Mid-engine Corvette is a supercar for supersized people?

Americans are at the large and heavy end of the spectrum of humanity. Car and Driver says “The 2020 Corvette Is at the Large and Heavy End of the Mid-Engined Crowd”. Coincidence?

Large exterior dimensions portend generous passenger and cargo space; the latter has been a long-running Corvette strong suit. That remains true in the C8. Its head- and legroom figures nearly match the C7’s (legroom is down by 0.2 inch), which is above the mid-engined-supercar average. From the driver’s seat, it feels more spacious than the C7, although the Cayman, R8, and NSX have more headroom.

But generous dimensions also mean mass, especially at the Corvette’s aggressive price that doesn’t allow engineers to throw endless expensive lightweight materials at it. Chevy is being coy on weight by only divulging a dry-weight figure of 3366 pounds. That implies a curb weight of roughly 3600 pounds, which is about 150 pounds heavier than the C7 (which itself gained 100 pounds over the C6). That makes it far heavier than the mid-engined cadre, more than 400 pounds above the lightest, such as the Cayman and the McLarens. Only the Audi R8 and the Acura NSX, which is laden with electric motors and a battery pack, weigh more.

Given that we won’t trust distracted humans to drive soon enough and our roads are generally too traffic-clogged and/or police-patrolled to use more than 10 percent of this car’s capability, does it make sense to spend $60,000 on a mid-engine C8 Corvette? (not “rational sense” of course, in that a Toyota Camry will handle any transportation task better, but “fun and way cheaper than most things in aviation sense”).

One interesting aspect to a two-seat car is that I think it becomes legal to drive with a child in the front seat (the otherwise dangerous airbag is automatically disabled via a weight sensor, right?).

A few snapshots from the Conrad Hotel in Washington, D.C.:


11 thoughts on “Mid-engine Corvette is a supercar for supersized people?

  1. The C8 is an inflection point in the realm of performance cars. As an engineer and a Porsche owner, the C8 ‘vette has me really excited. Its a dirty secret that most “supercars” are notoriously unreliable and stupidly expensive to repair if anything breaks (and it does). On the race track Porsches and Corvettes dominate because of their durability. Corvettes cost 2x less, while Porsches have a slight edge in performance and pedigree. But no more. The new C8 starts with an unbelievable mix of performance (~500hp, 0-60 <3sec) and price (<$60k) – yay engineering! And that's just the starting point. Its rumored the later versions include a 600hp flat-plane V8 engine (think $400k Ferrari 458), a 800hp twin-turbo (think $800k McLaren Senna), and a 1000hp hybrid (think $1.5M Porsche 918). I'm definitely buying a C8. Why buy anything else?

    • Question from a minivan driver… what is the practical difference for street driving between a 500hp engine and an 800hp engine? When would any driver or passenger be able to distinguish between these alternatives?

    • Philg-

      My father in law’s 800hp hellcat recently showed my 500hp Audi the difference 300hp makes on the interstate. It was noticable.

    • Powerful mid-engine cars are really about having the engine behind you and the sound they make. There’s a guy on Youtube that replaced his (much better) Ferrari 488 with a 458 just for the sound.

  2. Justification for possible future 800-1000hp vs 500hp C8: 49% bragging rights on other unmarried male friends, 49% objet d’art, 2% thrashing it (nearest track is 3hrs drive, a minor miracle it still exists with encroaching land developers).

  3. Better restrain the child. Check your local laws, talk to your dealer, call your friend who is a cop, and take their advice: The laws vary state-by-state and my best guess is that you can and will be pulled over and ticketed or worse for not having a child properly restrained, particularly in a state like Massachusetts when the Officer catches you tooling around in your C8 with your 4 year old in the front seat, giggling all the way. Chevrolet knows this and the C7 Corvettes (and I presume the C8s) are all equipped to facilitate the installation of child safety seats.


    Buy one if you can, I would. I doubt you will ever lose money on the car if you care for it well, and if you have a place to put it and use it on the weekends, you’ll love it. This is probably going to be the last completely naturally-aspirated, strictly gasoline powered Corvette, forever, and my guess is they’re putting a lot of effort into the refinement of the car. I think you’re going to get an incredible machine for your $60 large.

    Caveat: unless you’re a collector, and if you intend to drive the car often, I would think about waiting for the 2021 model. They may introduce a more powerful engine option (which will probably push the price into the $80k and up range) but more importantly the first year of any completely new Corvette is to some extent the Beta release. It’s nowhere near as bad as it was in the past, but I expect teething problems and engineering changes as the miles click over on the first-year cars. Sure, they’ve spent a long time developing it and I’m sure they’ve put a lot of hard-driving miles and so forth with the test cars, but this is a clean sheet in the real world, with people who put 4 year olds in the front seat and try to drive the car in the snow, in the Rocky Mountains.

    NO manual shift option, either! Hmmm. Let’s see if they change their minds in 2021 after the die hards complain. I wonder what Jay Leno has to say about it. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get one of the first cars. It is moderately surprising that Chevy isn’t offering a higher output engine option, because yeah, 800 vs. 500 horsepower matters. You can tell, even on the street. You’ll be breaking the law, but you can tell. And of course, this is the flagship. This is the Heartbeat of America. The relatively anemic 500 horsepower engine will be tolerated if the car performs as they claim with sub-3 second 0-60 times and “only” 495 horses, but if it’s possible for Chevy to do it, people are going to want a lot more. Whether the demand materializes in the necessary numbers to build and certify the powertrain is another question.

    Maybe the reasoning is to make sure the new chassis and everything else is safer than mother’s milk with the 500 horsepower engine, then unleash the Gorilla Glue to Your Seat option a year later to silence all the Yurps. Or something like that.

    It’s not a rational purchase, and will never be one. It can’t be judged that way.

    • The manual shift option hurts bragging rights 0-60 times. Plus millenials can’t drive them anyway.

  4. I haven’t looked up the odds (is anyone betting on this yet) but my next question is: Will Donald Trump buy one and show up to a campaign rally in it?

    My first approximation answer is…near certainty. Listen, if he can call Sweden on behalf of A$AP Rocky he can buy one and show up to a campaign rally with him in the car. I half expect Chevy to offer an A$AP Rocky Limited Edition. Crazier things have happened already.

  5. Finally, it’s true that Americans are at the large-and-heavy end of the spectrum but look at that comparison again: The Acura NSX and the Audi A8, fast cars, sure, but also refined cars (or at least the pretense of refinement.) I read I think Chevy wants this car to compare favorably with those cars, not so much the really lightweight exotics. They could have made it lighter and more expensive, more track-focused and autocross-oriented, but I think they want to appeal to people who aren’t going to ever track the car and who are buying it to drive it on the street, perhaps as the last of its kind.

    Blast from the past: I vividly recall your review of the 1995 Acura NSX. I actually saw one from that period not very long ago and it’s still an amazing car, and at the time it was even more of a marvel, even with “just” 270 horsepower moving 3100 pounds. It was $85,000, and if the C8 is built well, it will be a phenomenal value for the money and still have all the conversation-starting attributes. It’s mid-engined! It’s the last of its kind!


  6. I have two friends who are Vette guys. One has reservations at three dealers to buy one of these C8 cars. At this price I am sure he will buy one. I expect the price for the $60K car will be closer to $100K (extra dealer markup) from any dealer that really has a car. I know this friend said if the price was less than $100k he would probably buy one.

    His only issue will be what to do with his other Vette and how to keep his wife happy if he takes the car to the race track.

  7. Sorry about “A8” above I meant “R8”.

    @Zora inspired: Jay Leno previewed it and posted his video two days ago. I’m sure he’ll be doing his usual full treatment soon with one of his own. He’s with Ed Piatek (Chief Engineer, we notice, not Chief Marketing Executive or Chief Product Evangelist or Chief Experience Manager) and although he only drives the car a few hundred feet inside what looks like a big aircraft hangar (looks like ingress isn’t awkward, and the cowl is low – which you liked a lot on the ’95 NSX) he does pay homage to Zora Arkus-Duntov and his plans and efforts to build a mid-engine Corvette. There were prototypes (XP-882), including a Wankel-powered example, but then there was also the Arab Oil Embargo and other factors that shelved the plan. It was a lot more than a dream, and it was ahead of its time.

    Now the C8 is here, and this is Zora Arkus-Duntov’s car as much as it can be any one man’s car, at least in terms of the engine location. Not so much the weight, but the XP-882 didn’t even have a real interior.




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