The Car Connection Chevrolet Corvette Overview
The Chevrolet Corvette is a high-performance coupe and convertible that's as much a part of America as suburban sprawl, Fourth of July fireworks, and homecoming games. The newest Corvette, dubbed C8, makes a major switch from a front-engine to a mid-engine design.
The change makes the Corvette faster in a straight line and has benefits on a racetrack. The 0-60 mph run now take just 3.0 seconds in base form and 2.9 seconds with the Z51 Performance Package, landing the Corvette squarely in supercar territory. With up to 495 horsepower, the Corvette gets 27 mpg on the highway. Only the Stingray model is offered. The higher-performance Grand Sport, Z06, and ZR1 trims are not offered for the new model, though one or more will likely return.
MORE: Read our 2021 Chevy Corvette review
Father of the Corvette Zora Arkus-Duntov toyed with mid-engine designs more than 60 years ago, and now it's finally come to pass. It's a remarkable evolution from the first Corvettes of 1953 that were powered by an anemic 3.8-liter inline-6 and featured paleolithic solid axles. The new version? Mid-engine, advanced suspension magic via Magnetic Ride Control, and supercar sight lines.
The new Chevy Corvette
The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette's new six-piece aluminum structure is built around a stiff center tunnel. Molded fiberglass and resin is used for the front and rear tubs and dashboard, and the rear bumper beam is carbon fiber, all to save weight. The suspension consists of double-wishbones with coil-over dampers front and rear, marking the end of the rear transverse leaf spring. GM’s Magnetic Selective Ride Control dampers are optional with the Z51 Performance Package. With the new design comes a shorter and stiffer electric steering system with a quicker 15.7:1 ratio.
Chevrolet offers two standard and one accessory tire choice, all sized at 245/35ZR19 front and 305/30ZR20 rear. The base tires are all-season Michelin Pilot Sport ALSs that Michelin says can deliver almost 1 G of lateral grip. Summer Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires come with the Z51 package, while the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 winter tire is available through Chevy dealers. The Brembo brakes have four-piston calipers front and rear. The standard size is 12.6 inches up front and 13.6 inches in the rear and the Z51 brakes are 13.3 inches up front and 13.8 inches in back.
Sitting slightly in front of those rear wheels is GM's new LT1 6.2-liter V-8. It makes 490 hp and 465 pound-feet of torque in its base form, and the Z51 package adds 5 hp and 5 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a dry sump oiling system that is standard for the first time ever. A new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission is the only choice for swapping gears. It replaces both the 8-speed automatic and 7-speed manual.
In addition to the tires, brakes, and output increase, the Z51 Performance Package also includes a performance-tuned suspension with adjustable threaded spring seats, enhanced cooling, an electronic limited-slip differential with a performance axle ratio, its own rear spoiler and front splitter, front brake cooling inlets, and the performance exhaust system. The magnetic dampers are also only offered with Z51. The Z51 package's additional downforce takes the top speed down from 192 to 184 mph.
The trims consist of 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT. The Corvette offers three different sport seats, with the top Competition Sport seats best suited for track duty. One cool new option is a front lift system that can remember and automatically deploy at up to 1,000 locations.
The design changes moves the cockpit forward and the driver sits 16.5 inches closer to the front axle. That, teamed with a hood that falls away quickly, creates better sight lines to the front and sides.The view to the rear is restricted, but GM's rear camera mirror is offered on all but the 1LT and it provides a wide and unobstructed view of what's behind.
For 2021, Chevy added wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, and offered the magnetic adaptive damping system as a standalone option instead of bundled in the Z51 Performance Package.
The Chevy Corvette started its legendary run in 1953 and has seen years of nearly continuous production in Flint, Michigan, then St. Louis, Missouri, and now in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Over time it has constantly evolved to lead performance and value, with occasional lows and numerous highs along the way. Though it has little domestic competition, cars as disparate as the Audi R8, Porsche Boxster and 911, and Nissan's GT-R and 370Z can be considered rivals in terms of performance and/or price.
The Corvette wasn't always a spec-slayer. The first 1953 models featured solid rear axles and inline-6s, though in 1955, the V-8 became standard. When the second-generation "Sting Ray" model debuted in 1963, independent rear suspension was added and output was increased to 360 hp. A big-block 6.5-liter model was added in 1965, before the famous 427-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) engine joined in 1966. The third-gen car debuted in 1968, running for 13 years until 1982—the longest stretch for any of the various Corvette generations. The new, fender-flared body style was the biggest change to the line, along with a three-year run for the ZR-1 performance edition, though emissions and fuel regulations conspired to restrict power output and potential of Corvettes throughout the 1970s.
Corvette production somewhat famously skipped the 1983 model year. The fourth-generation car hit the street in 1983 as a 1984 model, bringing with it a complete redesign of the car aside from the engine, with a sleek, modern design and digital instruments, as well as the second ZR-1 performance version. The fifth-gen car, introduced in 1997, saw another major upgrade, with improved build quality, increased performance, and better handling the result. The Z06 model was introduced in 2001, and engines continued to be upgraded, producing up to 405 hp in the Z06.
The sixth Corvette generation began in 2005, bringing with it all-new bodywork and improved suspension. Power climbed to 400 hp for the base Corvette initially, then up to 430 hp for its 6.2-liter LS3 V-8 engine, and 505 hp for the 7.0-liter Z06 in that generation. The ZR1 was added back to the lineup (without the hyphen) in late 2007 as a 2008 model, producing 638 hp from a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine. The C6 was available in base coupe and convertible, as a Grand Sport version with upgraded brakes and special bodywork, as the track-ready Z06, and as the supercar-rivaling ZR1.
The coupe and convertible were the standard Corvettes, with 430 hp output and all the conveniences of a modern car, including available Bluetooth on some models, a choice of 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, and available leather interior. The Grand Sport was also available as both a coupe and convertible, though the coupe received a few performance upgrades over the soft-top, including a dry sump oiling system when equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission, plus the upgraded brakes and flared fenders that both variants get. The Corvette Z06 upped the performance ante with extensive use of carbon-fiber body panels and components, an aluminum frame, and a 505-hp engine. The ZR1 was king of the hill, its massive power output combined with Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, visible carbon-fiber-weave components, and a 205-mph top speed. Despite huge power and impressive performance figures, the brawny engines and tall gears in the Corvette enabled it to achieve up to 26 mpg on the highway.
While 2012 brought no major changes to the Corvette range, an updated interior, some new technology packages, and a selection of new exterior paint colors enhanced the offerings. The Corvette's high-performance Z06 and ZR1 models received updated performance packages as well. For the 2013 model year, a new 427 Convertible Collector Edition was added, pairing the Z06's LS7 V-8 engine with a Corvette convertible body and unique 60th Anniversary touches. A 60th Anniversary Package was offered on all 2013 model Corvettes, adding a special touch to celebrate six decades of the nameplate. The sixth-generation (C6) Corvette set new benchmarks for the capabilities of a relatively affordable street-legal sports car, while its successor would take performance to even higher levels.
The seventh-generation Corvette, introduced in 2013 as a 2014 model, drew on GM's global resources for its design—the first time the Corvette team had looked outside the U.S. for help shaping the iconic 'Vette. The 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray received a new LT1 V-8 engine, designed specifically for the sports car. The engine made 455 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, with more than 400 lb-ft of torque available between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm.
The base Corvette Stingray could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds when equipped with the 8-speed automatic transmission—a figure that tied the 2012 Z06 Corvette’s time. The 8-speed was introduced for 2015; for 2014, the automatic was a 6-speed unit. Direct injection, cylinder deactivation, and tall gearing allowed the V-8 to deliver decent highway fuel economy as high as 25 mpg.
Other improvements of the seventh-generation car over the previous iteration included a partially aluminum chassis even in base models, which helped torsional rigidity and sharpened handling even further. The standard manual-transmission car featured a 7-speed gearbox with automatic rev-matching and could accelerate to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds.
A Stingray convertible offered nearly identical performance thanks to a chassis design that included its eventual topless configuration from the start. For the first time ever, the Z06 was also available as a convertible, and even the standard Z06 and ZR1 coupes had a removable roof panel like the Stingray. Previously, the Z06 and ZR1 were only available as a fixed-roof coupe.
A Z51 package for the Stingray added an electronic limited-slip differential and dry-sump oiling for the engine, plus upgraded brakes among other upgrades.
The Z06 joined the lineup for 2015 as a real budget supercar priced around $83,000. The LT4 supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 put out 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, and launched the car to 60 mph in 2.95 seconds. The 'Vette team also paid close attention to the Z06's aerodynamics, with an optional high-downforce package, adjustable wings, lots of carbon-fiber elements, and available carbon-ceramic brakes. It was sold with a removable roof or convertible top, and with the choice of either a 7-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic.
For 2016, Chevy updated the interior, offered a carbon-fiber hood with a section of visible weave and a front curb-view camera, and the the Z06 was offered in a limited-run C7.R Edition package. In 2017, the Corvette Grand Sport joined the lineup. With the Stingray's naturally aspirated V-8 but most of the Corvette Z06's handling hardware, the Grand Sport became the track-ready 'Vette and, for most drivers, the real base car in the Corvette family.
For 2018, all models got 19- and 20-inch wheels instead of 18s and 19s for the base versions, HD radio became standard, Magnetic Ride Control became a standalone option, and the Grand Sport and Z06 received Carbon 65 Edition packages to celebrate the car's 65th anniversary. A total of 650 were built, all for a $15,000 premium.
The 2019 model year marked the introduction of the ultimate Corvette, the ZR1. With 755-hp from its LT5 supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, it was the highest-output Corvette, or GM vehicle, ever produced. The LT5 featured direction and port injection, GM's first dual-injection system. All that power rocketed the ZR1 to 60 mph in as little as 2.85 seconds and pushed it all the way to 212 mph.
A unique front fascia with larger air intakes fed more air to four additional radiators. The hood had a large carbon-fiber scoop to clear the supercharger, and buyers could opt for a ZTK Track Performance Package with an adjustable carbon-fiber wing, a unique front splitter with removable carbon-fiber end caps, a performance suspension, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Priced around $123,000 to start, the ZR1's performance figures matched those of cars that cost twice as much.