For at least 55 years, Chevrolet has been producing concepts and prototypes of a mid-engine sports car, but through all those decades the company never changed the successful formula of the brand's flagship Corvette. Almost from the beginning, the Corvette has had a long front hood covering a V8 engine that drives the rear wheels.
That all changed last year with the advent of the eighth-generation Corvette. This car is an entirely new design, throwing away 67 years of tradition and finally moving the engine behind the passenger cabin. Speaking as longtime classic Corvette enthusiasts, we think this change was way overdue.
There's a good reason that virtually all ultra-high-performance sports cars put the engine behind the driver, and that's because it places the weight of the car in the center, between the axles. That gives the car great balance and a short distance to the drive wheels. Since the fifth-generation Corvette debuted in 1997, the transmission has been located at the back of the car, between the rear wheels. This change just brings the engine and transmission together again.
The new design moves the cabin forward, which also helps with precise driving. The front hood is lower, which improves forward visibility, and the driver is closer to the front wheels for more precise steering.
It's not possible for everything to be better, and this design sacrifices trunk space. Recent generations had pretty good space in the trunk or under a hatch. That space has been divided into a "frunk" or front trunk, and a cargo area behind the drivetrain. There's enough space for a couple overnight bags, but pack lightly for a road trip in the new Vette.
Under the skin, Chevrolet's engineers went all-out, giving the new car an suspension to rival any exotic supercar on the planet. The engine is still a good old-fashioned V8 with pushrod-actuated valves, so there's still some tradition at work. The LT2 engine displaces 6.2 liters, and yields 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with just one transmission: an 8-speed twin clutch automatic. For those who want a clutch pedal and a stick shift, those days are gone for good. Yet the new transmission is appropriate to the car and does a better job of shifting than any human being can achieve.
The basic Corvette starts at $58,900, and this is what really sets the Corvette apart. Chevrolet is offering an exotic supercar at a fraction of the price that the European exotic brands charge, and about the same level of performance. The Corvette will hit 60 MPH in just 2.9 seconds — much faster than the time it took to read this sentence.
Of course, very few buyers will pay that base price for a new Corvette. There are just too many goodies that everyone will want. Case in point, our test car is a convertible with a retractable hardtop. Unless it's going to be a race car, of course it's a good idea to have the ability for some open-air sports car driving. That bumps the base price to $66,400. Then everyone will want the $6,800 LT2 option package with navigation, Bose audio, head-up display, heated seats, and a system to record driving sessions on video. Then for $5,000 more, there's the Z51 performance package, which upgrades the brakes, suspension, and driveline — and it nets 5 additional horsepower and 5 more pound-feet of torque. After all that, the $1,895 for magnetic ride control suspension just makes sense, and at that point a buyer might as well just check every box.
The interior of the Corvette is straight out of science fiction. The driver sits in a little pod with climate controls on the right. Everything is angled towards the driver, which indicates everything one should know about this car. There's a seat for the passenger, but they're just along for the ride.
All in, the convertible Corvette we tested will cost $88,805. But here's the thing: that's still a small fraction of the price of any other exotic. It's about half the base price of an Acura NSX, and don't even ask about the European brands. On the road, the Corvette responds like it was made just for you. It's crazy fast, but still maneuvers easily in a parking lot. Do park at the far end of the parking lot away from other cars, though.
The bottom line on the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette is that this car is a worthy successor to 67 years of Corvette history. The car is fully up-to-date with technology and it's the best supercar deal going today by a longshot. Treat yourself to a test drive if you have any doubts.
2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible
Base price: $66,400
Price as tested: $88,805
Type: Exotic sports car
Engine: 6.2-liter V8 (490 hp, 470 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed dual clutch automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 15/27
Overall length: 182.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,467 pounds
Final assembly: Bowling Green, Kentucky
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