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Both cars retail for about $81,000, but one is a lot more accessible.
SPEED PHENOM ON YOUTUBE
If you’ve got $80,000 to spend and want an American high-performance car, now’s a pretty good time to be in the market. In addition to tire-shredding stalwarts like the Camaro ZL1 and Challenger Hellcat, Ford and Chevy have recently launched high-profile, track-ready sports cars. And thanks to a new video by Speed Phenom, we now know how they directly compare on track.
Naturally, we wanted to do this comparison ourselves. But the GT500 wasn’t ready during our Performance Car of the Year competition when we had an early C8 to test. And now that both cars are on sale, stay-at-home orders and track closures mean we’ll have to wait for an opportunity to do a full R&T comparison.
In the meantime, Speed Phenom does a good job of breaking down how they perform. With the caveat that he’s got a base model GT500 without the optional Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, he notes that the car struggles for grip more often than the similarly-tired Corvette. It’s also less composed through mid-corner bumps, with slower cornering all around. Thanks to its massive horsepower advantage, though, it jets through straightaways.
The C8, meanwhile, benefits from serious mechanical grip. The better-balanced midship car fires through corners and has no problem putting its power down. That makes it more approachable, not surprising given that it’s the tamest version of the C8 while the GT500 is stretching the limits of the S550 platform. We’re sure to see more track-ready Corvettes soon, but for now the Stingray is a surprisingly capable start.
Mack Hogan- Road&Track
The Goldilocks zone of Corvette C8 interiors?
By now, you should know that Chevrolet has started deliveries of the mid-engine 2020 Corvette. Lucky owners of the ‘Vette C8 are starting to receive their newest toy and most likely you’ve already seen one on the streets – that’s if the state you’re in is not affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
If you’re among those who are planning to purchase the new Corvette but are undecided with the trim level to choose, this video might be able to help you – especially if you’re particular with a car’s interior.
The Corvette C8 comes with three trim levels: 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT. The differences lie mainly in the features offered on each trim level, which defines that the cabin will look and feel like. That’s pretty important, considering that we spend so much time inside the car rather than staring at our investment from a distance. So, here’s a little guide.
The base 1LT trim isn’t really basic. With the entry-level trim, you already get the GT1 seats wrapped in mulan leather, a customizable 12-inch gauge cluster, push-button ignition and keyless entry, and an 8-inch Chevy MyLink infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and 10-speaker Bose sound system. The Corvette 1LT trim is available in three color options: black, gray, or red.
Going up the 2LT trim gives you more interior color options plus features like a rearview camera mirror, a colored head-up display, heated/cooled seats, heated steering wheel, advanced blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic warning. The infotainment gets upgraded as well with a wireless charger and a 14-speaker Boss audio system.
Finally, the 3LT trim dials up the ante by adding a premium Nappa leather with suede microfiber accents – all in combination with the GT2 seats that have more bolsters. These seem not a lot but the range-topping trim adds luxury to the sports coupe.
If you’re still undecided, watch the 2LT interior review on top of this page to check whether you need to take it down a notch to 1LT or go all out on the top-level 3LT.
Source: HorsePower Obsessed
The etiquette of doing something you do regularly while staying safe and clean.
- We might need new gas-pumping etiquette rules for the 21st century, both for selfish and altruistic reasons.
- We’ve known since 2011 that gas pump handles can be filthy—they’re worse than ATMs or escalators, even—but there’s no reason to worry if you take the right precautions.
- You can lower your risk by using gloves or paper towels to gas up, using touch-free pay options, and staying as physically separate from others as possible as you refuel.
You may have heard this one before: the best way to avoid catching some sort of communicable disease is to wash your hands well, and often. This advice isn’t exactly new, which hints at how reasonable and responsible it is.
Washing your hands to stay clean was the takeaway lesson from a 2011 study conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional, which found gas pump handles were “the filthiest surface that Americans encounter on the way to work,” according to Reuters. The Los Angeles Times reported back then that the study found 71 percent of gas pump handles the Kimberly-Clark researched tested were considered “‘highly contaminated’ with the kinds of germs most associated with a high risk of illness.” Compare that to only 41 percent of ATM buttons and 43 percent of escalator rails.
The Kimberly-Clark Professional tests were done in big cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia) almost a decade ago, but when something like the coronavirus impacts pretty much every corner of the world, it’s a good reminder to take care when gassing up. When it comes to the COVID-19 coronavirus specifically, the National Institutes of Health has issued information that explains that coronavirus can be stable for 24 hours on some surfaces like cardboard and “up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.”
If you’re not already carrying disinfecting wipes in the car with you, this is a good time to start, assuming you have some available, and wipe off the pump handle and touchscreen, or any other surfaces you plan to touch, before your hands make contact. Even better, it might be a good idea to search out a station that accepts contactless payment at the pump, so you won’t need to come into physical contact with the touchscreen or anything else other than the pump handle. Two easy solutions to this issue are to either wear gloves or to use the paper towels commonly provided for window cleaning as a guard between your hands and the screen, buttons, and pump handle. Keeping gloves in the car is a good idea, but they shouldn’t be the disposable sterile gloves that hospitals can use when there’s a need for them there. If you don’t have gloves, keep some hand sanitizer in the car to use on your hands after filling up.
As for social distancing, it’s convenient that gas pumps are relatively far apart from one another, contagion-wise, but even so, choosing to fill up your tank at an off-peak time can be safer. If there are other people getting gas at the same time, keeping at least six feet between you and them is a good idea for everyone involved. And it should go without saying that you shouldn’t go into the store unless there’s a reasonable need to do so if there’s still a rapidly spreading disease going around.
The actual chance that you will catch a transmittable viruses at the gas station is low. As the Illinois TV station ABC-20 reported based on answers from a medical expert, the sequence of events that have to happen to get the virus from someone who has it (someone coughing onto the pump handle or touching the touchscreen with virus on their hands, and then you touching it and then your face) can be interrupted in any number of ways. Even so, there’s no harm in being extra careful in these potentially dangerous times.
Sebastian Blanco- Car and Driver
It took 30 hours for Hennessey Performance Engineering to tear apart a new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, install twin-turbo setup, and put it back together.
It’s no surprise, then, that the twin-turbo C8 Corvette isn’t ready to be sold to customers. The engine lacks intercoolers and Hennessey hasn’t cracked the code of GM’s new electrical architecture to reprogram the ECU.
“This is just the beginning, our own car, doing R&D,” company founder and CEO John Hennessey told Motor Authority.
On Monday, the engine made 643 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque at the wheels on a Dynojet dyno while running just 5 psi of boost. That compares to baseline testing HPE performed on the stock car which revealed 466 hp and 451 lb-ft of torque. HPE plans to offer a 1,200-hp version of the C8, which Hennessey said could make 18-20 psi of boost.
Hennessey took delivery of an orange C8 Corvette in Detroit on March 13. He and his daughter, Emma, drove back to the performance outfitter’s Texas headquarters and performed baseline testing before the Hennessey team tore apart the car.
The orange C8 fired back to life on Friday with twin 62-mm Precision Turbos and twin blow-off valves connected to the throttle body mounted behind the catalytic converters. Both turbos are oil-cooled with twin scavenge pumps that feed back into the motor.
The system is not intercooled. Instead, there’s a methanol injection setup to keep things from getting too hot. HPE is considering where to put intercoolers. The current packaging has limited space for intercoolers without cutting into trunk space, which Hennessey does not want to do. 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray undergoes twin-turbo conversion at Hennessey
Hennessey told Motor Authority his team currently can’t tune the factory ECU, but it is looking at aftermarket solutions for the engine management system. He noted it took a year for solutions to come to market for the C7 and added, “hopefully, it won’t take a year.”
Hennessey said when the turbocharged C8 was first started it didn’t throw any codes, errors, or a check engine light. “The computer seems happy with the turbos,” Hennessey noted. A check engine light did appear when the front wheel speed sensors were disconnected to put the car on the dyno, Hennessey said.
The orange C8 will used for R&D of upcoming modifications. Hennessey said he doesn’t expect to deliver modified customer C8s for at least six months, and all will have intercoolers and full plumbing.
Joel Feder for Motor Authority
Did you see the two race on YouTube? We’ve tested them, too; here’s why the results were no surprise.
- We have tested both the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette (11.2 seconds at 122 mph) and the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (11.4 seconds at 132 mph) in the quarter-mile.
- A video on YouTube, however, shows flipped results: 11.5 seconds at 120 mph for the Corvette and 10.8 seconds at 132 mph for the GT500.
- As always, the driver and track conditions are critical, and our two-run average is far more repeatable than any one-off run at a drag strip.
When we tested Ford’s new 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 against the top-dog 2020 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, the Mustang came out on top on the drag strip. But how does the front-engine Shelby stack up against the other, now mid-engine, threat from Chevy?
Greg PajoCar and Driver
During our testing, the GT500 hurtled through the quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds at 132 mph. But that was on a regular street-like surface, not a sticky, prepped drag strip. We struggled mightily with traction at launch, and our best run was with the launch control set to the lowest rpm allowed (1200 rpm) to prevent igniting a rear-tire fire. However, no surprise: with more traction far, better numbers are possible, and we’ve seen numbers below 11 seconds at drag strips, including this kid, who ran a 10.665 shortly after he acquired the car.’Murica Which Ultimate Pony Car Is the 1/4-Mile King?This Kid Ran a 10.66 Quarter Mile In His GT500
On the other hand, the 2020 Corvette has far fewer launch struggles, as it benefits from its newly acquired mid-engine layout and rear weight bias. Moving the weight distribution rearward improves launch traction, helping it jump off the line much quicker. During our testing, and despite far less horsepower, the mid-engine Vette outaccelerated the GT500 through the quarter-mile by two tenths of a second, reaching it in 11.2 seconds at 122 mph.Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
We’re starting to see other people’s numbers from both of these cars, though, as customers are starting to take deliveries of their C8 Corvettes and GT500s. Contrary to our test results, there’s a video circulating on YouTube that shows the new GT500 beating the C8 Corvette through the quarter-mile by seven-tenths of a second. It raced to the quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds while the Corvette reached it in 11.5 seconds.
Keep in mind that the driver and conditions are huge factors in quarter-mile and acceleration results. We suspect that here, the Corvette likely got bogged down on the high-grip surface, as the launch control isn’t optimized for those conditions, and the 760-hp Mustang benefited from the extra traction on the track.
Connor Hoffman for CarandDriver
Mike Stapley, KSL.com Contributor
By Mike Stapley, KSL.com Contributor | Posted – Mar. 4, 2020 at 2:32 p.m.
AMERICAN FORK — The Chevrolet Corvette had humble beginnings.
In 1953, only 300 were produced with fewer than 200 sold. With only 150 horsepower, the car failed to move fans of more lively British roadsters and refined American sedans.
A couple of years later, the original V-6 engine gave way to a more powerful V-8, and the Corvette began to find its way. The 1956 model brought styling changes and additional horsepower that laid the groundwork for what would become America’s sports car.
The second-generation car, dubbed C2, debuted in 1963 and offered a coupe option for the first time. That same year, the Sting Ray moniker made its mark, and Chevy began offering its first production racing model Z06 with 360 horsepower.
In 1965, Chevy made its big-block 425 horsepower V-8 available in the Corvette. The C3 (called the Sharknado for its unique design) was released just a few years later. According to true aficionados, the modern Corvette originates with the C3, since Chevy eliminated any true rear storage area and debuted a Targa-style removable roof panel.
In 2020, the Corvette will experience its most stunning transformation to date and become a mid-engine supercar, sharing a powertrain layout with European competitors for the first time ever.
Despite its rich history and reputation for power, the Corvette has been subjected to a messy, mixed reputation among car enthusiasts. America’s sports car is often viewed as a value offering for middle-aged drivers, and stories abound of Corvette engineers feeling limited in their offerings.
With the new car entering production, there is no better time to pay homage to the outgoing C7, which changed the Corvette’s reputation for the better. The 2019 Grand Sport model combines the power and value of the Sting Ray with Z06 styling.
“The Grand Sport has long been the best value in the sports car world. You simply can’t match what’s available, dollar for dollar, anywhere in the world,” said Zach Madsen, fleet sales manager for Ken Garff Chevrolet in American Fork.
The Grand Sport model offers the body kit and downforce stylings of the top-end Z06, and the car is stunning from almost every angle. The fastback-style roofline meets massive rear fenders that blend and create a rear end that makes the Corvette seem much larger than it is. When parked next to other cars, the ‘Vette’s true size becomes quickly apparent.
There is no mistaking this car for another from behind. The traditional quad lens taillights flank the huge Corvette emblem on the rear, and all four exhaust outlets are located at the center of the rear bumper rather than split among each side.
The Z06 rear deck spoiler is tall enough to require an opening in the center so the driver can see behind. The rear fenders are squared off more than prior generations, but the front fenders still provide a sweeping arc that screams Corvette. Large front fender air vents provide color contrast and sport the Grand Sport logo.
From the front, the hoodline rakes down sharply, stretching elongated headlight housings on either side. A black hood vent down the center and a three-tiered front splitter provide color contrast and make it seem like the car is floating just barely above the ground.
The ‘Vette’s best attribute, and my most pleasant surprise, is the handling. The beefier body and chassis of the Z06 is present on the Grand Sport, and buyers can choose the even beefier Z07 suspension package.
The word “compromise” has always been part of Corvette lore, and I didn’t anticipate a car that felt confident on nearly every road I threw at it. The C7 is a capable track car and most track-capable cars don’t make the transition well to the mean, uneven, pothole-filled streets of America.
I’ve been disappointed by some of the best cars in the world, where even the seams of an elevated canyon road can throw them every which way. The C7 Grand Sport, in my humble opinion, is only bested in this area by the Porsche 911. It’s a bold statement, but I stand by it.
The lore of “compromise” is true inside the Corvette, though. It isn’t fair, of course, to compare the interior of a sub $80,000 car to those of cars costing three and four times as much. It’s difficult not to, though, when Corvette competes for buyers with those cars from Italy and Germany.
There’s no doubt the interior is much improved over the prior C6 generation: nothing about the fit, finish and quality of the materials stands out as subpar. At the same time, nothing stood out as exceptional or distinctive from any Cadillac or Denali on the road. In a car like this, something should.
The two-tone dash layout is nice, and the cockpit-like feel of the driver’s seat is unrivaled. The entire center console pushes out toward the driver and ends on the lower passenger side with a grab handle for wary riders. The passengers will also find their separate climate and heated/cooled seat controls built into the passenger vent itself — a nice and convenient touch.
But Corvette tech is a mixed bag.
The heads-up display is excellent and adjustable to provide a wide range of information, and the center touch screen reveals a James Bond-like secret storage bin when lowered mechanically.
GM has an excellent MyLink infotainment system, but the Corvette seems to have been given a lesser model — though, the Bose sound system is superb. Perhaps the intent was to “enhance” the display so it would stand out from Chevy’s other offerings, but the result is a mess of poor layout and overlapping controls.
Fortunately, both Apple Carplay and Android Auto are available to rescue it.
I might lose some Corvette fans by saying this, but hear me out. The powertrain is excellent but left me wanting more.
While the Grand Sport borrows from the upper-end Z06 in terms of appearance and handling, it also borrows the engine and transmission from the base model Sting Ray. The 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 provides 460 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque and moves the ‘Vette from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds with the smooth eight-speed automatic.
It’s quick, it’s gloriously loud at startup, and yet, it left me feeling like the experience was less than spectacular. Perhaps the C7 is a bit too refined for its own good. Perhaps Corvette engineers have favored the stereotypical mid-life buyer a little too much.
The glorious sound loses some luster at highway speeds. The G-forces are clearly there when moving that quickly, but they aren’t felt the way one would expect. The engine lacks initial “oompf” but makes up for it while the transmission spins through the gears in a way that seems impossible. The paddle shifters added some fun, and I’m curious whether the seven-speed manual transmission would “un-tame” the beast in the way I would want.
Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the Corvette to the wonky, jolting shift pattern of an Aston, and the handling more than makes up for any ethereal shortcomings. Best of all, it’s the first sports car I’ve brought home that my wife actually enjoyed riding in. She paid it high praise one evening with the light Targa top removed and actually said she could get used to this one.
In the end, the Corvette left me very impressed and quelled the mythical shortcomings that preceded it.
I doubt many potential Corvette buyers care, but the EPA fuel economy comes in at 19 combined mpg, aided by a less than 3,300-pound weight. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this car, as tested, was $77,840.
Source: Mike Stapley; KSL
As we continue to digest all the new information that came out of last week’s First Drive Event with the 2020 Corvette Stingrays in Las Vegas, there is a new “Mode” to discuss that most Corvette enthusiasts have never heard of.
The 2020 Corvette Stingray has several “modes” that help drivers get the most out of their cars. We are already familiar with the regular driving modes that feature settings for Weather, Touring, Sport and Track, as well as the two customizable modes called MyMode and Z-Mode. But what you may not be aware of is that the 2020 Corvette Stingray’s equipped with Magnetic Ride Control also features a “Flying Car” mode.
Well, it is the 21st century after all!
Corvette’s Vehicle Performance Manager Alex MacDonald is responsible for the chassis tuning of the new Corvette and he was tasked with explaining much of the on-track performance capabilities of the new Corvette to those at Spring Mountain last week.
For the C8 Corvette, engineers have rolled out version 4.0 of Magnetic Ride Control with the biggest change to the system is the use of accelerometers rather than position sensors that measured wheel height. Here is the slide that was offered on the new Mag Ride for the C8 Corvette:
The Magnetic Ride Control is tied into the Corvette’s Performance Traction Management system and that’s where the Flying Car Mode comes into play.
When your crest an incline and the Corvette’s wheels are off the ground, they will spin faster like they are on ice or another slippery surface because there is no resistance. The performance traction control senses that and sends commands to slow the wheels. But that’s not the best reaction when on the track. The system now senses when the car’s front wheels leave the ground (and assumes that the rears will be leaving as well), and the system tells the performance traction control to ignore it because it knows that it’s temporary and that all four wheels will be back on the ground momentarily.
Here is Alex talking about the Flying Car Mode:
“The other interesting note about MR is that it communicates with the performance traction system and it tells that performance traction system that if the front wheels have just gone over a big crest that we know that one wheel-base later the rear is about to go over that same crest, we can adapt the traction control to work in that situation and we call that Flying Car Mode, which is a cool name for it, because it does detect when the car is airborne and we can alter the chassis controls to deal what happens when the car lands.”
Video by Keith Cornett
From an acclaimed concept car John DeLorean reportedly dismissed because he wanted something “smaller and more European,” to the design that ended a feud between a pair of GM giants — but may have set the Corvette back decades — a trove of unique documents, sketches and models tells a secret history of the 60-year quest to build a mid engine Chevrolet Corvette.
The story begins in the late 1950s with legendary Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov and came to fruition when the first mid engine 2020 Corvette Stingray sold for $3 million at auction in January.
Titled “The Vision Realized: 60 Years of Mid engine Corvette Design” and created by GM Design Archive & Collections, the exhibit included 19 original sketches by designers including Larry Shinoda and Tom Peters, the massive 4-Rotor rotary engine from the 1973 Aerovette engineering, a wood wind-tunnel model, even letters from Arkus-Duntov’s personal files.
“The story of the mid engine Corvette is incredibly complicated, full of fits and starts,” said Christo Datini, manager of the GM Design Archive & Collections.
Cristo Datini at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
A mid engine Corvette was a dream shared by GM designers and engineers. The layout, in which the engine is behind the passenger compartment and immediately over the rear wheels, improves acceleration and handling. It’s been a mainstay at Ferrari for decades, and inspired repeated design and engineering projects at GM. None of them made it to production till now, largely because the Corvette’s original front-engine layout was so successful.
“Why would we change the Corvette?” GM chairman and CEO Richard Gerstenberg said to Arkus-Duntov before both men retired in the mid-1970s. “We sell every one we can make.”
‘Design without limit’
A generation of GM designers and engineers had already fought that attitude toward the sports car that debuted in 1953 model, and a couple more would before the midengine eighth-generation C8 Corvette Stingray debuted last year.
The exhibition included dozens of sketches, models, photos and documents.
“Our mission is to preserve the heritage of GM Design and educate our designers on GM’s prominence in the world of design,” Datini said. The archive also is working with the Detroit Institute of Arts on a massive exhibition dedicated to automotive design that opens this summer.
The Corvette exhibition closed at the end of January, but elements of it are likely to be displayed at other events and locations, possibly including the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which provided materials for the collection.
Original magazines with drawings of what Corvettes could have looked like on display at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle I, Also called SERV I and XP-708, was the beginning. A running model that debuted in 1960, the car had the looks of an Indy car and a chassis that tested what a midengine layout could do. It was “a design without limit” and an “admirable tool” to help Chevy figure out “what to put in Corvette,” said Duntov, himself a former driver in the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race.
CERV I was used as a test vehicle for years. Larry Shinoda, who would go on to be known as the father of the ’63 Corvette Stingray and the Mako Shark concept car, tweaked its design repeatedly as engineers tested it with seven different power trains.
GM eventually retired CERV I, selling it to the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum for $1. When the museum failed in the 1980s, GM bought it back for “somewhat more,” Datini said.
A model of the 1968 Chevrolet mid-engine Corvette Roadster that is one of many items for General Motors workers to see at the Corvette design display at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Corvettes the world never saw
Shortly thereafter, Duntov heard rumors Ford was developing a Le Mans racer to challenge Ferrari and launched work on CERV II. GM decided not to race, Ford and Carroll Shelby built the GT40 that inspired “Ford vs. Ferrari,” and the CERV II was used as an engineering test bed at secret proving grounds and never seen by the public during its active lifetime. Built in 1964, CERV II had a 500-horsepower V8, 210-mph top speed and 2.8-second 0-60 mph time.
A picture of the CERV II Corvette. The sports car never went into production but it was influential in the design of the C5 production Corvette. (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
“By that time, engineers and designers knew a midengine chassis was necessary” to get maximum performance from the ‘Vette, Datini said. Putting the engine behind the passenger compartment puts the car’s weight over the rear wheels to put down more power without spinning. Shifting balance from the production ‘Vette’s nose-heavy weight distribution would also improve handling.
Also in 1964, the XP-819 experimental car was being tested. Designed by Shinoda, it bore a strong resemblance to 1970 Corvettes, but Duntov hated it, calling it an “ugly duckling” at least in part because he wished his engineering team got some of the budget allotted to designing the car. It had a 327 cubic-inch V8 and pop-up headlights.
Like many concept and engineering vehicles, XP-819 was destroyed, chopped up. Years later, the pieces were found in NASCAR designer and mechanic Smokey Yunick’s garage.
Half Corvette, half Porsche
With a name GM would later recycle on a minivan, the Astro II XP-880 was never publicly identified as a Corvette, but it was one, intended for production in 1970, but never got there. It debuted at the New York auto show, featuring a nose, front fenders and Firefrost Blue paint that that foreshadowed 1970s production cars.
DeLorean, then Chevrolet general manager, asked for a rush program to create a different midengine design to match the midengine Pantera Ford was developing with Italian sports car maker De Tomaso to debut at the 1970 New York auto show. The XP-882 had a tapering body with dramatic fender flares and a louvered rear window like the Mako Shark II concept car. Like so many midengine ‘Vettes before and after, GM brass decided to stick with the tried and true front-engine layout.
Also in the 1970s GM president Ed Cole — another legendary engineer who led the development of the small block V8 and catalytic converter, among other achievements — became enamored with the Wankel rotary engine. Duntov built two midengine experimental ‘Vettes with rotary engines, glad for Cole’s support despite not sharing his enthusiasm for the engine.
Sketching and notes about the Corvette, one of the many originals on display for workers to see at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
The 1973 Corvette 2-Rotor XP-987GT was a smaller, European-scale sports car with a rotary engine. The body was all Corvette, but its chassis came from a Porsche 914. Italian design house Pininfarina built its body. GM displayed the 2-Rotor at auto shows in Frankfurt and Paris before the car disappeared, probably sold to a collector.
Bill Mitchell’s most beautiful car
At the same time, Duntov wanted to develop a bigger midengine Corvette. He and Cole hadn’t been on speaking terms since Duntov refused an annual bonus he thought was insultingly small. They made up, at least in part because Duntov wanted a budget to develop what would become the Corvette 4-Rotor Aerovette, an iconic, gull wing design. Duntov believed it was the most beautiful vehicle GM design chief Bill Mitchell oversaw in a career that included the ’57 Chevy Bel Air and ’66 Buick Riviera.
Duntov recycled the XP-882’s chassis for the Aerovette, which featured silver leather interior trim.
A picture of the Aerovette featuring bi-fold gulping doors in the sports car that was never made. It is one of many photographs, drawings and sketches on display on all things Corvette design inside the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Despite the car’s striking appearance, Duntov would come to believe his agreement to use a rotary engine was a nail in the midengine ‘Vette’s coffin.
Despite that, another midengine engineering car arrived in 1974. The XP-895 began its life with a steel body. Intrigued by the idea of lightweight materials, DeLorean asked Reynolds Aluminum to create an aluminum body. That cut the car’s weight by nearly 40%, but DeLorean pulled the plug on the project because he wanted a smaller, more European design.
That never happened, and design work on midengine ‘Vettes came to a halt for more than a decade, as GM struggled meeting the challenge of higher fuel prices.
Closing the deal
By 1986, the quest for a midengine Corvette was ready to create another giant figure, and it got one when a young designer named Tom Peters began work on the Corvette Indy concept car. Peters went on to become the chief designer of the sixth- and seventh-generation C6 and C7 Corvettes and play a key role in starting work on the 2020 C8.
With a radically short hood compared to production ‘Vettes and cutting-edge technologies including four-wheel steering, traction control and active suspension, the Indy — so named because it used a 2.65L V8 Chevy developed for Indy Car racing — kept dreams of the midengine ‘Vette alive
The 1990 CERV III — this time the C stood for “Corporate,” not Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle — was the next step. Datini’s research convinced him it was an attempt at a production version of the Indy.
CERV III had scissors doors and was built of Kevlar, carbon fiber and aluminum. With a 650-hp twin-turbo 5.7L V8, GM predicted a top speed of 225 mph. It debuted at the 1990 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
After that, work on the midengine Corvette went undercover for two decades. Photos of disguised prototypes at test tracks surfaced from time to time, but the car seemed to be as much myth as metal. There are whispers the Great Recession halted work on one, setting development back years.
A display of Zora Arkus-Duntov known as “The Godfather of the Corvette” at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020. (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Development of the 2020 Corvette Stingray began around eight years ago, a long time for most projects, but the blink of an eye when it’s the last chapter of a 60-year story.
Mark Phelan for Detroit Free Press
Revolution, as the documentary is titled, will air in two parts and goes deep behind the scenes of the biggest ever change to the Corvette.
If there’s one word that describes the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray pretty darn well, it’s probably “Revolutionary.” It’s the first time in the nameplate’s history that the engine resides behind the driver, as Chevy elevates its long-running sports car to battle the world’s best.
Naturally, curious minds have to wonder what went on behind the scenes to make this car come together. Chevy has good news for you. Revolution, a two-part documentary detailing the C8-generation Corvette’s development, is set to air in the coming months, the brand said Monday.
Chevy told Roadshow the documentary will air on the Corvette’s homepage here, but for now, the quick trailer embedded above will give fans a taste of what the upcoming feature holds. There’s plenty of first-hand knowledge on display — the team that put the latest car together gets plenty of camera time. Numerous people in the mid-engine Corvette program spill how it felt to take an icon and reinvent it.
The documentary announcement comes just after Chevy announced that the production of the 2020 Corvette Stingray kicked off on Monday. With the C7-generation car in the rearview mirror, and all necessary retooling done for the mid-engine car, the workforce in Bowling Green, Kentucky is solely focused on the new Corvette.
Chevy didn’t have an exact timeline for when the first part of the documentary will air, but it should give fans eagerly awaiting their cars something to pass the time as deliveries begin in early March at the latest. Hopefully by this summer, we’ll see plenty of 2020 Corvettes on the road as the plant ships them out to their new homes.
When you’re Chevrolet and you have access to five-time Le Mans winner Oliver Gavin, it’s a smart idea to shove him behind the wheel of a new C8 Corvette with the Z51 performance package and point him out for a flying lap of the Nordschleife. These lap times are largely irrelevant as they absolutely do not correlate to driving enjoyment or real-world usable performance, but it’s a slightly abstract way to compare the relative abilities of sports cars.
With ideal conditions and an incredibly capable driver, Chevrolet managed a lap time of 7 minutes and 29.9 seconds. That’s quicker than a recent independent test Porsche 992 time, and Chevrolet’s own high-powered Camaro ZL1. That said, it’s 16 seconds off the pace of the C7-generation Corvette Z06. Interesting? Maybe.
Chevrolet confirmed to RoadShow that this was the lap time, as hidden (below) in a teaser video for its upcoming documentary on the development of the C8.
Are you and I capable of this lap time? Hell no. But the car is capable of it in the right hands, and I guess that has bragging rights of some kind.
Obviously this is still just the base model Corvette with its 495 horsepower V8 mounted in the middle. The Z51 pack adds aero bits, better tires, better suspension, and better cooling for the entire car. There will be more powerful, better, and faster Corvettes coming, but for now you can rest assured knowing a C8 Corvette is slightly faster around the ‘ring than the big bad supercharged Camaro. That is, unless the ZL1 was of the 1LE variety (which ran a 7:16.04).
Bradley Brownell for Jalopnik
With the C8 Corvette on the way, the 2019 Corvette ZR1 has sort of slipped from our collective consciousness, yet every once in a while a video comes along that snaps our focus back to the most powerful Corvette ever made.
It took the tuners over a year to unlock the secrets of the ZR1’s ECU, but thanks to HP Tuners and shops like Houston’s Late Model Racecraft, the true potential of the supercharged LT5 V8 has finally been unleashed.
YouTube channel High Tech Corvette calls this ZR1 one of the fastest in the country right now and we agree as we watch it blast through the quarter-mile in 8.7 seconds at over 155 mph.
With the drag radials on the car, this ZR1 hooks up so well that even removing the rear high wing only saves a few hundredths on the clock.
From High Tech Corvette via YouTube:
Texas tuning shop Hennessey Performance has shared some initial information and photos today as they begin to detail their plans to tune the 2020 Corvettes with the top package offering a whopping 1200 HP.
The HPE1200 package will feature a specially-built twin-turbo LT2 V8 with upgraded internals including forged aluminum pistons and forged steel connector rods. The HPE1200 Twin Turbo C8 Corvette will also see its factory dual-clutch transmission upgraded and fortified to handle the additional power.
“We expect the new C8 Corvette to be an excellent platform from which our clients can further personalize their cars, which obviously includes adding more power and performance,” said company founder and chief horsepower evangelist, John Hennessey. “Over the past several months we have had hundreds of inquiries from C8 buyers wanting to know what we will be offering for the new Corvette. Thus, we created an online questionnaire and have received over 250 completed forms and getting more every day. The customers are telling us what they want and big surprise – they want more power!”
Not just content to tune the engine, Hennessey’s C8 Corvette packages will also offer its signature “CarbonAero” carbon fiber body upgrades that includes a front splitter, air dam, and a rear carbon fiber wing. HPE will also offer an upgrade to the Brembo brake systems, as well as an upgraded Penske suspension, and wheel/tire upgrades.
Hennessee says a stainless-steel exhaust system upgrade is also in the works as well as a 700-hp supercharger system once the car’s computer can be accessed for tuning.
“We are very excited about the new C8 Corvette and have big plans for it,” said Hennessey. “From mild to wild, we plan to offer a wide variety of track-tested parts and upgrades that come with a warranty. We’ve modified over 500 C7 Corvettes since 2013 and expect to upgrade many more C8 Corvettes starting in 2020!”
Hennessey has a form on their website to gauge customer interest in their HPE packages for the C8 Corvette, so if you’re interested, head over to HennesseyPerformance.com.
Original source Hennessy Performance
Configurator with pricing info is up, so we’ve decided to max it out.
We’ve been periodically checking Chevy’s website for the Corvette C8 Convertible configurator ever since it went up at the beginning of October to see if there’s pricing available. You can finally know how much the desired spec is going to set you back as the configurator now has all the pricing details included. Much like we did with the coupe a few weeks ago, we’ve decided to max out the online builder in an attempt to find out how much a fully loaded Stingray Convertible costs.
We’re not going to go through each and every option as we did in the previous post because most of them are identical. It’s worth pointing out the convertible commands a $7,500 premium over the coupe and it starts at $67,495 for the entry-level 1LT. Go for the better-equipped 3LT and the price jumps to $78,945, and then you can add this $995 Long Beach Red Metallic Tintcoat paint and a dual racing stripe also priced at $995.
The most expensive options available for the C8 Convertible are the $5,000 Z51 Performance Package and the $4,850 Grounds Effect Kit, but on top of these, you can also add the $2,095 grille insert and $1,145 side mirror caps both finished in visible carbon fiber. Another pricey option is the $2,695 wheel set measuring 19 inches up front and 20 inches at the rear, with a five-spoke design and a Performance Pewter-painted finish.
If you truly want to go all out with the configurator, Chevy will be more than happy to provide you with a two-piece leather travel bag set for $1,450 as well as indoor and outdoor car covers each priced at $460. Inside, a carbon fiber trim adds $1,500 to the final bill, while the Competition Sport bucket seats are an additional $500.
With all the boxes ticked, you’re going to end up with a 2020 Corvette Stingray Convertible that costs $113,955, plus an additional $110 worth of dealer-installed
As you’re probably aware by now, production of the C8 has been delayed until February 2020, so it’s going to be a long wait to park the new Corvette in your garage.
Hit the source link below to play with the configurator and see if you can beat our price.
Hit the source link below to play with the configurator and see if you can beat our price.
Original source: Adrian Padeanu; Motor1
The new Corvette has an eight-speed Tremec DCT. We weren’t crazy about it in the pre-production C8 we drove, but engineers tell us the final version will be better.
For the C8 Corvette, Chevrolet abandoned the traditional manual and torque-converter automatic for a new, eight-speed Tremec dual-clutch. And in our Performance Car of the Year testing, the gearbox was the weakest component in the pre-production C8 Stingray we had on hand. It’s part of why the Corvette didn’t win.
In automatic mode, the DCT dolled out nice, snappy shifts, but when using the paddles, it could be clumsy. Too often we found ourselves running into the rev limiter, or having downshifts denied after a paddle pull. But, the C8 we drove wasn’t a finished product. There’s been development work since we drove the car, and that work will continue for the foreseeable future. At a powertrain engineering seminar held by Chevy last week, we asked Glen Hoeflinn, controls program manager for the DCT, what will change from the car we drove.
“Maybe you get some humpy-bumpy shifts here, you get a little bit of that there. That all gets refined out,” Hoeflinn said. “It’s in final refinement, and then it’s in final checks and looking what we’re doing and making sure that it’s behaving exactly [how] we want.”
“That’s what we’ve done since the car that you had. Doing all that refinement and making sure it’s ready to go for everybody across the all the cars.”
A dual-clutch presents unique challenges, no matter what sort of car it’s in. “There’s a lot of pre-selection interaction that goes on in the background,” Hoeflinn said. “It’s the same choreography” between the engine and transmission, he added, but without the “luxury” of a torque converter, there’s a lot more programming work involved.
As you’d expect, the transmission has different automatic shift strategies for the various drive modes, which adapt in real time. The more aggressive, the more spirited you drive, the more aggressive the car’s going to respond,” Hoeflinn said. “As you start to relax, the car’s going to start to relax.”
The DCT uses latitudinal and longitudinal accelerometers, and looks at information like throttle position and steering angle to gauge how the car is being driven, and react accordingly. For example, in Track mode with the transmission set to automatic, the car will downshift aggressively when the driver is braking hard into a corner, and hold upshifts until corner exit.
The C8 has two manual modes. If you pull a paddle while in Drive, you get a temporary manual mode, which automatically times out, or can be exited sooner by holding the upshift paddle. In this mode, the car will automatically upshift at redline. If you press the M button in the center console, you get full manual mode. There’s no time out, and the car won’t upshift at redline.
There are two other neat tricks available for drivers to exploit. First, if you hold the downshift paddle, the DCT will serve up the lowest possible gear. Do that while braking, and the transmission will keep downshifting as engine speed allows. And second, pulling both paddles at the same time is equivalent to pushing in the clutch pedal on a manual car, which allows you to rev the C8’s new V-8 as much as you want.
In the C8, the paddles are directly wired to the transmission control module (TCM) for quicker response times. “In other applications, from the paddle, the wire will go to the body control module and then from the body control module back over to the transmission. You have obvious latency there,” Hoeflinn said.
“It could be 25, 30, 40 milliseconds from the time you pull, to the time that transmission actually got the message. When you wire them directly from the paddle straight to the TCM, we’re getting the message instantaneously.” This doesn’t mean the paddles will give you a downshift that over-revs the engine—the TCM prevents that—it just helps reduce delay.
One of the headline figures of the C8 Corvette is its incredible acceleration. We timed a pre-production Z51 Stingray as hitting 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and running the quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds at 122 mph. With the C8’s Performance Launch mode, the car will actually use the inertia of the engine coming down between revs to propel the car forward. Chevy calls these “Boosted Shifts,” and they’re only used with a Performance Launch. In any other mode, they make the car feel unsettled.
From a mechanical standpoint, this new Tremec transaxle isn’t a radical departure from other DCTs. There are concentric clutches and input shafts for the odd and even gears. The even gears and reverse live near the front of the transmission, while the odds are at the back. A limited slip-differential is integrated within the unit. Base Stingrays get a mechanical diff with a 4.89:1 final drive ratio while Z51-pack cars get an electronic LSD with a 5.17:1 ratio. The overall gear ratio spread of 8.8:1 is the same regardless of differential.
The packaging of the transaxle is such that there’s a common oil sump—filled with 11 liters of Pentosin FFL-4 fluid—for all components. A cooler mounted to the top of the transaxle assembly means there’s no need for additional hydraulic lines, while two filters keep things clean. An externally mounted pressure-side filter requires replacement every 20,000 miles, while the internal suction filter mounted to the sump is a lifetime part.
We asked about why the C8 team didn’t try to do a manual. Hoeflinn and the other engineers present gave us a similar answer to Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter, when we interviewed him before the car debuted. They’d need to develop a new manual just for the C8, and considering the stick-shift market is shrinking, it would be an expensive endeavor seemingly without much reward. There are packaging constraints with the Corvette’s central backbone tunnel, too, which would require a hole to accommodate the shifter and gear linkage, hurting structural rigidity. Juechter also said the pedalbox would be cramped with a clutch.
Our first experience with this DCT was less than positive, but this is a gearbox that shows a lot of promise. We look forward to driving the finished product.
Originally written by Chris Perkins; Road&Track
OFFICIAL: The 2020 Corvette Stingray Goes 0-60 MPH in 2.9 Seconds; Runs Quarter Mile in 11.2 @ 121 MPH
Chevrolet today revealed the long-awaited performance figures for the 2020 Corvette Stingray. While the various magazines and websites have been releasing their numbers, we’ve finally gotten the official word straight from Chevrolet.
The 2020 Stingray with the Z51 package will hit 60mph in 2.9 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds at 121mph. The base Stingray without Z51 performs the 0-60 sprint in 3.0 seconds and covers the quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds but at 123 mph. That’s a whole lot of boogity, boogity, boogity for just $60,000. But why is the base car faster than the Z51 in the 1,320? It’s the same reason the Z51’s top speed is lower than the base car – aerodynamics. All that aero that keeps the car planted in the corners holds it back at high speeds in a straight line.
“The performance of the 2020 Stingray has far exceeded our expectations,” said Alex MacDonald, Chevrolet vehicle performance manager. “Moving more weight over the rear wheels helps us get off the line quicker, but it’s the integration between the powertrain and chassis that really takes the performance to new levels.”
All that performance is the result of harmonization between the 495hp LT2 engine and the 8-speed Tremec DCT. The transmission is built at Tremec’s Wixom, MI facility utilizing components produced Belgium, Mexico, and other locales. The DCT itself is a complex unit that contains the rear differential, final drive unit, its controls system, various sensors, its lubrication system, and the cooling hardware. It’s a combination of all these items in addition to the inherent advantages of mid-engine architecture that allow the C8 to achieve its mighty performance.
“The goal from the beginning was to design a transmission worthy of an exotic supercar that is fun to drive everyday,” said Terri Schulke, GM global chief engineer of transmissions. “We achieved that goal by combining the best attributes of the LT2 and the DCT, and I think the impressive performance numbers speak for themselves.”
We expect to hear more details, including official fuel economy ratings, now through the car’s February start of production.
2020 Stingray Quickest in its History
LT2 V-8 engine and dual-clutch transmission combine for unprecedented performance
DETROIT — Jaws dropped when Chevrolet first announced the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray coupe would accelerate 0 to 60 mph in less than three seconds with the available Z51 Performance Package. Today, the brand confirms the sportscar with the available Z51 Package can reach 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and cross the quarter-mile mark in 11.2 seconds at 121 mph.
Even without the available Z51 Package, a base Stingray, starting at $59,995 (including destination charges, excluding tax, title, license, and dealer fees), can reach 60 mph in three seconds flat and cross the quarter mile mark in 11.2 seconds at 123 mph. Performance numbers may vary, as different climates, tire conditions and road surfaces may affect results.
“The performance of the 2020 Stingray has far exceeded our expectations,” said Alex MacDonald, Chevrolet vehicle performance manager. “Moving more weight over the rear wheels helps us get off the line quicker, but it’s the integration between the powertrain and chassis that really takes the performance to new levels.”
A full chart of the above performance specs is listed below:
This groundbreaking performance is achieved through a formula of rear weight bias, tire technology, aerodynamics, chassis tuning and of course, the powertrain. The 6.2L LT2 Small Block V-8 engine and eight-speed dual-clutch transmission are in many ways the stars of the show.
Chevy’s Small Block Hits the Gym
The LT2 is the only naturally aspirated V-8 in the segment and is SAE-certified at 495 horsepower (369 kW) and 470 lb.-ft. (637 Nm) of torque when equipped with performance exhaust, making it the most-powerful entry Corvette ever.
“The LT2 is one of our best efforts yet in Corvette’s history of naturally aspirated high-performance Small Block V-8 engines,” said Jordan Lee, GM’s global Chief Engineer of Small Block engines. “This engine is incredibly powerful and responsive. Power is readily available when the driver needs it.”
The standard engine-mounted dry sump oil system boasts three scavenge pumps, which help make this the most track-capable Stingray in history. The LT2’s lubrication system keeps oil in the dry sump tank and out of the engine’s crankcase. It provides exceptional engine performance even at lateral acceleration levels exceeding 1g in all directions. The low profile oil pan is high-pressure die-casted – similar to some of Corvette’s large body structure parts – to reduce mass and is only 3.5 mm thick. The LT2’s pan-mounted oil filter and cooler assembly has cored oil and coolant passages, allowing for a 25 percent increase in cooling capacity over the LT1.
Much of the LT2’s additional power can be attributed to how much better it breathes. The intake system is a low restriction design and incorporates identical 210mm length intake runners and an 87mm throttle body. The performance header exhaust manifolds are also low restriction and feature a stylized four-into-one design with twisted runners to allow for thermal expansion. The camshaft now has 14mm gross lift on the intake and exhaust with an increased duration for both profiles, which helps the combustion system take advantage of the extra flow capacity. The LT2 retains variable valve timing, with 62 crank degrees of cam phasing authority.
The LT2 has a very low-profile oil pan. This allows the engine to be mounted low in the vehicle for a low center of gravity and improves handling and track performance. The DCT’s flywheel dampener was even reduced in diameter to allow for the lower engine position.
Bespoke DCT Puts the Power Down
Chevy’s first eight-speed dual-clutch transmission was designed to do two things – put the LT2’s power down and put a smile on every driver’s face. The bespoke, transaxle transmission was developed with Tremec to provide uninterrupted torque delivery whether setting a new lap record or heading out on a roadtrip.
“The goal from the beginning was to design a transmission worthy of an exotic supercar that is fun to drive everyday,” said Terri Schulke, GM global chief engineer of transmissions. “We achieved that goal by combining the best attributes of the LT2 and the DCT, and I think the impressive performance numbers speak for themselves.”
Engineering decided to use a dual-clutch design because it better supports the Stingray’s new mid-engine architecture and desired performance. The DCT aids vehicle performance with a very low center of gravity, enables desired weight distribution and offers maximum traction under acceleration. It is a highly integrated system, as it houses the differential, final drive, controls system, sensors, lubrication and cooling hardware.
The heart of the DCT uses dual concentric wet clutches that are opened by springs and closed by hydraulic pressure. The two clutches work in tandem for uninterrupted torque delivery as they toggle between gears. A separate lube circuit is used for on-demand clutch cooling to reduce parasitic losses. Holes in the outer housing allow for the wet clutches to operate moist instead of submerged. Gear ratios were engineered to be incredibly low-end biased for maximum acceleration. First gear takes advantage of the additional traction to get off the line quickly and reach 60 mph in 2.9 seconds with the Z51 Performance Package. The Z51’s 11.2 second quarter-mile acceleration is achieved by lightning-fast upshifts and excellent low-end torque. The gear ratios are:
The final drive and differential are integrated for the first time and make for an incredibly efficient package. A mechanical slip differential is standard on all 2020 Stingrays. The mLSD has an effective final drive ratio of 4.9:1 and is intended for straight line acceleration and dynamic handling. An electronic limited slip differential is offered on the Z51 Performance Package and has an effective final drive ratio of 5.2:1. It is intended for ultimate control during track driving and commands more authority than previous generation eLSDs.
Though they have different purposes, the mLSD and eLSD were engineered together. They share a common ring and pinion gear ratio of 3.55:1. Their ring and pinion gears also use a zero offset spiral bevel as opposed to the typical hypoid arrangement, which allows for a common fluid to be used and benefits overall packaging.
Software Plays Key Role
Beyond hardware, the transmission software controls are really where customers will find the most tangible benefits. Most of these will feel familiar when toggling through varying driver modes:
- Tour: Moves to the background to provide quiet, smooth shifts for optimal ride comfort.
- Sport: Gives drivers altered up and downshifts for more spirited driving.
- Track: Maximizes vehicle performance with aggressive gear selection expected to keep the engine in a peak performance window.
A proprietary algorithm will influence gear selection if the car senses spirited driving. The level of aggressiveness will change with modes, but when sensed, the DCT can downshift early on hard braking, hold gears when lifting off the throttle and alter shifts points with lateral acceleration. All behaviors are intended to increase driving enjoyment and avoid unnecessary shifting.
To achieve peak acceleration numbers on the Stingray, drivers must initiate a performance launch. Once in Track mode, double pressing the traction control button will put the vehicle in Performance Traction Management for Magnetic Ride Control-equipped cars or Competitive driving mode for all others. Once prepared, the driver can then fully depress the brake and accelerator pedal together, and then release the brake pedal once 3,500 RPM are reached. Extensive work went into ensuring the DCT felt like the best of both worlds: the spirited, direct connected feeling of a manual and the premium driving comfort of an automatic. The magnesium steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters give a premium feel when pulled. For the most responsive shifts possible, the shift signal is sent directly to the transmission control module the moment the paddle pull begins. This avoids any communications delay through other modules and allows drivers precise control of their gear selection.
Unique features of the ergonomic paddles are:
- Double paddle declutch – pull both paddles simultaneously to simulate pressing a clutch pedal.
- Temporary manual – simply use either paddle while in Drive, and the vehicle will temporarily switch to manual mode.
- Lowest available gear – hold the downshift paddle and the transmission will shift to the lowest available gear for a quick burst of torque.
The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray coupe and convertible are available to order at certified Chevrolet dealerships nationwide or on Chevrolet.com.
Eleven worthy competitors, one surprising winner.
Crowning the Road & Track Performance Car of the Year is not an easy task. Each fall, we gather every new or revised performance car that we can get our hands on. While some of these candidates naturally worm into our hearts, this is more than a popularity contest—the award doesn’t simply go to the machine we like the most or the one we think is the coolest. PCOTY is about looking to the future and finding the car that provides the most hope for the enthusiast: a machine that offers everything you expect of a modern vehicle yet still tugs at the heart.
To pick a winner, we used the following criteria:
- Outright speed and testing numbers are part of the package, but they don’t determine the winner. Beyond sheer pace, a car has to bring emotion to the table.
- The car must embrace track duty while still being enjoyable on the road.
- Technology has to be used in service of the driver, not just added speed. Feedback and sensation via complexity is great, but complexity alone doesn’t cut it.
- Lastly, we ask ourselves, would any other manufacturer build it? Does the car feel uniquely of its story and brand, with a personality all its own?
This year’s test saw 11 cars join us for two days at Northern California’s Thunderhill Raceway Park. A staff vote at the end of our track time cut the field to six contenders. Those six were then road-tripped on a winding, demanding test route through the Sierra Nevada, ending at Lake Tahoe. A final vote at the end of the journey determined the winner.
You might be wondering why we elected to conduct track testing first this year. Past PCOTY contests have tested cars on the road first, then trekked to a closed course. Our current method gave the staff a chance to drive every car in similar conditions, learning their limits in a safe, controlled environment.
When it came to lap times, we enlisted a licensed club racer with no Thunderhill experience: me. We did this for a reason, and it wasn’t to build my ego. Most of our readers are not pro drivers. When you buy a new car, a professional’s lap time at any track is an interesting metric, but it’s rarely reflective of a normal person’s experience. We wanted to stress accessibility and adaptability. How easy is it to get up to speed in a given car? How communicative is the car? Is it hard to learn the quirks? Under the watchful eyes of our testing staff, every PCOTY contender got a quick warm-up session to set tire pressures, then no more than seven timed laps. Just enough to establish a representative lap and suss idiosyncrasies, not enough to set a record.
Of course, no method is perfect. Ambient temperature during our lapping day started at around 85 degrees Fahrenheit and eventually hit 107. That kind of heat doesn’t help lap speed, and it ensured that late runners needed shorter stints, as times immediately dropped off. While I made every attempt to, as one of our contributors once said, “underserve all the cars equally,” most amateur drivers will get faster over the course of a day at a track they had never before seen, learning the pavement’s nuances, and I am no exception. With those caveats in mind, it’s best to view the lap times as bellwether, not absolute. A loose guide to judge the spectacular machinery on these pages.
In the end, that’s the key. We hold PCOTY testing each year as reason to celebrate the future of the performance car, not lament it. The industry is undergoing transformation. More than ever, regulations try to force automakers into a box. Consumer trends lean toward amorphous appliances. At Road & Track, we drive hundreds of new cars each year, which means our affection for hydraulic steering, natural aspiration, lightweight efficiency, and a good, old-fashioned stick shift is tested on a regular basis.
Yet look at the field we have here. These cars are proof that there’s still plenty to be excited about. None of them fade into the background or aim to remove you from the experience. In a time when we’re told that the driverless car is around the corner, these machines put the driver squarely at the front of the experience. As it should be.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is this PCOTY thing?
One of this magazine’s crown jewels: A racetrack. A multi-day road route covering hundreds of miles. A king anointed among the year’s most significant new sports and exotic cars. Our priorities are emotion, engineering cohesion, relevance, and price, in that order. Plus beef jerky. (It’s a road trip. There’s always beef jerky.)
It’s not cheap. While fast cars have to work in cities, they’re most effectively and safely tested in the middle of nowhere. In this case, that meant shipping employees and equipment to a remote location, then orchestrating hotels, food, support vehicles, data collection, and two photographers. (Plus we spent $5 on giant stick-on googly eyes.)
That was senior editor Zach Bowman. Never give a Tennessean a corporate card in a Walmart.
Did you stick them on something?
One of the dim-looking minivans we use for chase and photography.
What did that poor van do to you?
Not much. But Bowman did walk out of that Walmart with a CD copy of Black Sabbath’s 1970 masterpiece Paranoid, because he wanted to hear “War Pigs” at ear-bleed level while wearing aviator sunglasses and doing van burnouts at stoplights.
That sounds awfully specific.
PCOTY is all about specifics. And generals gathered in their masses.
I’m sure nothing went wrong.
One staffer “ran out of pavement” (his words) and put the McLaren off at Thunderhill. (No one was hurt, and the car was fine.) The Lexus and Lotus got flat tires. And one of our vans was broken into in San Francisco—they took deputy editor Bob Sorokanich’s backpack, but not the copy of Paranoid. Editor-at-large Sam Smith left an open bag of Haribo gummy bears in the van during the break-in and then grumped for a bit because the bag had broken glass in it.
Was Bob upset?
Smith was heartbroken.
Who are the other mooks here?
Staff mooks joined by contributing mooks! Some adept at track driving, others with a penchant for sussing out a car’s foibles on the road. While a few fancy themselves engineers, others have actual engineering know-how. But all love sports cars and have strong opinions about which end of the Corvette should house the engine. You could say each participant brought a very particular set of skills.
Like Liam Neeson in Taken.
Only with more Lamborghini. And Bob, a professional editor who intimidates approximately nobody, speaking calmly about his backpack theft. (“I have a particular set of skills with… adjectives.”)
Why Thunderhill Raceway Park?
It’s a perfect arena. Demanding of both driver and car, modern, safe. Plus great roads in spitting distance.
The mid-engine Corvette: how’d you get a car so rare and new?
We asked to borrow a preproduction C8 from GM. They said yes, with caveats. The Corvette had minders, and they took the car back each night, checking it over. We also had to agree to an embargo, keeping drive impressions confidential for weeks.
What a peek behind the curtain! Got any more secrets?
Maybe! Ask Matt Farah about his superpower. Ask Bowman why he had an obsession with Gatorade Limon Pepino. And whatever you do, don’t ask Smith and Jason Cammisa what happens when Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” hits the radio on a road trip. They will demonstrate. And you will regret it.
This year’s PCOTY field was one of our strongest, but as with every year, there were notable absences. The absentees generally fall into one of three categories: the car you’re thinking of wasn’t launched as a new vehicle in the year preceding PCOTY testing (and was thus ineligible), the manufacturer wouldn’t lend us one (privately owned test cars are impractical), or the car in question just isn’t any good. Here are the models that received invitations but couldn’t make the party.
2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera: A lightweight DB11 with 715 hp. Aston elected to not participate in the test.
2020 Audi R8: The first facelifted R8s arrived in the U.S. a week before our test. Sadly, there wasn’t enough time to get one shipped to Thunderhill.
2020 BMW M8: The new flagship M car was first shown in June, but BMW only made it available for review (in Europe) the same week as PCOTY.
2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo: The 710-hp V-8 from the wild, track-focused 488 Pista, in a more road-oriented package. Ferrari couldn’t provide one during our test window.
2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500: Supercharged V-8 and hellacious speed, but Ford didn’t provide test cars to journalists until a month after PCOTY testing.
2019 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro:
A track-attack version of a car already known for circuit prowess. Only hitch: the first GT R Pros didn’t cross the Atlantic until the tail end of 2019, after this issue shipped to the printer.
2020 Polestar 1: A 600-hp, hybrid, carbon-bodied GT from Volvo’s new electric-performance offshoot. Polestar wasn’t ready to let us borrow one, but don’t worry—we’ll drive it soon.
2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4: On paper, a PCOTY front-runner. Which is a shame, because Porsche had no test cars in the country.
2020 Subaru WRX STI S209: The WRX STI might be a few years old, but the S209 promises to be the best version yet. Subaru held a media test event for the car during PCOTY week, so its loaner 209s were all tied up.
We love bleeding-edge science experiments from companies like Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Pagani, and Rimac, but hypercars just don’t fit the spirit of this particular test. Mostly because of their near-unattainable prices. We’ve made exceptions in the past, due to circumstance or serendipity (last year’s PCOTY included a McLaren Senna, for example), but in this case, we preferred to avoid the archetype.
Where We Drove
We based the 2020 Performance Car of the Year test out of Willows, California, mostly for the town’s proximity to Thunderhill Raceway. The staff of this magazine spent two days there, setting lap times and evaluating the competitors in the rolling grass north of Sacramento.
Two days at any track is a blessing, but turning laps is less than half of what makes a sports car compelling. Everything about a Lotus or a McLaren hints at where the machine might take you, the lines of the thing whispering how the two of you might burn a tank of fuel. Or three.
We were aiming for gold country. Those mountains played stage to the 1800s boom that brought more than 300,000 people to Northern California in search of a fortune. By 1855, the rush had largely turned to bust, the masses vanishing as quickly as they had appeared. Those people left plenty behind—mostly vestigial towns dotting the hills, but also a spiderweb of wagon-route roads connecting them. On a map, the highways look like sports-car catnip. We only had to get there.
The farmland around Willows is flat and drab, fruit orchards aligned in dusty grids. Our unlikely caravan shot through it in the morning, over Highway 162, a thin needle across the state’s Central Valley, from Willows to Oroville. It’s strange and beautiful, home to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. Great egrets loped through the wetlands on either side of the highway. They chased their reflections for one slow-motion moment, then turned skyward.
Whatever envy we felt only lasted as long as it took us to make our way to Highway 70. The two-lane runs vaguely northeast, winding up and through a fir forest from Oroville. A year ago, the Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire, devoured the landscape, and the place still shows the scars of it. Gutted stone homes, black tree trunks like charcoal scrawls. But that road is a work of art, the pavement stitched to the north fork of the Feather River as it pools and falls down the mountain.
The water runs through the core of California’s mother lode, a seam of gold-rich land just three miles wide but more than 120 miles long. John Bidwell found gold in the Feather in 1848 just outside Oroville, creating what would become Bidwell’s Bar, one of the richest mines in the area. Three years later, the place was home to 2000 miners, each aimed at digging money from the ground.
The radio crackled. It was contributor Matt Farah.
“I don’t know who picked this road, but it’s spectacular.”
Farah is a Californian, an East Coast transplant who lives in Venice Beach. He’s a journalist and R&T contributor who spends his days driving around the state, and there we were, on a stretch of pavement he’d never seen. Proof that a hundred lifetimes wouldn’t show you every inch of California. When we stopped for a driver change, the judges gathered on the side of the road. We’re all prone to big gestures and loud voices, but something about that place, the sound of the water and the stillness of those trees, kept us quieter than usual, our vocabularies sapped by the sight of Northern California at its finest. Editor-at-large Sam Smith looked down at the Feather, a coil of green basins. “I can’t believe this is in the same state as Los Angeles.”
Some of our favorite roads are wedded to water, and Highway 70 is one of the best. We chased it upstream for better than an hour. It was already autumn in the hills, the light sharp and clear as it filtered through the trees and splashed over our windshields. Far below, sunbathers and fishermen sat on the banks in the sunlight, oblivious to our passing as the road writhed over steel-trestle bridges and through old stone tunnels.
We paused in Quincy for fuel, the cars jockeying for pumps. The day before, in Willows, it had been 107 degrees, but we’d been gaining elevation with every switchback, and the air now sat closer to 50. None of us dressed warmly enough, but we didn’t care. Every convertible had its top back and the heat cranked, an idiot grin glowing from the driver’s seat. We left the gas station and took off toward Quincy’s main street, then hung a right on Highway 119. The road abandoned the river and climbed further into the ragged mountains.
Up there, teetering snow poles marked the shoulder, placed to guide plows through the winter. They towered over the cars. Suddenly, the sepia photos we saw in every convenience store made sense: 1930s Fords and ’40s Buicks parked beside 20-foot walls of ice and snow.
Highway 119 spilled onto the long, windswept Bucks Lake, and we arrived in a blink, settling into the gravel lot at Lakeshore Resort, a small restaurant and lodge on the shore. With the cars tucked in next to local pickups, we headed inside for lunch. The restaurant’s back patio was drenched in that crackling sunlight that seems so particular to Northern California afternoons. Iced tea arrived by the pitcher, and we washed down burgers as bald eagles circled the lake.
Senior editor Kyle Kinard looked out over the water, whitecaps forming on the surface, whipped up by a far-off wind. He had planned the route, arriving weeks before to scout the path and lay out a map.
“I don’t know how to say this without overselling what’s coming, but it gets better from here.”
After lunch, we turned onto Highway 120 toward La Porte, another wonder. Tighter even than the climb to Bucks Lake, the pavement ascending thousands of feet. In some spots, the road narrowed to one lane, the pavement necking between sheer rock walls and thick stands of trees. One moment, we dived into a set of wooded hairpins. The next, we broke into a clearing above a thousand-foot drop. Kinard was right.
The rest of the day carried on the same. A series of exclamation points. After the mountain, the road unwound, Highway 120’s tight bends making way for a river of fresh tarmac. The trees thinned, replaced by golden fields and stocky barns covered in flaking red paint. The caravan dropped into high gear, enjoying a few miles of lazy pace as the sun set.
Night descended as we made our way toward Tahoe, parading through one camp town after another. We caught Highway 49 through Tahoe National Forest, the trees turning to dark pillars in the fading light. The cooler air made for eager engines, exhausts popping and echoing through the woods. The group spread out, and it wasn’t until we caught up to each other at a stop sign, leading onto a highway, that someone noted we had all been running windows down, stereos off.
We called it a night outside Truckee, filling the garage and driveway of an Airbnb house with more than half a million dollars of sports cars. Editor-in-chief Travis Okulski stood in the drive for a moment, hands in his pockets, surveying the cars as everyone gathered luggage.
“This whole day has been like a movie,” he said.
It was true. We’d run through a series of driving bests. We had watched the roads spiral and contract, fell head over heels for a corner of California as the sun sank low. How many perfect days behind the wheel do you get, really? Sports cars demand so much from your life. Time. Space. Money. They don’t fit the family. They cannot brave a Costco run. Most spend their days slogging through a commute or languishing in a garage. But a good run up a clear bit of asphalt can wipe all that away. A day of it is the stuff of fantasy.
When we woke the next morning, we found ourselves with a pile of sports cars in the heart of some of the country’s best driving. We loaded up again and pointed at Donner Pass. California can be an insufferable place. Expensive and full of itself, but also so gorgeous it hurts, packed with more perfect roads per mile than anywhere else in the nation. The route up the pass felt as precious as all that ore Bidwell and his miners pulled out of those ridges. From up there, Donner Lake shone in the sun, reflecting that unreal California sky back at itself. We parked the cars and marveled.
You rip toward Turn 1. The straight is shorter than it looks. Fourth gear, though, at the end. Then into the first corner, a tight left-right combo. Looks like a needle-thread: Huck the car in, all the brake for the right, trailing it, maybe, to keep the nose under you in the corner’s second half. Don’t put it in the grass; people put it in the grass here. (Remember the old saw: don’t look for the wall, or you’ll find it.)
Uphill to the right after that. Turn 2, a third-gear left that goes on forever, painted across a hill. Camber will probably make the car push wide in the midcorner, the nose indifferent and light, and then the front tires set, third or fourth gear as the corner opens into the downhill straight that follows, the tail on casters.
Delicacy! Two corners in, it’s obvious: this place wants finesse.
Turn 3 leaps into your face. Overslowing will happen, because it looks tighter than it is. Mountains to the west, filling the windshield. The first time through 3, you realize you can straight-line the sucker, ripping over the curb. Some cars fly a wheel or two. Then the track changes again, blind, Turns 4 and 5, undulating pavement and no camber where you need it, big grassy berms on exit. The car doesn’t turn, then it turns too much. Turn 5 pinches down and seems to want you in that dirt. It’s a quick transition, but you have to keep your hands tidy or the car won’t settle enough to stay on the pavement.
A breath. Bit of a break, the track seems to open up here.
Six seems normal. It’s not. Your first time through here is also a wake-up, a realization as the pavement appears: 6 connects to 7! So you place the car properly or run out of road when you least expect, committed to a line you can’t see, the exit over a hill. There are divots in the grass at the exit, bites in the dirt where people have tried to hit it early, snipe a little more speed on entry, a little more room on the way out.
Seven is a tight left, arm over arm. Doesn’t feel right and probably can’t. Eight and 9 are waiting games. You go up and over the blind-right 8, cresting a hill at the apex, taillights light. Down into a tight, grippy right for 9, and finally the slow, hard left of 10, a release onto the straight.
It feels like walking through an open door—all that paved runoff, hands unwound as soon as you can, right mirror almost kissing the tires stacked next to the wall. The car yelling its guts out, waiting for 1 again. Lot going on here, you think, passing the flag stand. Do it better next time, your inner voice says, as you wrap that first lap.
And with every one after.
Mazda Miata RF 1:34.64
Hyundai Veloster N 1:31.44
Toyota Supra 1:28.93
Lexus RC F Track 1:27.56
BMW M2 Competition 1:26.91
Lotus Evora GT 1:25.35
Nissan GT-R Nismo 1:23.80
Porsche 911 Carrera S 1:23.08
Chevrolet Corvette 1:22.83
McLaren 600LT 1:20.42
Lamborghini Huracán Evo 1:20.00
We Chose a Hyundai
A Hyundai hatchback, over some of the most significant supercars of our era. Over the second coming of the Toyota Supra, an all-new Porsche 911, and even that beast of myth and legend, the mid-engine Corvette.
It seems impossible. But before you set this magazine on fire and use it to light a pitchfork-lined path to our door, understand that the Hyundai was not the convenient answer.
Politics and popular opinion all but demanded we hand our laurels to a brand with a dusty pedigree. Over the course of PCOTY testing, each of our judges squirreled away feelings on the hatchback, guarding them from others for fear of ridicule or expulsion. But the truth is simple: the 2020 Hyundai Veloster N is a greater celebration of the philosophies we treasure than any other new vehicle.
Let me explain.
There were 11 cars, handpicked and brilliant. They had to prove capable and engaging on the two undulating miles of Thunderhill Raceway Park’s West track before we’d set them loose on our demanding public-road test route. After two days of track time, only six cars would be allowed to join us on the street drive.
The job should have been easy work for machines like the McLaren 600LT, the Lamborghini Huracán Evo, and the Nissan GT-R NISMO, but 2019 was a big year for sports cars. The Supra has returned. The Chevrolet Corvette is mid-engine for the first time. And the Porsche 911 has entered an all-new generation, a sharper, stronger iteration of the world’s most versatile fast car. The others were no less honed, representing every facet of performance, from affordable gems like the Mazda Miata RF Club and the Hyundai, to serious hardware like the sleeper BMW M2 Competition, the bristling Lexus RC F Track, and the exotic, focused Lotus Evora GT.
We’ve never had such a competitive or disparate group of vehicles, each with an honest shot at taking home the prize. This isn’t an editor’s-choice award or a lap-time sprint for gold. Road & Track’s Performance Car of the Year must work well on a track, but it can’t be a one-trick pony; excellent apex behavior must give way to on-road competence. And most of all, a PCOTY winner has to use its technology in service of driver emotion, not just loftier speed. Automakers are increasingly occupied with deleting humanity from the automotive experience, and these days, speed is easy. The harder job is building a car worth driving.
So the Supra should have won, right? It’s a fast, ultra-modern coupe pointed directly at people like us. The Supra nameplate, with its long and storied history, is now engineered in concert with a company—BMW—that rose to prominence selling “the Ultimate Driving Machine.”
Except the Toyota didn’t win. Our judges voted it out, almost unanimously, in the initial cut. The car didn’t leave the track.
Why? How? The Supra is a magnet, low and small and absolutely electric, our testers trying to hide their excitement at simply seeing the thing, let alone driving it. But there’s not much Supra here—none of the name’s legendary solidity and brawn—or even much Toyota. The chassis and driveline are shared with the BMW Z4; the badge on the hood has a BMW part number. The interior smells like a BMW. And despite the Toyota-specific suspension and driveline tune, the car suffers from the same maladies that plague most modern BMWs.
Not that it isn’t seriously fast. Editor-in-chief Travis Okulski took the Supra to a ripping 1:28.93 around Thunderhill West, only a few tenths slower than the more powerful RC F Track. Much of the Supra’s time came from its spectacular front-end grip and precision, the front tires responsive and predictable, though filtered through dead steering. But the real problem is in how the thing does its job. At the limit, it can be twitchy and distant.
“The Toyota somehow manages to be joyless,” editor-at-large Sam Smith said, after his first session. “There’s no reward for focus, no incentive to be a hooligan… It doesn’t feel like any fast Toyota I’ve driven. None of the confidence or unflappability of a second- or third-generation Supra.”
Some of this likely lies at the feet of the car’s maker—without undoing a single fastener, we counted 28 separate uses of the word “BMW,” or the BMW logo, under the Supra’s hood. For a few years now, the Bavarians have been content to turn out cars the mechanical equivalent of the music student who can hit every note at recital but still miss the point of a piece. No surprise, then, that the BMW M2 Competition suffers some of the Supra’s pitfalls, despite clocking an impressive 1:26.91. With 405 hp, the 3600-pound M2 is far from slow, but BMW seems to have worked hard to isolate the driver. All that hustle occurs through a cotton filter. The steering is light and vague. The extra grunt and suspension stiffness over the discontinued, 365-hp base M2 are part of a wholesale trade, exchanging a bit of that car’s talk for straight-line speed and a willingness to drift.
“I have mixed feelings,” contributor Ross Bentley said. “It’s not a bad car, just not what it should be. Good brakes, a little too much understeer. It gives confidence because it’s not going to do anything bad.”
A shame, because nearly everyone praised the M2’s slick gearbox and perfectly positioned pedals. Proof that deep down, BMW still remembers the pleasure of a manual transmission. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to make the cut for the road portion of the test. Heartbreaking for a group of judges packed with BMW owners.
And those cars weren’t alone. PCOTY always carries a few surprises and underdogs. The Lexus RC F was out of its depth in this company, but we adored the car’s audacity, its snorty V-8 and too-stiff chassis. It’s a perfect caricature of a Dodge Challenger: great and hilarious, but unrefined and outshined.
Nothing paints a clearer picture of the field’s competitiveness than the strengths of the vehicles left behind. Five cars had to go, and the Lexus was too flawed to stay. Same for the Nissan GT-R NISMO. Who cares that the GT-R is now in its 12th model year? The Nissan is effortlessly fast and laugh-out-loud entertaining. Of all the six-digit cars on hand, it was also the only one that didn’t come with an army of factory minders. Just one guy in a Nissan Armada carrying an extra set of tires. When we asked him if we should make any concessions for the test’s 107-degree heat, maybe bleed off tire pressures, he just shrugged and smiled.
“Nah, it’ll be fine.”
It was. Despite being the heaviest car in the running, the 3865-pound GT-R popped a 1:23.80, less than a second behind both the Porsche and the Corvette. Nissan has improved the car almost every year since its 2007 launch, taking it from distant missile to talkative weapon. The NISMO feels like an old friend, but this year’s updates weren’t enough to keep its head above water. A great car outdone by exceptional ones.
The Lamborghini was also glorious, but it didn’t leave the track, either. Prior to PCOTY, most of us had only experienced the 630-hp, V-10-powered Huracán Evo on public streets, where phrases like “involuntary manslaughter” and “reckless endangerment” shackle you to what’s possible. Unleashed on a closed circuit, the Evo proved its abilities. Miraculous and terrifying ones, mostly. Violent shifts that echo like small-arms fire. Acceleration that rummages through your stomach to see what you had for lunch. That all-wheel-drive system performs the unnatural with a shrug, thanks partly to a front end that feels stitched to the ground. And when you think you’ve come to the edge of that ocean of traction, the Lamborghini digs around in its cupboard and produces another pitcher of the stuff. Trip into a slide, the car almost catches itself, despite feeling big as a city block.
The Evo was hands-down the fastest car around the course. The sound chased it from corner to corner, a Doppler flag marking position. In a field packed with muted and turbocharged exhaust notes, that barking, naturally aspirated engine could not have stood further apart.
“Lamborghinis are supposed to be all style and no substance,” said contributing editor Jason Cammisa. “This has both in equal measure.”
Okulski had just stepped from the car after his laps when Smith cornered him, curious.
“Remember 2018’s Huracán Performante?” Okulski asked.
“Yeah. Sublime. Nothing wrong with it,” Smith said.
“This is better.”
The only problem lurked on pit lane in white paint. A cannon that bumped the Lamborghini from the list of finalists despite being slower around the track. From its nonsensical doors and carbon-fiber buckets to its airy cockpit and turbocharged, theatrical V-8, the McLaren 600LT managed to out-occasion the Huracán at every turn. The LT had the same lightning acceleration, just married to a lithe chassis and the most tactile steering in the business.
Switching from McLaren to Lamborghini was like trading skin and bone for a pattern of pixels. And while the ever-stable Huracán seems to always have a guiding hand on your back, the McLaren could not care less if you chased your dumbest instincts. Drop the hammer in a second-gear hairpin and it does exactly what a 592-horse rear-driver should: spit you sideways in smoke and noise, the limiter kicking at your skull. The British car accomplished as much as the Italian but said more in the process, pushed you to greater heights. Shouted messages to your spine where the Huracán was all murmurs. And when it came down to it, that was the common thread through our six finalists—a hint that someone in R&D did more than tick boxes.
So we left that Lamborghini behind. The McLaren led the pack on the way out of Willows as we hopscotched a series of slow-moving 18-wheelers. The Veloster was next, followed by the 911 and the Corvette. The Miata bopped along behind, the Lotus and its supercharged bark last in line. We worked our way east, toward Tahoe.
Passing in a 600LT is a profanity. Tap the left paddle twice, check the oncoming lane, then plant your right foot and wait for England to put a boot to your chest. For all of our braying about speed’s irrelevance, there’s plenty to be said for a straight road. And while the McLaren’s capabilities are far past the legal limit, the car has other tricks. You can fold the hardtop or roll down the back cabin glass to let that V-8 gasp in your ear.
Before you die, try to execute at least one full-throttle rip through a mountain tunnel in a 600LT with the roof peeled back. It’ll make the best-of when your life flashes before your eyes.
Our stops turned into mini conferences, judges gathering to point and pick at the cars.
“I cannot believe they just let regular people buy these,” contributor Matt Farah said, gesturing at the McLaren. “It’s so obscenely fast. Feels like the craziest engine on Earth is bolted to your spine.”
“It’s the car Lotus wishes they could build,” deputy editor Bob Sorokanich added. “It simply disappears underneath you.”
The Corvette, too, had a way of vanishing in your hands. Few vehicles have felt so uniquely crafted to flip our switches. Our test car, a pre-production unit supplied by GM, brought caveats. For the record, this is not generally how we like to do things. There can be wide gulfs between a car’s test-build performance and job one, and judging a nearly complete effort isn’t always fair. But the eighth-generation Vette is the most significant sports car in recent memory, and GM said that if we wanted that icon in this year’s PCOTY, we had to accept a prepro car.
No one cared when they rolled it out of the trailer. The Chevrolet turned us into children, pointing and crawling over it even as it was backed from the hauler. The C8 is a weird cocktail of familiar and foreign. It smells like Corvette inside, that faint whiff of glue. The valve covers are sparkly, bass-boat red. You can stuff a live human into the cavernous rear trunk. A single individual can remove and stow the roof panel. You sit so far forward, all but atop the front axle. Which is partly why the steering feels instantaneous.
The Corvette has been nipping at supercar heels for years, and it finally seems poised to take a proper bite. The C8 is a brilliant car. “Some elements—engine blueprint, sound, power delivery—are emphatically Corvette,” said senior editor Kyle Kinard. “Others—seating position, turn-in, rotation—aren’t.” As Smith pointed out, the Corvette has always been centered on the democratization of an experience: an affordable version of the European sports car in the 1950s, of the cocaine-cruiser highway vibe of BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the 1980s, and in recent years, Porsche-besting performance with a Silverado price tag. Viewed through that lens, as a Lamborghini for Lubbock, it is pure success.
But there are kinks. The C8’s cabin felt more claustrophobic than that of the front-engined C7, and someone in the General Motors chain of command decided that this car, mid-engine for the first time, needed to drive a lot like the old one. Steering aside, it feels very much like a C7, minus a bit of balance. We missed the liveliness and poise of other mid-engine cars, the nose grip. The delta prompted a question: if you’re going to scrap 66 years of brand precedent and abandon the manual transmission altogether, why look back? Go for broke.
Still, you could make an argument that such things are irrelevant. So the Corvette doesn’t pirouette like a European supercar costing twice as much. Who cares? In Okulski’s lapping, the Chevrolet was still quicker than its longtime rival, the 911, beating the German by a quarter of a second.
And on the road to Tahoe, it was as good as a Corvette has ever been. Comfortable and relaxed when you wanted, eating miles with that V-8 barely breathing. Or sharp and alive, dicing through switchbacks.
When we stopped for fuel, curious strangers lingered near the fleet, making slow passes on their way to the cashier. The Corvette was king, onlookers ignoring the McLaren and 911 for a better look at the C8. In that crowd, certain cars simply vanished, the Veloster N and Miata RF all but invisible. Win some, lose some.
The hitch, sinking the C8, was the transmission. A twin-clutch automatic, Corvette’s first. In automatic mode, on track or the street, it is perfectly adept, handing out shifts quicker than thought. But manual mode is a half step behind the competition, denying downshifts or letting the engine bash the limiter, unsure of how much intervention to provide.
If you must take our clutch pedals, at least swap them for a transmission that wants to play. GM benchmarked the PDK dual-clutch in the 911 while developing the Vette’s transaxle, and it’s clear why. There is no more satisfying or evolved two-pedal gearbox. The PDK in the new 911 Carrera S is quicker and more focused than any human, but it doesn’t rub your nose in it or rap your knuckles when you slip up. Lap after lap, the trans works with you to be a little quicker, covering your tail when you miss a shift and dropping a gear if it thinks you can gain a tenth.
Maybe the Corvette’s production gearbox will be better. Regardless, the disparity was instructive. The 911 and Vette come from different schools of thought. Chevrolet used to know how to subtly refine a product while guarding its identity; Porsche still does. This new-generation 911 fully embraces its rear-engine heritage, and on track, you can feel that delicious weight imbalance, the car’s strengths helping to fire you off each apex.
“This thing is so good, it’s almost impossible to hate,” Farah said. “Who could ask for more power? Who could ask for better steering or more grip? How do you argue with PDK? The only real problem is that you don’t need to spend nearly as much to go this quick, if you don’t want a Porsche. But the 911 is still the Swiss Army knife of sports cars.”
That’s no small compliment. The Porsche’s back seats are large enough to stow a couple kids or a few small pieces of luggage. And when you don’t have the car by the scruff, it fades from your mind, so you can wrestle with what’s for dinner instead of struggling to see out the back window.
On the other hand, maybe that’s the 911 curse. As Cammisa noted, at commuting speeds, the car turns into a Panamera Coupe, Porsche’s luxury sedan, always in the background.
No one accused the Lotus of blending into anything. The car seemed to have dropped in from a different dimension. Or at least a different time. The Evora GT is a snapshot of sports cars from 10 years ago, bare and alive, a minor evolution of a relatively simple platform that debuted in 2009.
It’s weirdly bad at being a car. The seats are mounted a bit too high. The stereo is an aftermarket afterthought. The ignition sequence is an annoying secret handshake—a series of unintuitive button presses to disable the factory alarm—designed to make you look like an idiot at the valet. The rearview mirror provides a spectacular view of the engine’s wastegate actuator and nothing else. It’s loud. And none of that mattered, because the Evora is that good. The GT’s supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 is the same Toyota engine Lotus has used for years, but it sings. As I chased the Corvette up Northern California’s Donner Pass in second gear, roadside granite bluffs bounced the noise back through the open windows, the blower whine crawling around in my lap. On track, the gears felt a little long, the cable-shifted six-speed too clunky for quick shifts, but on the street, the gearbox was divine. It’s the car most of us would have in our garage.
“Fast, winding canyons are like sailing or skiing or ice-skating,” Smith said. “Just dancing. You choose the flow and the Lotus serves it up on a platter.”
There is magic here, and not from electronic trickery. No electronically adjustable shocks or computer-controlled differentials, just careful geometry and tuning. The stuff that has long made Lotus, Lotus. Unlike others in this group, the Evora demanded something of the driver. Skill was necessary for quick laps, but the car never punished a lack of it. You need more than a pulse to make an Evora circle a road course. But that was also true of another machine.
By cold logic, the Mazda Miata RF Club, the slowest and least powerful car at Thunderhill, should not have made the final cut. The RF is essentially an ordinary Miata with a folding steel hardtop in place of the base model’s soft convertible top. Unlike the convertible, however, the RF cannot meet most track-day roll-over inspections without substantial modifications. But Miatas are not logical cars, and those downsides were trumped by the simple fact that the Mazda is a kid’s birthday party behind the wheel, all sugar and pony rides and bliss. The yards of suspension travel and narrow tires make it the perfect forgiving trainer, intentions shouted through body roll. Much of the good came from the Mazda’s new engine, a rev-happy, 181-hp 2.0-liter. That four is best within a whisper of redline, and while most of us loved using every ounce of its performance, some judges were less interested in thrashing a tiny four-cylinder.
At a stop, Farah held up the Miata key, shaking it.
“I don’t like the Mazda much if you’re not caning the hell out of it,” he said. “Those transitions when you’re passing a semi, say. You have to go from sixth, to fifth, to fourth, to third.”
“Oh, I dig that,” Okulski grinned. “I was behind the Miata earlier, and every time it had to make a pass, you could tell the driver was ripping off downshifts. Looked fun.”
“You have to be comfortable owning a car you have to beat the hell out of all the time,” Farah said. “It’s not fun if you’re going slow and the whole thing is vibrating. It’s buzzy.”
Several other judges met him with cocked eyebrows. Cammisa spoke up. “A car that can rip off a 5.8-second 0-to-60 isn’t slow for most people.”
“Well, I still don’t fit in the damned thing,” Farah laughed.
Either way, the power differential was inconsequential in the Plumas National Forest. That was the Miata’s playground. Tight corners, short sightlines, and the Mazda’s accelerator bolted to the floor—those high-dollar cars couldn’t use their power, and they had nowhere to run. There are moments in our driving lives when everything clicks, and the Miata has long been a reliable key for opening that door. The current RF is the same. Even with some of the world’s most athletic vehicles on hand, the Miata was never left behind, carrying its momentum without spilling a drop.
As we sat around a table discussing the week, competitors dropped from contention one by one. The McLaren, for all its supercar glory, could be simultaneously dull and exhausting at a public pace. Gearbox complaints felled the Corvette from grace; every judge wanted an honest manual in place of the dual-clutch, in part because the manual C7 in similar trim was more joyous and alive. And the 911, so close to perfect, still felt big on those back roads. The Lotus, with its wailing V-6, missed the mark in refinement and, like the GT-R, is an old car trying to stay young, not so much moving the sports-car game forward as preserving it in amber. Even the Miata came up short, hamstrung by a folding hardtop that makes installation of a proper roll bar difficult—necessary hardware if you want to take the car to the track.
Only one machine garnered rave reviews all week, painting every driver’s face with a mile-wide grin. Only one gathered an almost unanimous vote.
The Veloster was an outlier—outgunned and outclassed by nearly every other car in this test. A gawky front-drive hatch, zero brand pedigree, in a field of slinky sports cars. But the Hyundai’s behavior quickly set it apart from the crowd. Hyundai’s head of performance development, Albert Biermann, spent 30 years working for BMW, back when the German company built a different sort of car. It shows, because the Hyundai is a love letter to folks like us. After a few happy miles at Thunderhill, Cammisa took to a logbook to remind us that front-wheel-drive cars famously fall apart on a road course—stumbling over themselves, running out of brake, drowning in understeer. But if that’s a universal truth, no one told Biermann. His work behaves like a front-wheel-drive greatest-hits album: want the savagery of a John Cooper Works Mini with the fleetfoot bliss of a Ford Fiesta ST? Turn-in is immediate, the steering precise and bubbling with feedback. The Hyundai has a more sorted front end and more cohesive feel than cars costing three times as much.
“This is a $30,430 car that makes a Volkswagen Golf R irrelevant,” Cammisa said.
What he did not say: The Golf R, one of history’s great hatchbacks, costs around 10 grand more and feels numb by comparison.
Because the Veloster N is so cheap, anyone with a nine-to-five can sign a note and ride off with one of the sharpest cars on the market. But it was more than price. Pressing the “N” button on the steering wheel changed the car dramatically. We tend to turn up our noses at drive modes on fun cars: Why does a Lamborghini need a Sport setting? Didn’t you buy the expensive loud one? The button makes perfect sense here, switching the car from quiet and comfortable daily driver to snotty hot hatch, the exhaust popping and snapping with more authority than anything the Corvette could muster. It is so fantastically neutral, pivoting at your hips, the throttle and brake yaw rheostats.
No front-drive car should work this well, but the Veloster is eager, urging you to run up and stick a pin in some expensive supercar’s ego. To watch it deflate as you fill their mirrors.
“It doesn’t care how you treat it,” Kinard said. “You can drive it on its tippy toes, like someone who knows what they’re doing. Or you can drive it like me, a ham-fisted Colin McRae wannabe. The thing rewards you.”
“That’s what the Civic Type R should have made people say,” Smith agreed.
There are flaws. The engine has all the character of an ink-jet printer, and the gas and brake pedal occupy different zip codes. But after five minutes, it doesn’t matter. As we chased the new Corvette away from our lunch stop on the final day of testing, the Hyundai had that mid-engine thing’s number, dancing and playing but forever confident. Kinard called it a bucket of puppies, but that’s not quite right. I’ve never met a puppy that can run down a McLaren on a back road.
For all their bluster and power, their lap times and displacement, most of the carmakers at this test made a deal with the devil—they traded what once made them great in the search for outright speed. Never has the disparity been greater between the capabilities of a modern fast car and what is legally possible. The new definition of performance isn’t what a car can do, but what it will do on a good road.
The Veloster N is what a great front-wheel-drive car should feel like. A delight that welds a smile to your face every time you drive it. It cheers you on, treating you like the hero. And it came from a company that had no reason to build it. Chevrolet has to make a Corvette; Porsche, a 911. Short of a giant meteorite or nuclear winter, those names will always exist. Cars like the Veloster N are more special, crafted not of obligation, but for the sheer joy of driving. That’s why the Hyundai Veloster N is Road & Track’s 2020 Performance Car of the Year.
We got your letter, Hyundai. We heart you, too.
Plus a set of step-by-step instructions from the maker himself.
The 2020 Corvette C8 is probably one of the most popular cars this year. Its performance figures matched with an affordable price tag warrant the attention that it has been getting since its reveal. The problem is, those who would like to get their hands on one will have to wait until next year since Chevrolet will commence deliveries in 2020.
If patience isn’t your strongest suit, well, there’s this – 1:20 scale of the Corvette C8 made out of Lego bricks. This isn’t made out of pre-fabricated brick, though. This Lego build by Lasse Deleuran isn’t an official Corvette C8 set but with regular bricks, rather.
Read full story at deBotech
The 9th Annual North Carolina Motorsports Industry Awards Gala was held January 21, 2015 at the Embassy Suites in Concord, NC. Each year the NCMA recognizes North Carolina companies that have positively affected the motorsports community within the state.
This year the Association recognized many diverse companies and the Industry Award Recipients were deBotech, Inc., Charlotte Motor Speedway STEM Program, Richard & Judy Childress – Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma, Safer Racer Tour and GoPro Motorplex.
In addition, the Achievement in Motorsports Tribute Award recognizes a person whose contributions to racing have made an immeasurable impact on motorsports in North Carolina. This year the NCMA recognized NASCAR President Mike Helton. Previous recipients were Benny Parsons, Richard Petty, Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, O. Bruton Smith and H.A. Humpy Wheeler.
Michael Waltrip presented deBotech’s Industry Award to Hans deBot, the President/CEO of the company. Hans sincerely expressed his appreciation for the recognition from the NCMA and Motorsports Industry. He described the positive impact that motorsports has had on deBotech and his desire to continue to make better, faster, stronger products for the Motorsports and Racing Industries. Hans and his wife, Jamye deBot, founded deBotech, Inc. in 1998 and have grown the company into an organization that serves many diverse industries. Hans closed his remarks by stating how humbled and honored he was to accept this prestigious award for deBotech.