The eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette will switch to a mid-engined layout for the first time in the model’s history.
Recent photographs of a test mule confirm years of rumours that the next generation of America’s sports car, due on sale in late 2019, will undergo the most radical change in the car’s 65-year history.
In a further break with tradition, the new Corvette, known by its C8 model code, will be sold alongside a version of the current car. Sources inside General Motors, which owns the Chevrolet brand, indicate that we can expect a slightly revised version of the existing C7 as an entry-level alternative. Although the C8 will carry a price premium over its front-engined sibling, it will be sold at a price that significantly undercuts the junior supercars offered by other manufacturers.
There will be no surprise in the choice of launch powerplant, with the C8 set to reach the market using a developed version of General Motor’s current LT-spec 6.2-litre V8. Although this engine still uses pushrods, and will be unable to match the low-down torque of turbocharged alternatives, the all-alloy unit has many virtues: it is light, responsive, relatively cheap to build and able to generate around 500bhp with little work.
New Beats edition aims to add youth appeal with sporty styling and a punchy...
It also gives a clear connection between the radical new car and the front-engined Corvette that will continue in production. This could be advantageous given the existing car has an older and more conservative buying profile than other sports cars in the US.
Punchier powerplants are a certainty, however — especially given GM’s history of offering faster variants soon after the launch of a base car.
Media in the US have reported that these will include a newly developed overhead camshaft V8, set to be sold in both naturally aspirated and twin-turbo forms, the latter sure to produce at least as much as the 745bhp of the current supercharged Corvette ZR1. Beyond that, a hybrid version will add an electrically powered front axle to the mix, potentially giving a total system output approaching 1000bhp.
Another big change will be a new twin-clutch transaxle gearbox, developed by transmission supplier Tremec and effectively removing the option of a conventional manual version — a significant shift given the relatively high percentage of current Corvettes that are still sold with a clutch pedal.
Like its rivals from Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren, the new Corvette will display its mid-mounted engine through a glass cover.
Other parts of the design remain a closely guarded secret for now; the test mule gives little away beyond the need for significant cooling at the front of the car. Despite GM’s sale of its European operations to the PSA Group last year, the new car is being developed with significant use of the Nürburgring Nordschleife and we can expect the sort of aggressive aerodynamics necessary for good high-speed performance there, possibly including active elements.
But while the C8 will no doubt be extremely fast, the need to keep costs down means that the use of expensive materials will be limited. The chassis is believed to be an aluminium spaceframe, and it will have the glassfibre bodywork that has been used by every previous generation. Carbon brakes are certain to be available, but the new Corvette is likely to stick to a base specification of cast-iron discs for the same reason.While the C7 Corvette has a ‘targa’ roof with removable panels, it seems likely that the C8 will shift to a more conventional split between coupé and a convertible, the latter to follow at a later date.
The finished car will be shown in the US early next year, although it is understood that it won’t be at the Detroit motor show. Sales will begin in the US in the autumn, with a base price under $100,000 (£75,000 at current exchange rates).
There is no confirmation of right-hand-drive production, which would seem like a long shot despite the success that the Ford Mustang has enjoyed in the UK and Australia.
A US source said that the loss of Vauxhall and Opel has not made a significant difference in the case for European sales, with the C6 and C7 Corvettes both sold on this side of the Atlantic through non-GM channels, albeit in tiny volumes.