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2020 Chevrolet Corvette Test Drive Review
Dramatically redesigned and fundamentally reformulated, the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is more than just America’s sports car. Now it’s America’s world-class supercar.
Why did Chevy make the new Corvette a mid-engine car? The company’s engineers simply could not take the Corvette’s classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive architecture any further in terms of performance than last year’s absolutely insane, supercharged, 755-horsepower ZR1. That car accelerated to 60 mph in a claimed 2.85 seconds, achieved a top speed of 212 mph, and cost $122,000. Now, the redesigned 2020 Corvette, priced at less than half that amount, blasts to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and achieves a top speed of 194 mph using a normally-aspirated V8 engine making 490 to 495 hp. Astonishing. And more is to come.
Look and Feel
Supercars have always had super-high price tags. So, when it became clear the all-new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette would locate the engine behind the seats in the middle of the car, pulling the cabin forward toward the front axle and utterly rewriting the formula Chevy had used since 1953, people rightly expected the cost of the car to climb with the performance.
Then Chevrolet announced the base price of the new 2020 Corvette would be less than $60,000, and fans of America’s sports car immediately erupted in applause and cheers. Literally.
That happened last year during the C8’s reveal in an old blimp hangar in Orange County, California, during an event attended by both the media and the Corvette faithful. Now, the cars are rolling off of the Bowling Green, Kentucky assembly line, fulfilling first-year orders into the fall of 2020 before switching over to 2021 model-year production. And, incredibly, Chevy says it will hold the line on pricing next year.
That base MSRP of $58,900 is for a stripped-down Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 1LT Coupe base model. You can add a 2LT Package that installs a bunch of stuff you'll probably want, and on top of that, a 3LT Package outfits the interior in Cadillac-grade leather and materials. Nobody will dare call a Corvette 3LT’s interior cheap, because it’s not.
Our test car had 3LT trim, plus extra-cost paint, upgraded wheels, the Z51 Package, the Engine Appearance Package, Competition Sport bucket seats, carbon-fiber interior trim, a Magnetic Ride Control suspension, a front lift system, and several other upgrades. All in, the window sticker read $87,210 including the $1,095 destination charge.
Dressed in Sebring Orange Tintcoat paint, our Corvette was anything but subtle. And if you look closely, you can see how Chevrolet attempts to stylistically tie the new Corvette to those which came before it, from the peaked front fenders to the quad taillight elements. In particular, we like the way the hood lines sweep up and into the doors, fading in advance of the car’s sharply creased and curved rear shoulders. It’s a nice nod to 1960s styling on what is otherwise a thoroughly modern sports car.
Use the touchpad located under the upper side vent trim to open the driver’s door, and a high-tech, fighter jet-inspired interior awaits. Digital instrumentation, the latest infotainment technology, a squared-off steering wheel with beautiful metal paddle shifters, and a long row of dual-zone automatic climate controls make the Corvette’s cabin unlike any that came before it.
Better yet, the fit and finish are significantly improved, especially with the 3LT Package. Premium leather, simulated suede, contrast stitching, and genuine metal accents give the latest Corvette a big boost in terms of perceived quality.
Overall, in terms of look and feel, Chevy has pretty much nailed it.
Located beneath the new Corvette’s rear window, the next-generation small-block 6.2-liter V8 engine has been cosmetically finished in anticipation that it will be on display. And it certainly looks terrific, especially with the optional Engine Appearance Package that dresses up the engine bay with carbon fiber and, at night, LED illumination.
In standard tune, the naturally aspirated V8 makes 490 horsepower at 6,450 rpm and 465 lb-ft of torque at 5,150 rpm. Add the Z51 Performance Package or the optional performance exhaust, and those numbers rise to 495 hp and 470 lb-ft, respectively.
With the Z51 Package, the Corvette is also equipped with improved engine cooling, an electronic limited-slip differential, a performance axle ratio, performance suspension tuning, and upgraded brakes. It also has a unique front splitter and rear spoiler that Chevy says provide an added 400 pounds of aerodynamic downforce at speed. Since this is the version of the new ‘Vette that screams to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and hits 194 mph, that’s critical.
A sensational eight-speed dual-clutch transmission is standard. Although no true manual transmission is offered, this automated manual gearbox includes paddle shifters, a manual shift mode, and a double de-clutch function that allows the driver to rev the engine in order to, we don’t know, behave like a self-absorbed lunatic.
Multiple driving modes are available, including Tour, Sport, Track, and Weather, plus My Mode and Z Mode. My Mode allows you to personalize the car’s calibration, and the Corvette retains those settings until you change them. Z Mode is designed to provide fast access to a specific-use calibration via a steering-wheel button. According to the EPA, you can expect fuel economy of 15 mpg city, 27 highway, 19 combined.
Under hard acceleration, the Corvette bellows with a beastly wail as it rockets forward, riding a relentless wave of power into triple-digit territory within just a few intense seconds. This car has a programmable speed warning system, and we highly recommend using it. A professional driving school is a good idea, too.
Whether plodding around in a parking lot or ripping down straights and through S-curves, the DCT adds a new element to the Corvette driving experience. Depending on the selected driving mode and how you’re driving the car, the transmission automatically adjusts its behavior, and it’s brilliant. In fact, our own attempts at manual shifting using the paddles quickly proved less adept than the car’s software, making the activity an unnecessary distraction from the task at hand.
The Z51’s brakes, by the way, are truly astounding. Hard application at 75 mph generated such sudden deceleration that my iPhone’s emergency notification system activated, and since I couldn’t reach into my pocket, what with being busy driving and all, my wife, brother, and adult daughters received emergency alerts. This was followed by multiple incoming phone calls of concern.
To help make the best use of this powertrain performance, the new Corvette has a lower center of gravity to go with its better-balanced weight distribution, and Chevy says it is located to the right of the driver’s hip. This, in combination with a new coil-over suspension design, a short steering system with improved electronic assist and a 15.7:1 ratio, and a new electronic boost braking system, significantly improves the car’s feel from behind the wheel.
When you pair the Z51 Package with the next-generation Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 suspension, the new Corvette is like two cars in one. Put it in Tour mode, load the trunks, and it’s perfect for meandering road trips. Put it in Track mode, install a racing harness, and you’re ready to clip apex after apex.
On testing day, we ran the car mainly in Sport mode, delighting in the new Corvette’s instantaneous response to input and remarkably predictable behavior entering and exiting curves. At the same time, we were trying to remember to use the front-end lift system to raise the nose almost two inches for improved clearance over the drainage dips and speed humps at various points on our driving loop.
After more than 130 miles and three hours behind the new Corvette’s squared-off steering wheel, we had just two complaints. First, when working the steering wheel through sets of S-curves, my elbow kept hitting the center console armrest. Second, the side mirrors generate some wind noise at speeds over 70 mph or so.
Otherwise, the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is a stunningly good, no-excuses, world-class sports car.
Form and Function
Form certainly takes precedence over function when it comes to the new Corvette, but the car is nevertheless suitable for a range of activities from commuting to road-tripping to golfing.
You need not drive it to its maximum potential, and aside from its low nose, the Corvette serves as a docile daily driver when you want it to be. With 2LT and 3LT trim, the Corvette even includes heated and ventilated front seats as well as a heated steering wheel.
It’s not easy to enter and exit this car, especially in cramped parking spaces. Unless you’re quite physically fit, you’ll demonstrate a lack of grace every time. And if you’re never going to take it to a track, or you’re simply a wider person, skip the optional competition seats. They have narrow and hard fixed bolsters, and they’re uncomfortable unless you fit between them.
Aside from the cupholders, practical storage space is almost non-existent, though the bin under the center armrest is bigger than expected. The available wireless smartphone charger is mounted to the rear cabin wall between the seats, and it’s not easy to access.
Two trunks provide a total of 12.6 cubic feet of cargo space. The front trunk, or frunk, is sized to hold a carry-on suitcase sized to fit in the overhead compartment on a passenger jet. Two more carry-ons fit in the rear trunk, which Chevrolet claims is specifically designed to hold two full-size golf bags. The Corvette coupe’s removable roof panel also stores in the rear trunk, although not with other items already inside.
Loading the rear trunk isn’t easy due to a high liftover height, so you’d better muscle up, Buttercup, or you’ll damage the car’s paint.
Equipped with digital instrumentation, the latest Chevrolet infotainment system, and an available head-up display (HUD), the new mid-engine Corvette is a high-tech automobile. Better yet, you can easily use these features, thanks to an intuitive user experience.
The digital instrumentation panel changes its appearance and data display based on the selected driving mode. For example, with Track mode active, the display includes a huge color band of a tachometer, an oversized current gear display, and four panels conveying key mechanical data. Speed is rendered as a smaller number. This design is perfect for quick-glance reference at critical information when you’re hurtling down a front straight toward Turn One.
Standard with 2LT and 3LT trim, the HUD display also changes with the driving mode. For instance, changing from Tour to Sport mode switches the information from posted and current vehicle speeds to a tachometer with g-force meters that are endlessly entertaining. (I saw a high of 0.97g after whipping around one tight, banked turn.) Notably, the HUD remains bright and easy to read when the driver is wearing polarized sunglasses.
Identical to other Chevrolet models in terms of its appearance and function, the infotainment system’s 8-inch touchscreen display provides access to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar connected services, WiFi, Amazon Alexa, and a Near Field Communication Bluetooth pairing system. Upgrade to the 2LT or 3LT, and the infotainment system adds satellite radio, navigation, and a 14-speaker Bose Performance Series premium audio system that sounds better than most components wearing this brand name.
Thanks to its simple layout and proximity to the driver, the touchscreen is easy to use while driving. It also responds well to voice commands even if the technology isn’t a natural voice recognition system. It would be nice if the infotainment system offered wireless smartphone projection, but that’s a minor complaint.
A Performance Data Recorder is also on board the Corvette. It uses a front camera to record your driving, and when you’re on a track it adds an overlay showing key performance metrics. There’s a Valet mode, too, which records how the car is driven when it’s not in your possession. You can download any recorded video and move it to a home computer for analysis or to create a highlight reel for social media.
The Corvette’s available front lift system is also technologically advanced. When you activate it, such as when pulling into your driveway, the system adds almost two inches of extra clearance in less than three seconds. It also asks if you want the car to remember the location. There is a memory function for up to 1,000 different sets of GPS coordinates, and at each stored location the front of the car will automatically raise for added clearance.
If you want a car that comes with all manner of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is not for you. You drive this car. It does not drive you.
Nevertheless, because rear visibility is downright atrocious, the Corvette offers several standard and optional safety features that make it more confidence-inspiring out in the real world, where knowing what’s behind your vehicle matters.
To that end, a high-definition reversing camera is standard, along with rear parking assist sensors. Choose 2LT or 3LT trim, and the Corvette features a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, a curb-view camera system, and a rear camera mirror that shows an unobstructed view of what’s behind the car. We did not drive the Corvette in the rain, so we cannot comment on how visibility holds up when the camera lenses get wet.
Every Corvette also comes with Teen Driver technology, which monitors how a young driver behaves when he or she is away from home, and then provides parents with a report card showing how the Corvette was driven. A paid subscription to OnStar Safety & Security adds automatic crash response, crisis assist, and emergency services to the Corvette.
Otherwise, your safety is dependent on your driving talent. So, do yourself a favor and take a professional performance driving course to learn how to properly handle this car’s extraordinary capabilities.
Oh, hell to the yes a Chevy Corvette is cost-effective! Where else can you get this level of design, engineering, performance, technology, and quality for the price? Nowhere, that’s where. Plus, Chevy throws in the first scheduled maintenance service for free. Icing, meet cake.
But wait a second. What about a Dodge Challenger Hellcat? Or a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500? Those cars come with over 700 horsepower, and cost about the same as a well-equipped Corvette.
Well, for starters, those are completely different types of vehicles. And furthermore, aside from their ability to roast the rear tires, they’re simply not as engaging and entertaining to drive. So, unless you absolutely must brag about how your car makes more than 700 horses, or you actually need a back seat, the Corvette is what you want.
Historically, When compared with Porsches and Ferraris, the American Chevy Corvette has been a tremendous performance car bargain, making its rough edges easier to accept. But this new C8 Corvette, with its entirely different approach to design, engineering, quality, technology, and driving dynamics, has us convinced that now the Corvette is a tremendous performance car, regardless of price or pedigree, period.
Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience reviewing cars and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, Autobytel, and Vehix. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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