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2020 Chevy Corvette excels on the road, too

The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is quicker, faster, and better on the track in almost every metric than the C7. Yet the mid-engine C8 is also shorter, heavier, and more fuel efficient. It carries a more European supercar style yet is the beating heart of American automotive gumption. It’s a bundle of beautiful contradictions, so here’s another one: The track star makes for a pretty comfortable road tripper, all things considered.

I drove the 2020 Corvette 2LT with the Z51 Performance package more than 800 miles roundtrip over two days, with three-quarters of it on the Interstate. I would’ve preferred Ohio’s undulating county highways, but with deadlines looming as heavy as the clouds overhead it was time to shake a leg. 

The key takeaways from my time in the Vette have nothing to do with taking it on a racetrack: There’s no way you’re fitting two golf bags, it’s quieter than the C7 despite the engine being over your shoulder, its packed tight but not uncomfortably, and it has adoring fans everywhere. 

As a grand tourer, the hits added up like thumbs up from so many passersby.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

Hit: Thumbs up 

With the exception of a 1967 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus Samba I drove this summer, no other vehicle came close to garnering the kind of positive attention the C8 Corvette in Sebring Orange received; not a half-million dollar Rolls-Royce, not a three-wheeled Slingshot, not even the Velocity Yellow C7 Stingray convertible I drove to cover Corvette culture when the sinkhole  opened in the National Corvette Museum in 2014. 

The fraternal bond of ‘Vette owners spans nearly 70 improbable years as America’s only affordable supercar. This trip elicited happy honks from semi drivers, goofy selfies from tweens, and more in-motion thumbs up than Siskel and Ebert gave in “At the Movies.”

I’m not convinced all the gawking passersby knew it was a Corvette until they saw the formidable rear end and unmistakable checkered flag logo. The stunning design of the mid-engine C8 features a decadent European supercar profile, a low, short nose, and cues of pure Corvette Americana throughout.   

Hit: Thumbs up indeed

Nearly everything in the cabin is controlled by a thumb except for the paddle shifters. A thumb opens the doors from inside and out. A thumb is best to press icons on the narrow 8.0-inch touchscreen because resting your fingers on top of the screen provides better accuracy. A thumb works best to run up the climate control wall that separates the driver from the passenger. And, with hands on the wheel, thumbs are easiest for steering wheel controls. Yes, I enjoyed the hexagonal steering wheel and how it let me rest my wrists in various ways during the long highway drive. In more spirited driving, the unfamiliar contours gave it four points of reference, like a compass. 

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

Hit and Miss: Cramped but comfortable

The C8 Corvette is more than 5 inches longer and 2 inches wider than the C7, with a slightly longer wheelbase, though it’s narrower inside. The cabin is cramped but comfortable, as long as you’re not a large human. My tester came with the GT2 bucket seats ($1,495) that were snug but never too tight. Heated, cooled and wrapped in nappa leather with the 2LT package, the seats have large side bolsters and 8-way power adjustments in addition to four-way lumbar adjustments. 

That was key over 800 miles. It was comfortable enough to walk away with no lower back pain, but no matter how much I adjusted the seats, the seat belt chaffed my collar bone by the end of the day. It can be removed from the snap-in seat belt threader on the top of the seat, which should add variability to the position, but I didn’t realize that until afterward.

Miss: Two sets of golf clubs, but not with bags

While the mid-engine layout affords a front trunk that can accommodate two carry-on bags, in no way can the trunk space behind the engine fit two sets of golf clubs, unless there are no bags. It’s long enough to fit drivers and woods, but not deep enough for two actual golf bags, unless they’re both really slender and not chunked with balls, tees, cooler bags, and that tattered golden scoresheet from the one time you almost shot par. I’d rather not golf than not ’Vette.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

Hit: It’s a marvel to drive

Just go. It’s outstanding. The C8’s 495-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 and 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission provide ample power uphill, in the rain, and passing three cars at once with oncoming headlights bearing down the next hill. The throttle and brake inputs are just right, not too sensitive or too firm, so when the speed limit dips down to 25 mph in the next town, you can prowl through quietly and calmly without raising the ire of local law enforcement. Even with the engine over your shoulder, it’s not loud until you want it to be, when switching from Tour to Sport mode

With the weight favoring the rear, it’s smoother to come off a hard brake into accelerating again. The rear can still skip out in a bit of oversteer, but it’s easy to sense and straighten it out without losing much speed. The C8 skims the asphalt, its handling so true that even on a single-lane road swooping down into a valley curve, I didn’t even feel the seat’s side bolsters. It made me want to escape the highway and find underused county highways or take up that offer of the friend with guest access at the track. Had I done that, I might have walked away a member, which would have changed my life to serve a car. Honorable, but I have kids to support. 

For anyone not tracking the C8 I don’t think you’d miss the $5,000 Z51 Performance package; it does just fine without the performance brakes, exhaust, and electronic limited slip differential. 

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

Miss: Limited outward vision

The shorter dash-to-axle ratio of the mid-engine design results in a driving position that puts the driver closer to both the windshield and the car’s nose.  With the seat all the way back and the roof panel removed, one 6-foot-3 passenger said his sight line was blocked by the top of the windshield. For drivers of a more attractive, shorter stature such as myself, the outward vision seemed expansive because the hood tucks down out of the way without a monster scoop blocking the view. Yet the dash stretches forever, so much so that the cowl extends over the front wheels. I didn’t track it, but Car and Driver said the forward vision was worse than the C7. 

Vision to the sides is limited by the squat greenhouse and the blind spot to the right rear is a black spot with no vision whatsoever. The tiny window through the engine cover reflects glare in sunlight, further limiting rear vision. 

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

2020 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT

Hit: Camera eyes

Vision is improved with the 2LT package ($7,300) thanks to a rear camera mirror that projects everything hidden behind the car in crystal-clear clarity. Additionally, a front curb camera shows the view just ahead of the car so you won’t hit the splitter on a parking block. It’s especially useful going over curbs into driveways, where you might want to opt up for the front-lift system that can raise the front end 2 inches in a couple seconds at speeds up to 24 mph. Your address can be memorized via gps, so every time you pull into your driveway, it can automatically raise. Pretty cool. Other performance cars have it but without the gps memory, and at nowhere near this price point.

That sentiment holds for the 2020 C8 Corvette as a whole. Other cars can do what it can, but not anywhere close to this price. The C8 Corvette is a screaming performance bargain, and its technology makes it more intuitive than other performance coupes.  

_______________________________________

2020 Chevy Corvette Stingray Coupe 2LT Z51

Base price: $59,995, including $1,095 destination

Price as tested: $79,315

Drivetrain: 495-hp 6.2-liter V-8 with an 8-speed dual clutch automatic transmission in rear-wheel drive.

EPA fuel economy: 15/27/19 mpg

The hits: Style, power, and grace. 

The misses: Cramped, limited trunk space, non-existent side and rear vision.


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