When the current generation of Chevrolet's venerable Corvette was released last year, it was the biggest change in the nearly 70-year history of America's sports car. The Corvette had always been designed with a traditional layout — the engine in front, and the drive wheels in the rear. That's the same layout Louis Chevrolet used when he built the first Chevy back in 1911.
The new Corvette — the eighth generation — placed the engine behind the driver compartment, as is common with exotic brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and so on. Along with that change, for the first time in decades the Corvette was not offered with a traditional manual transmission.
The question was, would traditional Corvette buyers accept the new design? As it turns out, just about everyone loves the new mid-engine exotic format. The new Corvette drives very well, handles like a dream, and offers more power than anyone needs, but just what a sports car enthusiast wants.
Chevrolet kept a few things the same. The Corvette is powered by a 6.2-liter LT2 V8 engine. To unpack that a bit, the LT2 is an aluminum big block version of Chevy's traditional V8 dating back to the 1950s. It has just two valves per cylinder, and the camshaft is inside the engine block, not overhead. This is a dinosaur of an engine compared to the turbocharged and hybridized engines found in modern imported exotics, but that's Chevrolet's genius move. The engine still produces 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque, or 495 horses and 470 pound-feet if you buy the optional performance exhaust system. That's plenty enough to rocket the Corvette's lightweight chassis from 0-60 in less than 3 seconds.
The Corvette also comes with an eight-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. There is no manual option, and there won't be in the future. The fact is, modern automatics are dramatically better than manuals in every way. We human drivers are slow, and we often make bad choices. Further, the mechanisms for manual transmissions tend to wear out. This is the way it will be from here on out, and those of us who love to use the clutch and shift our own gears will just have to get used to it. The new Corvette does offer paddle-shifting, but you don't need it.
Inside, the Corvette offers a nice interior. It's high-quality and comfortable. But again, it's a radical departure from everything that went before. The climate controls are placed in a line on a raised ridge between the driver and passenger. Everything is oriented to the driver. The passenger doesn't have much to do but hold on and enjoy the ride.
One area that could surprise you is the trunk space. Corvettes have never had a lot of storage capacity, but the new one divides its carrying capability between a small rear trunk and an even smaller front trunk. Combined, they offer 12.6 cubic feet of space, which is about the same as a subcompact sedan. But no one buys a Corvette to go to Costco, right? It's enough for a couple overnight bags.
On the road, you can see and feel all the benefits of the new Corvette design. Placing the engine and human beings in the center of the car puts most of the weight low down in the middle between the axles. That makes the Corvette a much more stable platform than prior generations. The mid-engined car responds to its steering wheel instantly, and the suspension tuning is balanced for comfort as well as traction.
The greatest benefit of the new Corvette is its price. In the fairly luxurious LT2 trim, the Corvette has a starting price of $66,200. Our test model had the Z51 performance package, which adds $5,995, but also improves power, handling, and braking. But the all-in price of $78,765 is still a small fraction of the price you would pay for a European exotic. It's about half the price of the Acura NSX, which formerly held the position of most affordable exotic.
The bottom line is that the new Corvette has the looks and the performance of a high-priced exotic, but you can buy it for about the price of a tricked-out pickup truck. That's a slap in the face to the world's high-end automakers, and a big badge of honor for Chevrolet. If you've ever dreamt of buying a Corvette (or an exotic) the opportunity has never been better.
2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe 2LT
BaseÂ price:Â $66,200
PriceÂ asÂ tested:Â $78,765
Type:Â Sports car
Engine:Â 6.2-liter V8 (495 hp, 470 lbs-ft)
Transmission:Â 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
EPAÂ estimated mileage:Â 15/27
OverallÂ length:Â 182.3 inches
CurbÂ weight:Â 3,366 pounds
FinalÂ assembly:Â Bowling Green, Kentucky
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