The wait has taken decades, but a production mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette Stingray has finally been introduced to an enthusiast audience literally salivating for the new car. While some might liken the 2020 Corvette to contemporary supercars from Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren, Corvette Product Manager Harlan Charles takes a different view. Instead of simply emulating current European sports cars like the McLaren 570s Spider, Ferrari 488 Spider, and Lamborghini Huracan, Charles told us the Corvette team sought to create a track car that could also serve as a “daily driver.” To add to the degree of difficulty, the all-new Corvette also had to be “attainable” — industry-speak for having a price its current buyer base can afford. The result is neither a new version of the old-school Corvette nor a knockoff of a pricey Euro supercar. In many ways, the 2020 Corvette Stingray is a category of one.
“We wanted to take the things that people love about the Corvette today, a car powered by a small-block V-8 that can be a track car, a daily driver and a road trip car that still is attainable,” Charles told forbes.com in an exclusive post-introduction-event interview. “We wanted to add the mid-engine performance attributes to highlight the fun-to-drive aspect with the connected feel that architecture gives us. We were able to do a new type of sports car that nobody else has done before that combined those two things.”
The new 2020 Corvette Stingray brings with it many impressive numbers. The next-generation 6.2-liter “small-block” V-8 LT2 engine is said to produce 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of peak torque. The car will offer nearly 1G ultimate cornering performance, and Chevrolet says zero to 60 mph can be reached in less than three seconds. But the number that really caught the crowd’s attention in the introductory event was its base price — under $60,000, according to General Motors President Mark Reuss, who was a very enthusiastic presenter at the event.
“Our goal from the beginning was to do the first attainable mid-engine V8 supercar and really make the dream come true for a lot of people,” Charles said. “You don’t have to win the lottery to be able to have a car like this.”
The Corvette development team seems to have found a way to deliver a very authentic mid-engine supercar experience, including an interior that befits a vehicle that might cost three times as much, in a vehicle that buyers of recent model-year Corvettes can afford. Yet Chevrolet doesn’t seem to have cut corners in the pursuit of a low Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. One example: the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is used only in the new Corvette.
“Our new dual-clutch transmission and launch-control system really help the car hook up extremely quickly,” he said. “With the eight gears and because it shifts so fast, we’re able to have very ‘fast’ gearing in the lower gears that really help the car accelerate quickly.”
Those seeking a conventional manual transmission won’t find one, but Chevrolet hopes that the dual-clutch “manumatic” that allows the manual selection of individual gears via paddle shifters will be a more than adequate replacement. The transmission has a special double-paddle de-clutch feature that lets the driver disconnect the clutch for more manual control. Gears two through six are designed for rapid acceleration while the top two gears offer more relaxed cruising and improved fuel economy.
The dual-clutch transmission and the Corvette’s well-designed and sumptuously finished interior are ample evidence that Chevrolet didn’t skimp in an effort to reach its aggressive price point. Charles said the Corvette team had very high aspirations for its newest car, despite, or perhaps because, they had a definite price target.
“Although it’s a tremendous value we don’t want people to think about that,” Charles said. “We want to go up against sports cars at any price. We’re really proud of the engineering that went into it because there’s a lot of appreciation for these supercars that are ultra-expensive. But we think the real genius of what we’ve done is make this car more capable.”
Another important effort was to make the car more beautiful while at the same time conforming to the aerodynamic needs of a vehicle that could challenge 200 miles per hour. Charles said the design team’s twin goals were to exploit the advantages of the mid-engine configuration while at the same time making certain the “C8” is immediately recognizable as a Corvette.
“What we wanted to do with the design of the car was keep the cues that people are familiar with — the strong face of the car, the arched fenders, and the dominant fender line,” he said. “So we kept the core of that basic character and applied it to this new proportion with the more cab-forward look. We feel like we’ve got much more F-16 fighter jet influence, which relates well with American engineering and aerospace as well.”
For many car fanatics who have read reports and heard rumors of mid-engined Corvettes for decades, the introduction of a production mid-engine Corvette is the finish line of a lifelong saga. The crowd gathered at the introductory event certainly reflected that, cheering everything from the vehicle’s luggage capacity to the fact that it has a GPS-assisted suspension that can lift its nose automatically to avoid inadvertently scraping of its shapely schnoz. For the Corvette team, Harlan said the debut was equally emotional.
“There’s a lot of people, myself included, that always read growing up that the next Corvette in the future is going to be the mid-engine design,” he said. “So to me, it is like we finally could have the culmination of that dream with the introduction of the new a generation 2020 Corvette Stingray with mid-engine architecture. It’s really a dream come true.”