First Drive: 2020 Corvette C8

by Michael Satterfield

I have to admit I didn't know what to expect from the new Corvette C8, GM's first production mid-engine Corvette, would it be a blue-collar exotic or simply look the part but remain a cruiser for the satin jacket crowd? First impressions, it looks even better in person, remove the Corvette badges and most people would never guess they were looking at a car that costs about the same as a Volkswagen Touareg.

Blasting down the back roads of Central Texas the C8 is everything you want in a sportscar, open-top, great soundtrack, razor-sharp handling, and looks that draw attention anywhere you go. Park a C8 anywhere and there will be a crowd made up of high school kids and older men, all excited to see the new Corvette. While this will fade over time, this was the first American car I have tested that has ever drawn as much attention and interest as an exotic car.

But the new C8 isn't just cool to look at, it punches way above its weight in performance and handling when compared to the other mid-engine sports cars on the market today. With a base price of just $58,900 the new Corvette is thousands less than the four-cylinder Alfa Romeo 4C and has faster 0-60 time than the Audi R8, a car that starts at over $140,000 more. Add on the $5,000 Z51 performance package and the 0-60 time drops to match that of the Ferrari F8 and Ford GT. Also, it is fair to mention that unlike Ford and Ferrari, Chevrolet will simply sell you a car. It is a wild concept, but there isn't an application process or contract restricting what you can do with the car, you can just pop down to the local dealer and put in your order.

The C8 I was testing didn't have the Z51 performance package but did have some nice options, bumping the price to just over $71,000, far less than any comparable exotic, but also within the range of most modern sports sedans and muscle cars. The Shelby GT500 starts at $72,900 and even the base Porsche 911 now starts at over $99,000, making the C8 look like even more of a bargain. The real comparison to the supercars will be the C8 Z06, which is slated to be released in the 2022 model year, with its C8.R derived 600hp V8, active aero, and likey starting at under $100K, it will be hard to justify buying an Italian or British supercar for twice the price.

But it isn't enough for the new Corvette to just be a good deal, it had to be on par with the competition, in performance, technology, and especially build quality, it was a hard case to make on previous generations of Corvette. The C7 Grand Sport I drove last year had some quality issues that I would not expect on a car with an MSRP of over $85K, but this new C8 hits it out of the park. Not only does the Corvette handle, stop, and drive as you would expect a modern supercar to, it has the fit and finish and details of cars that are far more expensive. Unlike past Corvettes, the C8 also does feel like it is made of borrowed parts from pick up trucks and passenger cars, everything you touch in the car feels high quality and bespoke to the Corvette. 

The other advantage the new Corvette has over the boutique sportscar manufacturers is being backed by the resources of General Motors, giving the Corvette the network and technology of one of the largest carmakers on earth. No oddball operating systems for the infotainment and HVAC, no $2,000 oil changes or phantom dealer network, and no wildly overpriced tuning required if you want to modify it. With a small block Chevy between the rear quarters, the automotive aftermarket gives owners the ability to crank up the horsepower for relatively little money.

I've never considered myself a Corvette guy, I liked them, mostly the classic models. But modern Corvettes never really appealed to me, until I drove the C8.  In Sport Mode, it is lively, loud, and fun, especially with the top off. Swap over to Tour Mode, pop the top on, it settles down and delivered an average of 22 mpg with a quiet cabin, perfect for enjoying the excellent sound system. Chevy managed to build a Corvette that can do both, be a real working-class hero on a track day or canyon run, while still be comfortable enough to drive to the church on Sunday or down to the local country club, and yes a set of golf clubs does fit in the rear trunk. 

With two decent sized trunks, a reliable American V8 in the middle, and a targa top, it is hard not to like the new C8. Having driven the Corvette back to back with a McLaren 570S, a car that is over $130,000 more than the Chevy, while it was better, I don't know if it was $130,000 better. The Corvette isn't nearly as raw as the McLaren, which has more a sense of occasion, even at lower speeds the 570S feels like a race car. The Corvette feels sporty and with a few minor tweaks to the exhaust, perhaps adding a supercharger, it could be a lot of car for a lot less than its British and Italian counterparts. While we have had some American Supercars before the Ford GT, Saleen S7, and SSC Aero, none have ever been obtainable to your average consumer. It is a great time to be a sports car fan.

Let me know what you think of the new C8 in the comments below.