“C” is for competency … and lots of it.
The 2020 C8 Corvette Stingray Convertible delivers on every promise and every expectation you could hope for. The car is an absolute masterpiece, and I'm honored to have driven it.
By Doug Stokes & Glenn Oyoung
Sat, Mar 27, 2021 10:17 AM PST
Story: Doug Stokes
Photos: Glenn Oyoung/Stokes
Graphics: General Motors
In a recent review of a new (and very good I should add) book telling the story behind this Corvette, I mentioned the long wait that enthusiasts have endured for this machine in this configuration, and how I felt on seeing one for the first time in the back lot of a local dealer … OK, wait a minute, here’s what I said:
“...Suddenly some 50 years of reading about the “next Corvette” (one that would be a true mid-engine GT) simply dropped away before my eyes and I was well and truly gobsmacked by the sleek, “Sebring Orange” stiletto on wheels that I was frozen in my tracks by. If first looks could kill (...you know the rest).”
But of course, this is supposed to be about actually driving this car, not just being stunned but my first live look at a machine that has been predicted, promulgated, and promised for a good half-century.
“It’s hard to believe that this is finally happening..." That was General Motors President Mark Reuss, on stage in Tustin, California, to introduce the public to the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the first mid-engine Corvette. "Mid-engine has always been part of Corvette’s destiny,” he said, “and it's something we’ve been looking at for a very, very long time."
Here’s the scoop: for my admission fee, the C8 is every bit as good as the promises made, and better in many ways. “Supercar” is a widely (and oft-loosley) used title for very high-powered machines.
There’s really no criterion for the moniker other than the fact that a car acts and reacts in circumstances that are not possible, or at best very uncomfortable for lesser cars. The C8 Corvette fulfills the mission.
This is the first car that I’ve ever driven that has a built-in G-meter, not that my own OEM one (that I’m sitting on) doesn’t give me fairly accurate feed-back. But it is sort of cool.
The problem is seeing the darn thing with one’s hands working the wheel under any high G load moments, which turns out to be sort of “good trouble” as I always think it’s best to be watching the road and where I’m pointing the car rather than seeing if I’m beating my previous best numbers.
In truth, the gimmick reminds me of the once-ubiquitous “turbo boost” gauges on cars that had the exhaust-driven horsepower multipliers. They were very cool to look at, but your stomach and your backside were both far better bell weathers as to the amount of bang that you were getting for your bitcoins.
There’s a thing that my late brother Scot (an IndyCar mechanic and airplane fixer) used to refer to as one’s “pucker string” and how it tightens up in certain, what we’ll call: “high dynamics” situations, I’ll leave it to you to imagine more, but I can tell you that the C8 can draw one’s (above) pretty damn tight when the coordinates get critical.
According to my (admittedly flawed) powers of recollection this is more than likely the quickest-accelerating street car that I’ve ever driven.
In a closed environment, giving this C8 full authority to go forward by pushing the little Z button (above) on the left center of the steering wheel and nailing the gas pedal to the bulkhead does (at least) three simultaneous things: the Corvette’s 6.2 liter, direct-injected 495 horsepower engine lets out a shrieking/guttural moan, the tachometer races wildly around the instrument panel and the earth seems to compress horizontally as the car flings itself forward as you are pinned to your seat, with the 8-speed gearbox making perfect, full-throttle up-shifts.
And then, on the way back to the real world, making perfect guttural, popping, heal-and-toe throttle blips down-shifts to the next lower gear when you finally let off … it really IS cool.
The combination of variable valve timing and direct fuel injection in this engine package are coupled with a brilliant 8-speed, dual-clutch transmission simply is stunning, this car is never-ever off-guard, and always instantly ready to do whatever the task is with a degree of alacrity that can be appreciated at any level from just cruising to looking to knock a few seconds off your best lap time on a track day at Laguna, Willow, or VIR.
And, although I’ve not referred to it much of late, a reasonably close balance of horsepower and torque numbers like the C8’s 495/470 numbers are always the best way to get true touring high performance.
The well-proportioned combination gets this one up and dancing very quickly and keeps the tempo up for as long as the driver cares to go on dancing.
There’s a “track mode” in the optional $5,000 Z51 performance package that measures and keeps track of “closed course/don’t try this at home” adventures should that be of interest to many buyers.
And then there’s the control room. I gave my neighbor (who’s an old school hot rodder and a charter member of the original “Trompers Car Club” from Eagle Rock) “a ride around the block” in the C8.
His comment was “(expletive) you need a co-pilot for this one!” Yeah, the layout does look sorta complicated on the “bridge”, but it turns out to be pretty darn intuitive in operation.
There’s a variety of ways to see what’s going on and there’s as good a heads-up display as I’ve ever seen. Of course, the squared-off steering wheel with a built-in (manual) “centered” mark (thus saving us the bother of taping the wheel as all “real” racers do) is cool and the (with what seems like about 430-way adjustment) G2 seats are full-on motorsports quality. (I only wonder when a 5-point system will be optional.)
We’ve attached the Monroney at the bottom of this article so readers can find a few Easter Eggs of their own in the comprehensive document. The total number for this one was 430 bucks short of $85K with a $66,400 starting point. Interestingly enough, at the time of this writing, there were no dealers in the LA area that even had C8s (openly) for sale, and the two that I found that were offered by private parties were priced at $800K and $1.12M (!).
Waiting this long for this machine, one would not be out of line to expect fervent handling and braking that matched the shove forward. Two words help here: Brembo brakes, that’s the Italian company whose products are favored in Formula 1 and OEM on most of the world’s Supercars.
Our C8 had the aforementioned Z51 (see sticker) a full-on freakin’ bargain at five grand even. In fact simply DO NOT buy a C8 Stingray without springing for that package.
(Geldings are great, but stallions have more fun, and that $5K is the touch that makes the C8 truly great.)
In the “You had to ask, didn’t you...” department: I’m not a golfer, but friends of mine who are tell me that a full set of “sticks” (and the bag) will VERY LIKELY not fit in either the front or the rear stowage areas on this SPORTS CAR … which, OK ... in the first place, has traditionally meant a 2-place vehicle with enough room for two weekender bags, and one each toiletries and dopp kits … right? (Although the impact of drawing up at the club in one of these bolides may well be worth renting a locker or having one’s golfing gear shipped ahead.)
There’s a number in the Broadway play “A Chorus Line” that’s titled: “Looks 3, Dance 10” and I’ve heard from a few friends that the C8’s zoomy looks are “a bit much” for some (my guess is that they’ve not seen one of these knife-edged machines parked next to a razor-edged Ford GT … both cars exude exudness and my homegrown theory is that that all those sharp edges and clipped shapes work like the drastic angles and cutbacks that new era military warplanes have sprouted to deflect and confuse radar).
Now for the “10” part … at least in the case of the C8, and that I have on good authority about its counterpart at the Blue Oval: is that both of these masterful cars can dance very well. My personal call on the C8 an easy 9.9 with a bonus one-tenth point for keeping Duntov’s promise.
By the way, and even here, rules are rules, and this high performance (damn near race car) has a number of them, here’s one about tires that needs to be heeded: “Do not use summer-only tires in winter conditions, as it would adversely affect vehicle safety, performance and durability. Use only GM-approved tire and wheel combinations***. Unapproved combinations may change the vehicle's performance characteristics. For important tire and wheel information, go to my.chevrolet.com/learnAbout/chevrolettires/ or see your dealer.”
Tons of fun to drive, but (at least for me) overshadowed by the old dictum about great power and the responsibility that (damn well) should accompany it.
Hardtop convertibles have roamed the earth for a long time now... my first glimpse of one was on the Ford Skyliner in the mid-fifties. It was massive, so massive that the Skyliner's back deck had to be extended and (clumsily) squared off. Ungainly, but a true hardtop.
In the case of the C8 popping the top is a one-button "transformers"-like tour de force, with bystanders almost brought to applause by the show ... and for my eye, the machine looks equally svelt either way.
Top down, the rear flying buttresses becomes something of a windbreak, but not so much as to let one forget that they are riding in a (TORCH RED in this case) and that pedestrians and fellow drivers alike can get a better view of "That lucky ------ in the new Corvette."
One tip, the vertical rear window can be opened while driving with the top up and the windows up or down. it makes a fresh nice vent and seems to let one hear a bit more of the 495 horsepower drama that's going on about 8 inches behind one's kidneys.
This is what manufactures call a: “Halo Car” one car in a broad line of good, solid, useful offerings that stands out like a guy in a Captain America getup at a monk’s retreat. I hope that what I’ve told you so far has your understanding that this car is something very special in a number of ways and highly suggest that you check my findings out for yourself.
By the way, not that anyone buys one of this kind of machine to get econo-box fuel mileage (right?) but … we got almost precisely what EPA/DOT said we could expect (in writing no less) 19 (and change) MPG, and believe thee me, we DID not drive like we had a damn egg between our foot and a loud pedal.
Of course your noticed that the C8 has a rather unique, and very fetching rear roof line, the window glass is rectangular and sits straight up between a very cool set of sweeping “flying buttress” side panels.
The look is splendid, however the looking (back): is … ah ... not so good. Any semblance of human rear vision past the back edge of the doors is non-existent here. And “here”, here is in a car was priced just $530.00 under $85K.
However, backing this car out of tight, narrow places (like my own driveway) was a cinch because our friends down in Bowling Green, Kentucky put a HD backup camera on the C8 that’s dead accurate and totally trustworthy. Small detail, and this car had many that were just as worthy.
Granted, the new Stingray is more fun in the forward mode … but stress-free backing up doesn't hurt and (at least in my case) makes one feel (almost) as competent as the car.
As they told in us Toast Masters never to say: In closing ... and by here I think that I’ve indicated that the car in question is pretty darn brash, broad-shouldered, bright, blatant, brutal, bellicose, belligerent, and flat out brilliant … but never, ever fully benign (even just sitting there resting), and that you should certainly buy one as soon as possible. A touch challenging for some to get in and out of, but once inside … why would anyone think about wanting to stop driving? That one beats me.
This C8 Corvette actually can play nice, but then, you weren’t planning on playing nice or you would have bought a Buick Enclave … Right? -DS
* “All Corvettes Are Red” by James Schefter, is a well-written 1996 (and here recommenced) book that covers the Corvette lineage up to that point… as it turns out, he was right.
**Unless you live on one of those new private driving club race tracks or you opt to take Chevy up on a two-day high-performance driving school adventure at the Ron Fellows Driving School at the Spring Mountain track in Pahrump, Nevada a town which, in their own words, is: “Set against a stunning mountain backdrop just 55 miles West of the Las Vegas Strip”
***This car has different sized wheels and tires front to back (...they do different jobs, just like on race cars).
About The Authors
Doug has a long and wide-ranging history in the motoring business. He served five years as the Executive Director of the International Kart Federation, and was the PR guy for the Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix. He worked racing PR for both Honda and Suzuki and was a senior PR person on the first Los Angeles (Vintage) Grand Prix. He was also the first PR Manager for Perris Auto Speedway, and spent over 20 years as the VP of Communications at Irwindale Speedway. Stokes is the recipient of the American Autowriters and Broadcaster’s 2005 Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations and was honored in 2015 by the Motor Press Guild with their Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award. “… I’ve also been reviewing automobiles and books for over 20 years, and really enjoy my LA Car assignments.” he added.
Glenn Oyoung is a marketer based in Los Angeles. Glenn’s lifelong passion for cars is rooted in playing with Hot Wheels, and has continued into 1:1 scale. He’s the former marketing director of American Racing, author of ‘vehicular alphabet books’ “C is for Car” and "P is for Petersen" in collaboration with the Petersen Automotive Museum. His passion for cars extends to his role as the founder of the monthly car meet Carcadia at Route 66, the most diverse car meet in the San Gabriel Valley.