With a first-ever mid-engine layout and a completely new design, the 2020 North American Car of the Year created much-deserved buzz from its 8th generation launch. The expectations were high for the legendary American sportscar, but we didn’t quite know what to expect. A radical redesign, such as relocating the engine from the front of the car to the middle, is a risky proposition for an established nameplate like the Corvette. The car was already both highly capable and popular. The Z06 was an incredible performance bargain and the ZR1 had the goods to compete against its pricier European rivals. However, as horsepower started surpassing the 600 mark, traction became a serious issue. It ultimately became clear that Chevy was quickly approaching the limit of their tried-and-tested front-engine layout.
GM engineers were always aware of the advantages that a mid-engine platform could provide. Zora Arkus-Duntov, the first Corvette chief engineer, led the development of the first mid-engine concepts 60 years ago. However, the one-off vehicles never made it to the production line. Chevy engineers continued to make the absolute most out of the front-engine formula over the years. Eventually, the platform’s limitations became a serious obstacle to traction, so changes needed to be made. Considering the challenge, the subsequent switch to a mid-engine design was an expected and natural progression to remain competitive.
Relocating the engine towards the middle of the car has shifted more weight over the rear axle. This has given the new C8 more traction at the rear-wheels and ultimately better acceleration and handling. The new mid-engine architecture results in a rear-biased 40/60 weight distribution. That setup drastically improved launch traction, which helps propel the new Corvette to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds. The new time is two tenths of a second quicker than the fire-breathing, 755-horsepower 7th generation ZR1. This new engine layout should also provide GM a sufficient platform for developing future high-horsepower Corvette variants.
The 2021 Corvette is mostly unchanged from the previous 2020 model. Chevrolet added a few additional standard features, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The company’s new revolutionary Buckle-to-Drive safety feature is also standard. The new safety system prevents the vehicle from shifting out of park when the driver’s seat belt is unbuckled. The list of exterior color options have been expanded to include Red Mist Metallic Tintcoat and Silver Flare Metallic. In addition, Sky Cool Gray with Strike Yellow accents is a new interior color choice. The magnetorheological dampers can now be purchased a la carte, rather than having to add the entire Z51 performance package. For those needing a more flamboyant Corvette, Chevy added a Dual Racing Stripe package for an even more conspicuous look.
The Corvette can be ordered in either a coupe or convertible configuration. The coupe version includes a removable targa roof panel, which can be securely stored in the rear trunk. Removing the panel is a manual process of unlatching the roof and placing it in the cargo area. The $7,500 hardtop convertible option is a completely automated system that stows the roof in a specially designed area above the engine.
For protection from high temperatures, that roof compartment has been lined with heat shields. A drawback to this hardtop partition is that it replaces the rear-hatch window that is found in the coupe. As a result, the convertible does not provide a glimpse of its beautiful 6.2-liter V8. However, it transforms quickly, as the top takes just 16 seconds to morph the Corvette into a roofless version of itself. You can also do it on the go at up to 30 mph.
The interior has been vastly improved over the previous generation with better quality materials and an overall more sophisticated design. There are three available seat options: the GT1, GT2 and Competition Sport. All three provide aggressive side bolsters for cornering support with different types of trim and seating materials. To improve visibility and comfort, Chevy gave the new Corvette a race-car inspired squared-off steering wheel.
Directly in front of the driver is a 12.0-inch digital instrument gauge that is configurable based on the drive mode. The drive settings include weather, tour, sport, track, and the two customizable modes — MyMode and Z-mode. A standard 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen manages the car’s navigation system. The display also controls the Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and the Performance Data Recorder features. First introduced in the C7, the PDR provides high-definition video integrated with performance data for days at the track. A good amount of leather, carbon-fiber and micro suede surfaces come together to exude a premium interior ambience.
The 6.2 liter naturally aspirated V8 remains unchanged for 2021. In standard form, the powerplant produces 490 horsepower at 6,450 rpm and 465 lb-ft of torque at 5,150 rpm. Adding the optional Z51 package boosts horsepower to 495 and torque to 470 through. The package includes a performance exhaust system, electronic limited-slip differential, performance ratio rear axle and Brembo brakes. Chevy also throws in a heavy-duty cooling system, performance suspension and a set of sticky summer tires. At $5,000, the package is a real bargain. An 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission translates the power. Unfortunately, for the first time in Corvette history, a manual transmission is not available. That might disappoint some folks, but the quick-shifting transmission and launch control system is the quickest way to accelerate. Its consistency also might even convert a few three pedal fans.
2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51
|PRICE||$59,995 – $102,635 (MSRP)|
|BODY STYLE||2-door targa top|
|ENGINE TYPE||6.2 liter pushrod 16-valve V8|
|POWER||495 hp @ 6,450 rpm|
|TORQUE||470 lb-ft @ 5,150 rpm|
|DRIVE TYPE||Rear-wheel drive|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||5.3 in|
|TRUNK VOLUME||12.6 cu ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,637 lbs|
|WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION (F/R)||40% / 60% (est)|
|WHEEL DIMENSIONS||19-in x 8.5-in Front|
20-in x 11-in Rear
|TIRE DIMENSIONS||245/35ZR-19 Front |
|0 – 60 MPH||2.9 sec|
|TOP SPEED||194 mph|
|FUEL TANK CAPACITY||18.5 gal|
|FUEL ECONOMY||City: 15 mpg|
Highway: 27 mpg
Combined: 19 mpg