Corvette Convertible goes Exotic
Witnessing the redesign of an American icon like the Chevrolet Corvette is a rare event – it has only happened a handful of times in the car’s 68-year history. Last year was one of those times. 2020 saw the eighth generation of the Corvette hit the streets – but this wasn’t a typical redesign of the car like we have seen in the past. This time around, Chevrolet took the Corvette to an all-new level by moving the engine from the front of the car, where it has been since day one, to the middle of the car, transforming it into an exotic mid-engine car.
Of course, exotic and mid-engine never sounds inexpensive, and that’s where this all-new Corvette really shines. Prices for the all-new Corvette start right at $60,000 – which is just a few thousand dollars more than the starting price of the previous generation.
The days of looking out the windshield and seeing the ‘Vette’s long nose are gone as the new C8 Corvette looks more like a Ferrari than of any Corvette in the past. It has the typical mid-engine car proportions with its cab-forward design and high-dollar exotic look. The short, pointed nose flows into long doors that incorporate huge side air vents (and hide the door handles). In the back, the car squares out as it houses the engine with a transparent engine cover. All the lines are nicely done and serve a purpose. Chevrolet has done a great job in coming up with a unique design that attracts attention wherever it goes.
The new Corvette’s interior continues to be a two-seater lined in materials such as leather, real metal, and imitation suede and even has a stitched headliner. The driver sits behind a squared-off steering wheel and a 12.0-inch reconfigurable gauge display; a large infotainment touchscreen is angled toward the driver for ease of use. Bisecting the cockpit is a center console that house a bank of switches for the car’s climate-control system. For the driver, it’s quite impressive. For the passenger, well there just isn’t much.
Like Corvettes in the past, all C8s have a removable roof panel that can be stowed away in the truck at the rear of the car. In the nose is another truck, referred to as “frunk”. Convertible C8s, which is how the test car arrived as, is the first power-operated hardtop convertible in the car’s history. The convertible resembles the coupe but offers more wind-in-your-hair fun. The two-piece hardtop can be raised and lowered at speeds up to 30 mph, and retracts in only 16 seconds. The tonneau which covers the engine bay and has a vent to keep it cool also has a rear power-adjustable window that works as an air deflector. Unfortunately, the convertible does away with the cool transparent engine cover and easy access to the engine bay.
Under that engine cover, in keeping with Corvette tradition, is a small-block V8. Coming in at 6.2-liters, the engine is the same size as the previous Corvette, but makes 490 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque (an increase of 35 hp and 10 lb-ft of torque). Check the box for the Z51 Performance Package and that jumps to 495 horsepower by way of a dual-mode performance exhaust system. A Corvette first is the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It is controlled either by a push-button gear selector on the center console or by the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. This is the only transmission offered – a manual transmission is not available on the C8 Corvette.
As with any Corvette, performance is the name of the game – and with the C8, the Corvette is at its best. With more than 60% of its mass over the rear tires the C8 is ferocious off the line. Zero to 60 mph comes in under 3 seconds and it flies through the quarter-mile in just 11.2 seconds. Stay into it and you’ll reach a top speed of 194 mph. These are numbers that the previous generation Corvette in ZR1 form needed more than 750 hp to achieve, showing that the mid-engine configuration is paying off.
And the sound! Chevy V8s have always sounded good, but the exhaust note of this new Corvette engine is music to the ears. And that’s because it’s right behind the ears! While a shifter and clutch pedal would have been nice, the dual clutch transmission shifts are lightning fast and so smooth, they are hard to feel. One driving note most Corvette purist will appreciate – even though the engine is in a new location, the view out the front windshield still includes the huge front fenders – a Corvette trait that has been around since 1963.
With the production run of the 2020 Corvette being cut short due to Covid-19, Chevrolet hopes to be able to increase production for 2021. Changes for the 2021 model are minor and include wireless compatibility for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phones and some new color options.
Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov fought hard for a mid-engine Corvette, knowing the limitations imposed by the Corvette’s front-engine, rear-wheel-drive setup. Chevrolet never let it happen. And even though Arkus-Duntov became known as the godfather of the Corvette, he never saw his dream come to light – he retired in 1975 and passed away in 1996.
But it has happened. Nearly 45 years later, his dreams would become reality. And because of it, we have the best Corvette ever.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2021 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Z51
Base Price: $66,400.00 (prices are for 2020)
Price as Tested: $84,180.00
Layout: mid-engine / rear-wheel drive
Engine: 6.2 liter V8
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Horsepower: 495 hp
Torque: 470 lb/ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 15 city / 27 highway mpg
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